Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Truly Free Market

Just some of the random finds at the giveaway at the homeschool Valentine's Day party
I found a wonderful surprise when I took the kids to the day late homeschool Valentine's Day party yesterday.  Along the back wall, someone had set up a table with all sorts of things on it and taped a sign to the wall saying something along the lines of "If you can use it, you can have it."  There was everything from food to toys to a vacuum to books to computer games and all sorts of other things on the table and a couple boxes by the base of the table.  I wish I knew that was going to be going on before I had gone, since, just yesterday, I took about 4 boxes of things out of my house to the garage awaiting the chance to give them away at just such a thing.

I've long been a fan of these kinds of giveaways, often going to them as part of various Freecycle "Free-4-All"s, or through the similar ReUseIt Network (don't know if they have an official cutsie name for them though), and even helping organize a Free-4-All in conjunction with a local community college as part of their campus Earth Day celebration a couple years ago.  Last summer, I started to organize monthly "Really, Really Free Markets" at parks around Jackson, MI, but those have not been running the past few months since the weather got too cold to have them outdoors and we couldn't find a free place to have them inside.  Hopefully, they'll regain the momentum they were gathering before winter struck when the spring arrives.
The first Jackson, MI Really, Really Free Market--August 2010, Cascades Park
Jackson (MI) Really, Really Free Market--September 2010, Loomis Park
I've gotten a lot of really great stuff at giveaways, regardless of what you call them, just about anything you could imagine, really--anything from clothes (some even brand new), household items, furniture, purses, toys and games for the kids, a stereo, books, videos.  More importantly, I've been able to get rid of a lot of things that I didn't need, that were cluttering up my life and draining my energies just by being there.  Let me tell you, it can be quite a sanity saver to have less stuff (don't get me wrong, we still have a ton of stuff...this is an ongoing process to "destuff" our lives!) since it means less stuff to worry about getting out of place and cluttering up the house (especially true of kid stuff), less stuff to clean, less stuff to worry about someone stealing or breaking.  I know this is counter what is advertised on television, with the commercials constantly telling you that you need more stuff, specifically whatever stuff they are trying to sell you.  They lie.

You probably know this intellectually but really take it to heart--there is nothing advertised on television that you need.  So rather than spending your hard earned money, probably earned doing something you weren't too thrilled to be doing in the first place if your job is like most people's, on this junk, save it for stuff you really do need, like maybe keeping a roof over your head, or spend it doing something with someone you care about.  And what if instead of supporting a "free market" that costs us all in the time it takes to earn the money we are supposed to spend on this "free market" (not to mention potential environmental damage or societal damage it creates in the long run--a topic for another day), instead we support a gift economy that is a truly free market, where we all share our stuff we don't need, our ideas, our talents, and work toward building more of a community than holing ourselves up, isolated with our stuff?

These kinds of giveaways are easy to organize.  Pretty much everyone has stuff that they don't want or need anymore, so it is simply a matter of setting a time, a place, and promoting the heck out of it.  Promoting can be word of mouth, email, through email groups, Facebook, through, or even old fashioned flyers around town.  As Mahatma Gandhi said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world."   Personally, I'd like to see people be less focused on stuff and more focused on each other, so that's what I'm working toward.  In other words, like I always tell the kids, "Share!"

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