Living Lightly

Susan Vogt on living more simply but abundantly

Browsing Posts published by Susan Vogt

I’ve spent almost 4 weeks now listening to people with whom I disagree. That might sound like a depressing Lent, but my intention was to better understand people who have a different political stance than mine. This meant I had to find and talk with Trump voters. Since I, like many people, primarily associate with people who are like-minded, finding people outside of my own political bubble who were willing to have a deep conversation with me was the first challenge.

THE WHO: I met with 5 individuals plus 2 mixed composition groups
● All were decent, generous human beings
● I knew most of the people previously but wasn’t always sure of their politics until they responded to my request
● Most were Catholic or Christian but not all currently practiced a religion
● I decided not to interview any of my own family members lest it poison future interaction

THE PROCESS: I explained that my purpose was not to convert or persuade the other to my way of thinking but rather to understand why they voted for Trump. My questions:
● What values do you hold most dear? (I wanted to establish common ground if possible.) The common answers were: Family; To be a good, honest, caring person; Integrity
● What led you to vote for Trump?
● How do you see our government building the common good?
● What disappoints you (angers you) about the Democratic Party or its candidates?
● Does your faith impact your politics?
● Any ideas about the best way forward?

WHY TRUMP: Although this wasn’t a scientific study, the primary reasons most people gave are below. Since I didn’t want this to be a debate, I chose not to refute claims that I disagreed with or that I knew to be unsubstantiated. (Later, a number of people said that they would like to know what  responses I would have liked to make (but didn’t). I have thus recently added some of my thinking in red.)

  1. CHANGE – Washington is corrupt. Congress can’t get anything done. (Our government also gets a lot right, like the EPA protecting our environment, water, food, etc.)
  2. Trump is not a career politician. – This is related to #1 because many felt the reason Congress can’t get anything done was that they were beholden to lobbyists with money to get re-elected.
  3. Over-regulation –Many were entrepreneurs and government regulation made it harder for them to do business. (Regulation also protects us from dishonest or harmful practices.)
  4. Abortion –“I didn’t vote for Trump, I voted for the Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v Wade.” (The law does not force anyone to get an abortion. Better solutions are prevention, adoption, and/or helping women with the societal support to raise a child after birth.)
  5. Big government keeps people lazy. – “Welfare enables folks to just sit around on the couch, watch TV, and drink beer.” (I was once a welfare worker. It’s not this simple. Supporting strong family life, education, mental health services, etc. are the building blocks of a strong society. Some will always fall through the cracks. Are we there to give them a leg up or just to judge.)
  6. Why not! All had serious reservations about Trump as a person, but they overlooked his nasty personal life because:
    *He was a successful businessman who would take action. (He also had some bankruptcies.)
    *He was an outsider who could shake things up (“drain the swamp”) (Many of Trump’s appointments have little experience for their job and often have ties to a different exclusive swamp.)
    *Our system’s checks and balances would rein him in. (With both houses of Congress supporting him, extremely conservative appointments, and use of executive orders, where are the checks and balances?)

CONCLUSIONS: How this impacted me.

  1. Banish Stereotypes. Since I liked and respected all the people I talked with, these discussions helped banish some of the frequent stereotypes of  many Trump supporters as uneducated, unintelligent, or selfish, (One was a medical doctor, many held responsible leadership positions.)
  2. Implementation. Our basic values were the same. We disagreed on how to accomplish our values. I certainly agreed that big money (i.e., Citizen’s United, paid lobbyists, etc.) unduly influence politicians and need to be cleaned up. However, I don’t see Trump as the change agent that will work for the common man and woman, especially those without power.
  3. Getting Heard. Although I could have refuted many of the statements that people stated as fact, I decided not to get into a debate. I wanted the person who was trusting me with their opinion to feel understood. My non-violent communication training has taught me that only AFTER a person feels understood is there any chance that they will actually be able to HEAR my position. Unfortunately, only one person asked to hear why I voted for Clinton.
  4. Style over Content. Repetition persuades some people that a statement is true. A “down home” approach can be appealing. When people feel left out, they are vulnerable and want to hear that someone will fix the “mess” even if it is a hollow promise.

The Media. The media that informed Trump voters’ opinions was heavily conservative and right leaning (Fox News, Drudge Report, cable TV). One person said she was looking for a credible news source so I offered that I listen to NPR and read the New York Times. Of course I believe that my news sources are credible, but I assume someone on the right would consider my sources as biased as I consider theirs. Since these were intelligent people, I presume confirmation bias would hinder either side from believing the other. For example, one person said, “The Democrats have been obstructing everything that Trump wants to do.” I broke my non-debate rule and replied, “And what about Mitch McConnell and the Republican obstructionism under Obama?”

Media Literacy. Honest people of good will may disagree on how to best accomplish the common good. However, it’s going to be impossible to make good political decisions if we can’t even agree on what the facts are. A population that can be swayed by propaganda and biased news is being hacked even if the voting machines aren’t. Our minds are being played with. I think one of the most important steps to building a healthy democracy is not only a free press, but people who know how to recognize false advertising. This can be taught in schools like the Problems of Democracy class I had as a senior in high school. Adults need to learn how to be discerning consumers of the media. Democracy and Me is one helpful resource. The NPR article The Psychology of Fake News gives more in depth understanding.

Be an informed active citizen. I can’t change the world, but I can pick the causes that are most important to me and work on them. Right now for me, that’s health care and the environment.

Get to know and dialogue with people different from myself. If I only talk with people of my own race, class, age, and political position, I will be talking with myself. To come to decisions that will benefit the common good, we need to spend time with each other. To be fruitful, however, this step must go beyond one person’s listening to mutual sharing. My discussions fell short of the mutual sharing. Things I might have shared are in red.

This was a difficult post to write since I may open myself to criticism and I like to be liked and right. I do, however, welcome thoughtful, respectful responses. I’m still listening.

PS: Family Matters – Many people said that their children or other relatives did not agree with their politics, so I asked how they dealt with this. Some avoided the family member, but usually they just avoided the topic of politics. “We talk about sports or other fun, family things.”

PPS: If you’d like to have a conversation with someone of a different political belief, I just found a wonderful website called “Hi From The Other Side.”  It connects you with a person who voted differently from you with whom you can have a respectful dialogue. I’m trying it and highly recommend it.

Click here to listen to a 45 minute podcast I did with Jerry Iversen of Simple Living Works that goes into more depth on this topic.

I had a good two part plan for Lent this year:
*Clean out my work files and shelves
*Clear my mind of the political funk that was crowding my spirit

The process seemed logical:
Step 1: Clear off the ping-pong table, aka my extended desk of papers that were “in process.”
Step 2: File papers in the file cabinets.
Step 3: Prune my file cabinets and shelves.
Step 4: Talk with people who had different political positions than mine so I could understand them better. (Some of this latter step I could do while traveling.)

Here’s what happened:
Step 1: Clear off the ping-pong table. This took longer than I thought because my file cabinets were too full to squeeze more papers in. Even more problematic is that I realized that I no longer had file categories for my evolving life. (During the last decade I’ve added new dimensions to my work and thus need sections like Simple Lifestyle, Environmental Issues, Politics, Travel, and Finances.)
Of course this raises the question of which comes first – clearing the ping-pong table OR pruning my file cabinets to make room for more papers. I continued with the former and just made a stack of papers divided into new categories.
Step 1a: Clearing off the ping-pong table revealed that the table had a broken clasp which allows it to fold up to take less space. Since I needed the extra space soon for guests I decided to repair the table. As is true for any home repair project, it took longer than I thought.
Step 1b
: Folding up the table exposed a dead computer and 2 keyboards stored under it. Aha! I had meant to recycle that computer when I got a new one but never got around to it.
Step 1c: If I’m going to recycle the computer, I might as well recycle the 6 unusable cell phones stored under the nearby table that I had also procrastinated doing. I knew I could take the computer to Best Buy, but what about the phones? I thought I had read where to recycle phones at one time, but couldn’t remember where. Confession – I should have read myself.
Step 1d: I looked up my old blog posts. The two most comprehensive were: Electronics and Cell Phone/Desk Cleaning 5.  The article, 10 Places to Recycle Your Cell Phone led me to an Eco-ATM machine at our nearby Kroger grocery store. It took about 20 minutes to recycle all 7 phones and I got $5. I might have gotten more money if any of the phones worked, but I just wanted to make sure they were safely recycled. I was happy.
Step 1e: The next day I took the computer, keyboards, and one landline phone to Best Buy.
Now I’m ready for Step 2 or 3.


  1. One thing leads to another. Accept the reality that my plan may change based on new discoveries.
  2. Uncovering history can be a sacred experience. In my original ping-pong table reorganization I realized how the “categories” of my life are evolving, I also found several crucial papers that I had left unfiled because I didn’t want to lose them. 😉
  3. Most everything takes longer than anticipated. Exception: Eco-ATM was quick and easy.
  4. Breaking the cycle of procrastination is a worthy use of time. Although  initially I felt that I was “interrupting God” by substituting recycling electronics for cleaning out my file cabinets, I now feel redeemed. Discerning how to use my time should serve a purpose and not just be a slave to an arbitrary plan. Organizing paper can wait.
  5. Put priority on people. I set up several dialogues with people who have different political viewpoints from mine. This will probably be my true transformative work in the next several weeks.

What tasks do you tend to procrastinate on? How do you deal with this?

Lent has begun! As long time readers of this blog know, in the past this has been a jump-start time for me to look at what needs to be transformed in my life like

  1. Letting go of unneeded possessions and self-centeredness
  2. Increasing my solidarity with the poor by eating on a Food Stamp budget
  3. Living more ecologically
  4. Increasing my solidarity with the poor by buying nothing (well close to nothing).
  5. Reducing the paper clutter in my work space  so I could clear my mind to focus on what’s really important.

Well, last year’s Lent was apparently more of a starting point than an ending point. Sure, I got my desk pretty well organized and have become a bit more mindful of being present to the people I encounter each day, BUT, I have become painfully aware that I still have 2 file cabinets, 4 shelving units, and one re-cluttered ping-pong table that need my attention. Unfortunately, that attention has been greatly consumed this past year with thoughts and actions geared to going beyond the stuff in my home to the hurting lives of my neighbors near and far and the environment that supports all life. This has meant a lot of political activity, but it also has left me in a political funk.

I started to realize that perhaps the most life-giving action I could take would be to enter into the world of people who think differently from me on political issues. Instead of fixating on the news and Facebook, which just rile me up, I hope to learn to love those who voted differently from me by under-standing him or her better. I decided to seek several people who had different political opinions from mine and invite them to dialogue with me. Our goal would not be to persuade or convert the other but rather to just understand each other better. I hope this will bring some calm to my spirit and free me to love less judgmentally. I imagine it will also be a journey into deeper humility. I assume and am hopeful that our dialogue will remind me that at the core we have common values but see different ways to reach them.

Bottom line: I have 40 days (God willin’and the crick don’t rise). Half of those days I will be home and can work on continuing to prune the paper in my file cabinets and shelves. The other days I will be traveling and will focus on having caring conversations with those who see the world and solutions to our common problems differently from me. Several people have already agreed to enter into one-on-one dialogues with me in person, on the phone, or by email. If you would want to offer yourself as a dialogue partner, contact me ( Full disclosure: I voted for Hillary and my bubble of friends are mostly of like mind, so I’m especially looking for people who voted for Trump.

PS: Are there any Lenten practices that you’ve found meaningful or that you want to try? Please share.

My last blog entry was on the pros & cons of online shopping and how it can save time but create unnecessary waste. Here’s another conundrum for you – When does doing a small good take so much time that it’s not worth it?
The culprit: a broken mixer blade
The solution: Buy a replacement blade.
The problem: It’s not as quick and easy as it sounds.

The rest of the story: Last Christmas, in an effort to be a loving sister I decided to make homemade chocolate chip cookies for my out of town brother. I used a 50+ year old Sunbeam electric mixer that had been handed down to me by my mother-in-law. It had been working fine. Unfortunately, cooking is not my strength and in the process I stupidly broke one of the mixer blades. I limped along, substituting a portable mixer which was not nearly as strong. I finished the batch of cookies, mailed them, but realized it did not reflect my best work.

Since I wanted to keep the mixer and virtuously wanted to repair it rather than scrap it, I decided to do what any modern cook would do:

  • I spent an hour searching Amazon for a replacement beater. Having no luck there, I took the next reasonable step –
  • I googled “Sunbeam mixer” and found a “Live Chat.” Since my internet search skills must not be much better than my cooking skills, I tried 3 times to connect with the Live Chat with no response.
  • I finally found a phone number for Sunbeam and after being on hold for 10 minutes learned, “If it’s over 20 years old, we can’t fix it, BUT we suggest you call Kiefer Appliances.”
  • Kiefer Appliances (608) 221-3322, deserves a shout out since a live person answered the phone, told me how to find the “hidden” model number, and said he had a replacement beater in stock. I bought it for much less than a new mixer would cost.
  • Result: I feel good that I could save an old (and very serviceable) mixer but frustrated that it took so much time.

News Flash: Now this may be simply a longer than necessary story which does you no immediate good. So, let me share some useful news that I learned along the way that may help folks no matter what kind of repair job you are faced with. Did you know that there are “Repair Cafes?” Read this New York Times article about how beloved but broken possessions find new life.

Thoughts to ponder:

  • Do you have any experiences of rescuing a broken item? (Please comment below.)
  • How much time do you invest before calling it quits and buying something new
  • And the age-old, probably unanswerable question – How come they don’t make things last as long as they used to (think appliances, phones, computers, etc.)?

Christmas has come and gone. That means that we have gratefully received some nice gifts – often clothes. This also means that a natural consequence is the timeliness of giving away older things that are no longer needed or wanted. This is not bad, but it’s also not sacrificial giving. As I looked over the container in which I put items to donate, I figured there were enough things to say “Yes” when the Viet Vets call came asking for donations. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s painless.

I had collected 31 items:
A pair of shoes, 2 belts, 5 knit shirts, 15 tops, 5 dress shirts, 1 pair of jeans, 1 fleece jacket, and 1 water bottle.

The strange thing I noticed was that only 2 of these items were mine. The rest were things that other family members no longer wanted.

Now I could look at this several ways:

  1. How nice that my message of passing things on was seeping into the consciousness of my family
  2. How sad that I didn’t have many of my own things to add to my collection
  3. Perhaps I had already pruned my possessions enough that I was beyond the obvious choices.

It’s times like this that I make a conscious decision not to give time to figuring out if I’m giving enough, but rather just keep giving. Trying to be too pure and virtuous about the details can tie up my mind’s energy. In these troubled times I need to free my energy to pay attention to the truly major political issues like caring for the poor, healing relationships, and protecting the environment. It’s nice when the “giving away” dimension of my life can go on auto-pilot.

How have you been dealing with feeling like world problems are getting out of control and I don’t know what to do about it?
To paraphrase an old standby: Observe, Pray, Plan, Act.

December 26 is celebrated as “Boxing Day”  in some countries. The name comes from the tradition that on the day after Christmas well-to-do families would give a box of money or presents to their servants or customers.

I remembered this as I was cleaning up after Christmas and was struck by the extraordinary number of cardboard boxes we had accumulated – at least 20 large boxes, mostly from Amazon. (In our family’s defense, most of our children live out of town so they bought things online and had them delivered to our house before Christmas.) The good news is that cardboard boxes are easy to break down and recycle. The bad news was the embarrassment of so many presents. (Well… the bulk of them were for the grand-kids so that’s somewhat defendable.) I also started wondering about the pros and cons of online shopping which requires more packaging and transportation. Here’s how I’d sum it up.

In Defense of Online Shopping

  1. It can save time – although reading the many reviews in an effort to make a wise purchase can take a lot of time too.
  2. It saves me gas – although it shifts the gas expenditure to delivery trucks. Perhaps economy of scale can make this a plus.
  3. Recyclable boxes – The cardboard boxes that items come in are recyclable. In fact, Amazon and Goodwill have partnered up to create a program called the Give Back Box. You fill an Amazon box with items you no longer need and Goodwill pays the shipping for your donation.

In Defense of Buying Local:

  1. Direct, tangible contact with the product – You can touch, try on, and examine the merchandise to make sure it’s what you want.
  2. It supports local merchants.
  3. Pre-cycling – Buying local requires less packaging and is therefore better for the environment

Toss ups:

  1. Saving money – Buying Online can save money by allowing comparisons and reading reviews. However, there can be shipping costs. Buying local can save money because you can see and handle what you are buying to make sure it’s what you want. The base cost may be less. Often it’s a toss-up.
  2. Returns – Sometimes returns are easier online; sometimes it’s easier to deal with a local merchant who wants your return business.

Seeking your experience and opinion – Online shopping is a relatively recent option in human history. I’m curious as to how each of you weigh the pros and cons when making purchases. Please comment below.

Upon reflection, this certainly comes under the category of first world debates. It’s sobering to remember that some people don’t have the money to pay for necessities, much less gifts, whether online or local. Some of our neighbors on planet earth are hungry, living in dangerous places, fleeing war zones, living with addictions or family violence. Some don’t have the luxury to debate the best way to spend or save our discretionary money. Bottom line? Give a purchase to someone who doesn’t have a choice.

In the spirit of end of the year lists, I offer you my 10 Best Living Lightly Tips of 2016. The first 6 are my own. The last 4 come from other bloggers I respect. Most can be read in under 2 minutes.

  1. The Beauty of Empty – 8 practical steps to unclutter any part of your home
  2. 9 Shopping Lessons from Socks – Universal insights from one shopping experiment
  3. 6 Lenten Lessons – Summary of my paper reduction and mindful listening efforts
  4. TIME- Deal or No Deal – How to evaluate discounts. Try this formula
  5. The Multiplier Effect  – Recycling your own stuff is good. Find out what’s even better.
  6. Pre-cycling and Packaging – 5 insights about how using less is often enough and how retailers often try to fool you
  7. The Cost of Convenience (Joshua Becker) – Convenience is good but often there are hidden costs
  8. One Simple Question to Ask before Any Purchase  (Joshua Becker) – But what if I don’t?
  9. How to Get Rid of Practically Anything (Consumer Reports) – A super compendium of where to take all that extra stuff
  10. 12 Sneaky Ways Online Retailers Get You to Spend More  (Jessica Mai) – Be a wise online shopper. Understand the hidden persuaders.

On October 21 my cell phone died. At first I thought it was just sick and I tried to repair it. I’ll spare you all the gory details. Suffice it to say I spent way too much time on the internet diagnosing the ailment, on my landline phone with 3 different tech support people, and one trip to Best Buy before the illness was confirmed as fatal.

Too bad, but not a deal breaker. I knew I had some old phones around the house which I was ready to resurrect. I am embarrassed to say that I found 6 phones which I had intended to recycle but had not gotten around to it. Of the 6 phones:

  • 4 had no chargers that fit. Since a cell phone is pretty useless without a charger, I dismissed those.
  • 1 could be charged but only with a USB cord which had to be connected to a computer
  • 1 had a charger that worked in a household outlet. Yea! It was an old prepaid TRACFONE. No problem. I figured I’d just call up TRACFONE, reactivate it, and pay for a couple months which would get me to Christmas when I hoped I would be given a new phone. Unfortunately, I was told that TRACFONE had upgraded and my phone would no longer work but they would send me a free new one in 10 days. Since I was leaving town in 4 days and wanted my phone at the airport that wouldn’t work.

Everyone I knew well enough to borrow a phone from couldn’t spare theirs for a week. In the spirit of letting go, I decided to try a Phone Fast. I didn’t expect this to be permanent but I was intrigued to see what it would feel like to be phone-free. After all I survived for over 50 years without a cell phone. (Granted most of those years cell phones were not yet invented.) I wondered what I would learn.

Even though my experience might not be transferable to many people, I wanted to try. For example, my husband and I both have home offices with two landlines. I don’t need to go out much. Also, I would be spending 10 days at a meeting in Rome during which I wouldn’t need a phone plus six day on trips with Jim who had a cell phone. Still that left one work trip and 34 cell phone less days to contend with.

What I learned:

  1. It’s possible, but not easy – Although I had had a smartphone, I’m not a heavy phone user. All I really needed it for was phone calls. I had a small camera to take photos in Rome. I had a travel alarm to wake me up. I had my laptop computer when traveling to get email as long as I could get wifi. The lack of a phone at the airport, however, was a challenge because my arrival flight was delayed and I couldn’t reach my pick-up person. My return flight ended up being cancelled. These incidents caused me some stress, but…
  2. Generosity of strangers – I also relearned to depend on other people. I found fellow travelers to be gracious in letting me make several calls on their cell phones to the people who were meeting me.
  3. Expectations have changed – Once upon a time a missed flight might have meant hours of wandering around an airport looking for someone; or possibly never making the connection. People used to have to make very specific plans about where to meet for dinner, a party, etc. Now we just call when we get near and somebody tells us if the group has moved to a new venue. We don’t have to plan as carefully. But, people also expect you to be reachable.
  4. Inconvenience – I was at the grocery and needed some additional information about a product I planned to get. I couldn’t just call home and ask Jim the details. Another time I was in the car, running late. I couldn’t call my host to explain.
  5. Insecurity – I was surprised that I found myself feeling a little insecure driving to gatherings 30-60 minutes away, especially at night. What if I had car trouble? I’m sure eventually someone would stop and help, but I was used to feeling more secure knowing that I could call for help if needed. 10 years ago I seldom felt this insecurity because I didn’t know there was an option.
  6. Cell phones are more than just for phone calls – Although I could get by with a pocket camera and travel alarm, I forgot that I had come to rely on my phone as a GPS. Back to printing out MapQuest before a trip, or, heaven forbid, actually pulling out a paper map and planning my route. It’s nice to have all these functions in one device rather than carrying around multiple gadgets. I don’t text much but sometimes that’s the least disruptive way to communicate short messages. I like to listen to podcasts on my walks.

Bottom line, I got my Christmas gift early (December 8) since I had learned enough from my Phone Fast and I think the kids were tired of my limited communication and hinting that I was ready for an early Christmas gift. If a Luddite like me has come to depend on a smart phone, I guess the times they are a changin’.

How long could you go without a phone? What electronic device would you least like to break, lose, or fast from for awhile? Why?

days-365135-pre-cycling-shampooI recently ran a little contest among colleagues to find out how folks commonly or creatively tackled the environmental trio of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. Out of 222 responses I was especially impressed with the clever, albeit human energy intensive, submission of Therese Brennan. She saves the used shampoo bottle, buys the same kind again, then pours ½ into the old bottle and adds water to both to fill. She does the same to the girl’s liquid body soap. Hmmm. Takes some conscious effort but doubles the life of the product. I suppose that one could get the same result by just using less shampoo, but maybe Therese knows her family well enough to know they won’t do that, or maybe we all just get into habits of using a certain dose.

Using Less Can Be Enough
This got me to thinking about what other products I could use less of and still get a satisfactory result. Toothpaste comes to mind. I notice that the ads for toothpaste show a generous glob on a full brush. Since I use an electric toothbrush, I can only fit about ¼ of the toothpaste shown in the ads and it’s more than enough for a 2 minute brushing.

The Mystery of Changing Packaging
I also remembered that a number of years ago my laundry detergent increased the cup size for each load. I called to ask why. They told me they had improved the formula by adding some more powder. (I wondered about that.) Just last year I noticed that the recommended amount was decreased. The explanation was that they changed to a more efficient formula. Hmmm.

A corollary to this is that many grocery store items are starting to come in unperceptively smaller packages in order to avoid raising prices. The amount of product is smaller but you may not notice it. Yogurt, hand soap with curves in it, bottles with crescent cut outs, and thinner cereal boxes are examples. The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, AOL Finance, Consumer Reports, and Boston Globe all have reported on this phenomenon but Rick Lax’s irreverent 1 minute video Why Has Nobody Noticed This??? is more fun.

Consume Less Packaging
So being savvy about deceptive packaging is a start, but the bigger issue is how to avoid undue packaging. You probably already take reusable bags to the grocery and avoid disposable water bottles, but what about the plastic clamshell packaging that many technology products come in? What about all the Amazon boxes. (Well, at least they are cardboard and can be recycled.) But I’m now trying to find the balance between over-packaging and convenience. Sure, I could swear off technology, but I’m not going to. I could only buy  local but sometimes it’s quicker to just order on line. We all make trade offs. What are yours?

This brings me to “Pre-cycling.” It’s a cousin to the Reduce part of our environmental trio. The idea is that if I can reduce the amount of product I need or reduce the amount of unnecessary packaging I consume, there would be less stuff to recycle post use.

The Bottom Line
This is all a matter of making thoughtful decisions about one’s lifestyle and contribution to the common good of our neighbors and our planet. Sometimes the choices are easy or trivial. Sometimes they are tough or impractical. Heck I could raise my own chickens and get eggs plus organic matter for my vegetable garden – but that takes time. Besides, how much packaging does a grocery store chicken actually take? Living Lightly can be complicated.

Please share with me what you’ve found works for you and what compromises, successes, or failures have informed your decisions about staying sane and balanced while trying to live lightly.

days-365134-journal-paper-recyclingA success
I couldn’t fit anything more into the file cabinet drawer assigned to NACFLM, my professional family life association. At this same time, a NACFLM committee I was on decided to archive former newsletters. For many years I had been the newsletter editor. Hmmm. I decided to bite the bullet and go through all the old newsletters (which of course are no longer mailed out in paper form). I saved 2 copies of each issue and put the rest in recycling. It took awhile but I felt like I hit the jackpot.

A semi-success (or at least not a total failure)days-365134-old-photos
While looking through old paper photos to find something else, I realized that I had not put any photos in albums since 1994. Around 2004 I started taking mostly digital photos. This left a 10+ year gap of photos stuffed into a box. One night while watching a tedious TV program (I think it was one of the debates) I decided to multi-task. I went through 360 old photos. I decided to keep 77 – which I suppose I will have to scan at some future date when I am consumed with boredom and have nothing else to do. The good news is that I was able to get rid of 283 photos. Some were duplicates. Some were unidentifiable. Some were just such poor quality that they weren’t worth keeping.

News you can use:
Bad: I would have liked to put the old photos into paper recycling, but upon googling recycle old photos,  I found that this would not be acceptable.

Good: It was a sweet experience reviewing those years of my family life. I would not have taken the time if I didn’t need to prune the photos.

Days 112 Extra - Question markA question for all you organized memory buffs: How do you sort, save, throw away photos and other memories?

A question for procrastinators: What’s holding you back?

I like to think of myself as a pretty decent recycler. I put paper, bottles, cans, and appropriate plastics out for curbside recycling. I decline plastic bags at stores and use my cloth bags instead. I take a reusable water bottle to meetings. I take #5 recyclables to Whole Foods. I compost. I even collect neighborhood recyclables that I find during my daily walk. This is good, but I was recently awakened to how to stretch the good.

days-365133-cardboard-recyclingThe other day while I was walking I saw a store that had quite a few cardboard boxes out for the garbage. It was garbage day but not recycling day so I asked the store owner if he realized that if he just waited a week to the scheduled recycling day, these boxes could be recycled rather than go to a landfill. He did not receive my suggestion well but said with a smirk that I was welcome to carry the boxes home and do it myself. There were too many for me to carry so I declined. Later in my walk I was half a block from home and saw a large box with several smaller pieces of cardboard inside. Since I was close to home I dragged the cardboard home, collapsed the box, and saved it for the next recycling day.

This got me to thinking that no matter how good I am at recycling as an individual, it is a miniscule contribution to an important effort. If just one store which receives multiple boxes every day would recycle them, it would make a difference. If several stores in my neighborhood recycled their boxes, it would make a bigger difference. I call this The Multiplier Effect. It doesn’t mean that individuals should give up their home recycling efforts but I now look upon these as basically consciousness raising actions. It has motivated me:

  1. pachamama-logoTo become involved in an environmental group (The Pachamama Alliance) that works to make a more sustainable, just, spiritually fullfilling human presence in our world.
  2. To alert (some would say pester) my own neighborhood stores to save their boxes for recycling day.
  3. To work on helping the institutions that I am connected with (schools, churches, organizations) to evaluate how they go about their business. For example, My taking a reusable water bottle to a meeting is good, but how much better if the conveners of the meeting didn’t buy cases of bottled water for participants when there are water fountains all over the school. Or pitchers of water could be provided with washable glasses. It might be a bit more work but many individuals would start to carry their own reusable bottles.
  4. days-365133-arcadia-powerTo sign up for Arcadia Power which uses wind energy instead of fossil fuel energy for our home electricity use. The multiplier is that I’ve passed this information on to various groups I’m connected with. As more people do this, it also moves our country toward alternative energy sources. It has cost our family about $5 a month extra to buy this wind energy which is handled through our local energy company. (If you care to sign up for Arcadia and get a $25 discount – we also get the same $25 discount – click here. Once you start using Arcadia you can then pass this discount on to others if you wish.)

The point is to look for ways to multiply your effort by getting friends and institutions to do similar actions. Voluntary changes are wonderful, but also consider working on a governmental level. Supporting legislation that multiplies environmental improvements on a national scale can make a world changing difference. Keep thinking bigger – not getting more stuff but more people doing the little stuff. (You can tweet that.)

My next several blog posts will cover various angles of recycling (Recycling, The Multiplier Effect, Paper Pruning, and Precycling.) Let’s start with the easy one – recycling plastics. 😉 This will be a refresher for many people but I’m throwing in some trickier items for the hard core recycler.

The Usual:
Most municipal curb-side recycling programs accept plastic bottles and jugs (along with paper, glass, and metals). They make it so easy. Simply put these items in the bin or cart they provide. Most conscientious people do this. Hurrah! The challenge for many people is making it easy inside the home, i.e. designating a container to hold the recyclables till recycling day.

days-365132-plastic-bagsPlastic Bags:
I’ve known for awhile that plastic bags should not be put in curbside recycling. I didn’t, however, know why. After all, aren’t these all plastics? Then I took a tour of our local Rumpke recycling plant. Wow! Now I get it. Bags gum up the recycling process and nimble humans need to quickly pull the bags off the recycling lines. Most grocery stores accept plastic bags for recycling. (After all, they are the source of much of the plastic to begin with.) Even if you use paper or reusable cloth bags for groceries, you’re bound to collect some plastic bags. And unless you grow all your own food, you make periodic trips to a grocery. What a deal! Just bag up the bags and take them back. Note: Although the plastic bag your newspapers come wrapped in may seem like a waste on sunny days, dog owners tell me it’s handy when walking a dog. 😉

days-365132-plastics-recyclingHard Plastics that don’t qualify for curb-side recycling
Many curb-side recycling companies won’t take hard plastics that aren’t bottles or jugs. That’s because it’s hard to find buyers for these plastics on a scale that allows them to make a profit. But wait, there’s a solution if you make the effort. Whole Foods stores usually accept these “unacceptable” hard plastics. This includes:

#3 plastic

#3 plastic  cards

  •  #5 plastics

    #5 plastics

    #3 plastic cards (like gift cards, luggage tags, credit cards, etc. (Make sure you cut up the credit cards to protect your identity.)

  • #5 containers. This is part of the Gimme 5 program that even accepts #5 plastics (like hard to recycle yogurt containers). The #5 bin is usually separate from the other recycling bin, so look for it.

Whole Foods may have buyers that deal in small quantities or they may figure that getting you into the store will provide them with a profit from other things you buy

Pill Containers:
days-365132-pill-bottle-recyclingMaybe you’re healthy – most of the time. But most everybody has had some of those orange plastic pill containers. What to do? Peel the labels off and send your pill bottles to an international outreach program, such as Matthew 25:Ministries or Evansburg United Methodist Church  (Cincinnati area) or Samaritan’s Purse  (N.C.) Other possibilities include taking them to an animal hospital or an ASPCA near you to see if they could use some pill bottles for pet medicines. Also, reach out to your local community health center or homeless shelter to find out if they’re accepting donations.

Blessed by Less CoverLately, I’ve been having some troubling feelings connected with my latest book, Blessed By Less: Clearing Your Life of Clutter by Living Lightly. It was published almost 3 years ago and won a number of awards. I’m understandably proud of it, but I find myself feeling dispirited by not getting enough credit for it. For example:

  • Another blogger published a similar book with an almost identical cover a few months ago. I respect this author and our take on living simply are very sympatico, so I sent him a copy of my book soon after it was published. Maybe it was just a coincidence.
  • I was listening to a homily about humility at Mass during which the priest, a good friend, focused on the need for us to let go of self-righteousness and become less smug. Hmmm, One of the sections in my book is called “The Smug Factor.” I would have been honored for him to say something like, “And hey! We have an author who covers this concept sitting right here with us. (I, of course, would humbly, with a half embarrassed smile, nod modestly.)
  • Another well-known author (much better known than I) recently announced a “30 Day Give Away” challenge to his readers. Hmmm, sounds like my original idea of giving away 1 thing a day during the 40 days of Lent.

Now all of these could simply be coincidences of people independently coming up with similar ideas. After all, many in our culture have been moving in the direction of countering consumerism and letting go of extra stuff for the past several decades. Hoarders are pitied, not admired. But still, I found myself wanting to get credit for my work. As I took this to prayer, eventually I came to two rather obvious insights:

  1. Stuff-nothingLet go of wanting credit. After all, where did I get MY ideas – probably they bubbled up from a variety of things I had read or heard others speak of. Is any idea totally original? (Note to my publisher: This doesn’t mean I’m declining royalties. It’s fair to compensate writers for the time they put in to create intellectual property so I can live to write again.)
  2. Give credit. Why not replace my desire to be recognized with finding opportunities to give credit to another for a good idea.

Question to ponder: Who can I acknowledge for a talent, a service, a job well done this week? Give credit to others.

Days 365+130 golf clubsWe were robbed last week. Someone took Jim’s golf clubs out of the trunk of our car and my prescription glasses out of the front seat. Our car wasn’t locked and it was in our open garage. Still it felt like a personal violation and it takes time to replace stuff. After allowing ourselves some time for a pity party, I started thinking more deeply about what it means to be robbed and even more about what it means to be a thief.
Of course it’s wrong to steal. The thief not only stole our goods but also our time and sense of safety. Then I started to think about who would do a thing like this. Surely it wasn’t a terrorist or even a mean spirited, nasty person who wanted to make life miserable for another human being. Probably it wasn’t someone who played golf. People who can afford to play golf are usually at least middle class and don’t have to steal clubs. What are the chances that they had exactly the same eye prescription as I do. The fact that we had these things is a sign of privilege.
No, most probably it was someone who needed some cash. Why? I don’t know. It could have been a teen, an addict, a person down on their luck. Whatever the reason this person needed money more than I do – at least these days.
There was a time that both Jim and I had given up golf because it was a sport that was too expensive for our income and too time consuming for parents of young children. We defaulted to tennis at public courts and later to simply walking. But our kids are grown and now we could pay to replace the clubs.
In an ideal world, I’d like to think that a person who “honestly” needed money could just come to our house and say, “Hey, I’m short on food, or gas money, or whatever – and we would just give it to him or her. Several times we’ve hired folks who came to our door needing money to do some yard work or painting. But that’s not usually how our society works. We farm out charity to churches or the government.
Actually, I don’t think that’s a bad idea since when it works well, institutional programs can provide more than a quick fix. They can offer training, social support, addiction treatment, mentoring, and a way out of systemic poverty. But our society isn’t perfect. Some people take advantage of our tax dollars and generosity – and not all of those people are poor. Some are smart financiers or executives who know how to take advantage of tax breaks and human vulnerabilities.
Days 112 Extra - Question markSo what’s a conscientious, well-meaning person to do?
• Hang out a sign saying “Take what you want.”
• Figure our taxes should cover those in need.
• Lock everything up tight.
• Be generous with panhandlers.
• Complain.
OR, spend some time working or volunteering for organizations that provide education, recovery programs, or other preventive measures that will help people in need develop self-sufficiency. It’s a long, slow slog and there’s no one solution that fits everyone. Electing political leaders who understand this is part of the solution.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to forgive the thief and give my money to causes that help, but not hang out a “Just come and take anything” shingle. The poor will always be with us. How do you manage this conundrum in your own personal and spiritual life?

UPDATE: When looking for replacement golf clubs at a used sports store, Jim found his bag and clubs for sale. The store asked for a police report which he provided. Soon he will get his bag and most of his clubs back. The store has the name of who sold the stolen goods to them. We are curious as to whether they will share it with us or the police and what the next step might be.

My last blog post dealt with when is a bargain not a bargain. (See Deal or No Deal) Now I’d like to expand on that by evaluating a few other items that involve weighing time vs. money. How much is my time worth? The bench mark I’m starting to establish for myself is that a discount or sale should not require me to spend more than $1 per minute. For example, if the discount will be $10, it should take no more than 10 minutes of my time. If the sale will save me $60, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to research and claim it. Of course this is a totally arbitrary rule of thumb, but it helps me assess whether it’s worth my time. Some recent examples:

    • Days 365+130 Swarovski bear 1Valuables: I inherited some nice Swarovski crystal. I’m saving a couple figurines but decided to let go of a crystal bear. The going price on Ebay ranges from $20 -$250. I’ve never sold anything on Ebay. It would take me awhile to figure out the system and then securely mail it to a buyer. Meanwhile, our parish just requested items for a raffle. I decided the trouble to sell the bear wasn’t worth my time since I have a worthy alternative.
    • Phone solicitations: I never donate to anyone who calls me on the phone because they almost always call during dinner and we only donate to causes that we are personally involved with. BUT, how do we respectfully respond to these inconvenient calls without cancelling our landline which we need for our home offices? I researched and signed up on the Do Not Call Registry,  but that doesn’t apply to charities and political campaign calls. Why The ‘Do Not Call’ List Doesn’t Stop Annoying Robocalls — And What To Do About It gives helpful background. Still, the time it would take me to find a solution to this is more than I want to commit. My decision? Answer solicitations with this mantra: “Yes, you have a worthy cause but we have already committed all our donation dollars for this year. Good bye.” (The IRS scam, Cardholder Services, and cruise offers don’t require this courtesy.

Days 365+129 air con home croppedAir conditioner: When we installed replacement windows last year it meant taking out a large window air conditioner. We decided to try to live without the AC. The summer’s almost over. It’s been hot. We’re still not sure if we will get a new unit, get central air, or tough it out in the basement “cave.” Regardless, we won’t use the current one because it’s noisy and blocks our view. After delaying for most of the summer, I felt guilty about having a usable air conditioner sitting unused in the garage when many people were suffering from the heat and didn’t have a basement to retreat to. I could sell it to an AC repair company but it only took a short internet search to learn that Salvation Army is one of the few places that will pick up a used but working air conditioner.

Time expended on air conditioner:
3 months = Procrastination
5 minutes = Internet research & 2 phone calls
1 week = Waiting to get back in town to finalize the deal
1 minute = Schedule a pick-up

LESSON: Even nice formulas (like $1 per minute) still need human judgment about when and how strictly to implement. It’s like most decisions in life.

Time - clockIn my never ending quest to save both time and money, I’ve noticed that these two values are often at odds with each other. Saving time can cost money (eating out, hiring someone to clean the house, scouring stores or the internet for bargains) and saving money can cost time (see my 3 recent experiences below).

  • I saw an ad for an all-purpose travel bag that would hold my laptop computer, file folders, and planner, with pockets for my water bottle, pens, etc. Since my current one was wearing out, it looked perfect and was free. All I had to do was receive some literature on reverse mortgages. I figured someone might call me and try to entice me to get a reverse mortgage but I’m hardened against marketers so I figured I’d just say “No.” Eventually (60+ days later) I did get my bag, BUT it took listening to 3 sales pitches, 5 follow-up calls, numerous times on hold, and threatening to call the Better Business Bureau. Was it worth my time?
  • We needed more mulch for our garden. My local garden store had a rebate for a higher quality mulch which would make it cheaper than the regular mulch. I figured I’d just send in the rebate form and get my money back. Not so simple. The online rebate form took me 30 minutes to fill out since the directions were confusing. (2 computer reboots of the form, 5 trips to the garage to find the correct UPC code, and still it would take 6-8 weeks for processing.) All this for a total of $10.
  • It’s not good enough to be good. It takes time. Since I regularly work with children at church, I am certified in two states by Virtus – a child protection accrediting program. It was time for another background check. I filled out the form, the check was done, but one diocese was willing to pay for the background check and the other was not. Apparently they don’t talk well with each other. Eventually it was just easier to pay for the second one myself. (I was starting to get greedier with my time.)

Probably lots of frugal people like me have had similar experiences. I work at home and our children are grown so my time is flexible. I’m also very persistent, so if I feel like I’m not being treated fairly, I will doggedly pursue the perpetrator in the name of justice for the public. Still I want to make good use of my time and I wonder if trying to get the best deal is worth it. This has led me to the following 7 Time vs Money Protocols.

  1. dollar signDo I really need the item, or am I just attracted to it because it is FREE. Skip it. My time is not free.
  2. Do I have the money to pay the full price? Would I still buy this item if it were not such a “deal.” Pause and reflect.
  3. Assess the amount of discretionary time I’m willing to spend on a discount. If it will take more than 10 minutes and I have pressing productive things to do – pay the extra money. (Productive time can include being present to a loved one, playing a favorite game, or taking a needed nap.)
  4. Double the amount of time I expect that claiming the discount will take. It usually does. Is it worth it? What else might I do with this time?
  5. Be respectful and kind, but firm with the sales people I encounter when trying to claim my discount. They are usually just trying to make a living. Contact the Better Business Bureau or Snopes, however, if you suspect it might be a scam.
  6. If catching a good deal is your idea of fun and you have the time to fritter, enjoy the challenge.
  7. Ignore all cruise offers

For more ideas read 12 Sneaky Ways Online Retailers Get You to Spend More and Joshua Becker’s How Refund Policies Encourage Spending (and Reduce Returning).

What criteria do you use for deciding when saving money is more important than time and vice versa. Please comment.

Days 365+128 Heidi's stuffBefore you think I’ve gone over to the dark side and given up Living Lightly by acquiring 11 new items and letting go of none, I must again clarify. Our daughter will soon move back from Kenya to the USA – not to our home but certainly closer than Africa. She has a fellowship in Boston for a year but is not sure where she will go after that. She asked to store some of her stuff until her plans are clearer. So…I’m breaking one of my rules about not storing adult children’s stuff, lest I enable a son or daughter to avoid making those hard decisions about letting go of their own collection of stuff.

Conveniently for her, the family had just gathered for a family reunion near Erie, PA, so Heidi brought 2 large suitcases for transfer back to our house. She then repacked one of the suitcases into 9 colorful blue plastic bags and one satchel.

This brings up the ongoing question of how much should parents allow their homes to be free storage units for their adult children? Here’s my thinking:

  1. General rule of thumb: Once a child has moved out and has their own place, the parent announces a time that said child can transfer all their clothes, sports equipment, school memorabilia, etc. to their own place. It will probably force them to prune their own stuff. Anything left is fair game for the parent to dispose of as they please.
  2. Exceptions: If the child temporarily lives far away (like a gap year or volunteer work in a foreign country) parents may store stuff until they have a permanent place. If a child has a very tiny apartment, parents again may temporarily offer storage space. The challenge is to define “temporary.”
  3. Tough Love Approach: If the parent doesn’t have the heart to implement #1 or has downsized to not need as much space, then a solution is to just move to a smaller home. Announce that all offspring’s belongings will be left on the porch for 1 week. It’s nice to leave a forwarding address for visiting, but not for storage.

But, what about people who still live in your home but are “clutter-bugs” – at least by your definition? I have ideas on this too which can be summed up as “Deal with your own clutter first. They may be inspired to follow.” If not, there are some strategies to encourage other family members to follow your lead but I’ll leave that for a future post.

The Other Side
The other side of parents acting as storage units for their adult kids, is sometimes it works the other way around. Parents sometimes hang on to stuff in the hope of handing it down to their offspring. Think baby clothes for a hoped for grandchild, heirloom dishes or furniture for when they have a place of their own. Consider this – Memo to parents: Your adult kids don’t want your stuff – and take pause. Enjoy!

What’s your experience and tips for dealing with other people’s stuff or stuff you want to hand down?

UPDATE: In fairness to our daughter, I misunderstood and thought we were to store the items in the photo indefinitely. I later learned that actually our house was just a temporary 6 week layover. We stuffed our car and took all the bags and suitcases in the photo plus 1 bike and numerous mementos she had stored with us to her new place in Boston. I stand corrected.

Before you canonize me as St. Minimalista for bringing only 3 new items into our home and getting rid of 71, I must clarify that 56 of the outgoing items were pens and pencils and 13 more were duplicates or older socks. Here’s how it broke down:

Days 365+127 misc

click to enlarge


  • 1 new pair of shoes in; 1 deteriorating pair out
  • 1 new watering can in; 1 broken one out.
  • 1 new digital scale in; 1 decades old, hard to read one out.


  • 1 stuffed animal – out. Although stuffed animals can hold memories, we have several and this frog carried no special attachment.
  • 4 barbecue utensils – out. Since our grill is worn out and headed for metal recycling heaven, we have no need of these utensils.
  • 4 pairs of socks – out. These were left over from my “Silly Socks” blog post in which I bought 12 pairs of socks because 10 pairs came in one package. When combined with my current socks and after turning the worst ones into rags, I still had 4 usable pairs more than I needed.
  • 4 hangers – out. As my wardrobe dwindles I don’t need as many hangers.

    All the pencils

    All the pencils

Since I was on a miscellaneous spree, I decided to prune all the pens and pencils in the house just for curiosity and fun. (You may also call me St. Weird or Compulsiva if you like.) I gathered up all the pens and pencils in the house except for the ones on my husband’s desk. This was not to be an exercise in marital disharmony which would invalidate my claim to sainthood.
Altogether I had:

All the pens

All the pens

80 pencils: Since pencils are hard to break, I only threw away 8 short ones. Gave away 23.
67 pens: Pens go bad. I threw away 22 that no longer worked. Gave away 3.

This leaves me with:
49 pencils
42 pens

pencils/pens to give away

pencils/pens to give away

This probably sounds like way more than any well stocked home needs but we often have folks over for meetings which involves people writing on handouts, plus 2 home offices, plus we are old fashioned enough to still have 5 landline phones and it’s handy to have several writing implements at each phone.


  1. The one in – one out philosophy is good but it’s possible to play games with even a good strategy.
  2. When some items grow old and deteriorate, they may not be worth giving away. It can be insulting to give threadbare socks or raggedy shoes even to Goodwill. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
  3. Numbers don’t necessarily tell the whole story.
  4. It’s OK to sometimes indulge one’s silly side just for the fun of being a pencil pusher.

Days 365+126 windows in garage croppedWe live in an old house. We love it but part of being old means that the window were not energy efficient. We had storm windows but they were a pain to put in and out each year. We finally made the commitment to replace all of the 100+ year old windows. It took awhile and was a big investment but we’re glad we did it.

Of course we then had 19 windows, storm windows, and screens to dispose of. After checking around we found an organization ReUse Centers that takes material headed for the dumpster and re-uses them to help others build homes who might not otherwise be able to afford it. The ReUse Center partners with Reset Ministries  to train individuals in repairs and by providing them with guided work experience.Days 365+126 windows storm

What has this taught me?

  1. Respect for skilled labor – It takes a lot of knowledge and skill to do quality workmanship in home repair.
  2. Patience – Most home repair takes longer than originally planned.
  3. Sometimes you have to spend in order to save – Although it cost a lot of money which we will probably not totally recoup in our lifetime, it does save energy and lowers our heating bills.
  4. Days 365+126 windows into ReUse truckThere’s a lot of good people around trying to help people get a leg up. Every city may not have a handy ReUse Center, but just the fact that a few years ago somebody saw the need to keep building supplies out of landfills, matched it with providing used but serviceable materials to builders plus a training program for the unemployed or underemployed means that people are looking for worthy things to do. Perhaps you are already involved in such an entrepreneurial project. Perhaps you’re a person who has the skill and time to start one. Everybody can do something – even if it’s just to identify a need and urge someone else to meet it.

I’m a little late with my bi-weekly blog but it’s planting season and the weather won’t wait.

Days 365+125 sewing machine croppedRecently a friend returned a sewing machine I had lent her about 20 years ago. This is nice but I gave the old one away because I needed a machine that could do a zigzag stitch for knits. The returned machine still works well so I did my own version of Craig’s list and put out an email to friends who might want a machine but didn’t need it to do fancy stuff. Success! A friend knew a friend who teaches women how to do quilts. An extra machine would be handy. Isn’t it nice when the informal economy works. People having stuff know people who need stuff.  Freecycle is a more organized version of this but personally knowing someone is nice. Of course this means one has to be rubbing shoulders with folks that have needs. How do you come into contact with folks who may need things you have?

A variation on this theme is my experience with household repair tools. As a Christmas gift to Jim, I had agreed to organize his tools. It took some time but fed into my love of organizing. Of course the natural result is that I found a number of duplicates and even triplicates. Even after allowing for a few extras in case of breakage, losing a tool, or lending some out, we still had the following to give away.Days 365+124 tools

  • 1 electric drill with bits
  • 4 pliers
  • 1 wrench
  • 4 screw drivers

Since the drill was substantive I did the email to friends and nobody bit, BUT they did have advice. Why not give the tools to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores  which are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, appliances, home accessories, and building materials to the public at a fraction of the retail price. Most medium sized cities have one.

Again, a win/win/win situation. I clear out extra stuff, someone gets a needed tool, and I feel good. What are some good places you’ve found to take household goods you no longer need?