When I was a kid growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s, I didn’t have a lot of shit. My parents were lower middle class and I had two sisters, so I guess it was pretty common for kids like me not to have a lot of shit. Oh, I had some things … a baseball glove, some marbles, a cloth sack full of plastic army men and some comic books.
My best friend Mike had a lot of shit. He was an only child, his Dad worked for the Post Office and his mother worked in a factory. I’d always go over to Mike’s and play, partly because of all the good shit he had, but mostly because I liked him. My Mom always complained that the Montgomery’s were “privileged”, but I think she was just pissed off because she’d had one kid too many.
After I reached my teens, Mike and I grew apart, he got into drugs and before his twenty-second birthday, he had his head bashed in with a baseball bat during a drug deal gone sour. So much for being privileged and having a bunch of shit.
Anyway, even though I didn’t have many things, I still got tired of them. And without any money to speak of, about the only thing we could do at that time was to seek out other kids who didn’t have a lot of things and trade them. Pretty brilliant concept. Trade your tired shit in on someone else's tired shit, and it’s just like you have all new shit.
This worked well, but after I became a teenager, and started to have money … well, I just started throwing my old shit away and buying new shit. And all of my contemporaries did the same thing.
Wow, just think of all the cool shit that got thrown away, never to return.
With me, this kept up for about 30 years. Then, during the last ten, all of my old shit started ending up in the basement. To me, this is even a worse solution than throwing the stuff in the trash.
So, early this Spring, I started to remove these “old” things and set them out by the curb on Sunday afternoon. That way, at least other people could get some use out of my old stuff. But, this wasn’t a really good solution for two reasons. Number One: I wasn’t getting anything in return for my shit. Number Two: Almost everything I set out was being snapped up by my next-door neighbor, “Hillbilly Ron”, who would immediately pile it by the side of his house.
What to do?
A much better solution presented itself while we were remodeling our kitchen. Jan and I had up-graded several things in the kitchen several times in a cheap-ass attempt to make it look newer before we finally realized we were pouring our money down a rat hole and just had the whole thing re-done. The casualties of this remodel were two almost brand new range hoods, a three year-old refrigerator, an almost new dining table and chairs … and a four-month-old microwave oven.
On the first day of the remodel, the contractor asked us what we were going to do with the refrigerator. I told him we were going to get rid of it, which really meant that we were going to have the appliance store pick it up for free, and then they would re-sell it for over a hundred dollars. Pretty stupid when you think about it.
Turns out he wanted a refrigerator for his basement and he liked ours. So, I told him he could have it … if he took a hundred dollars off of our bill. And he agreed.
Hey … I just traded. And I kind of liked it.
And just last week, a woman at work was complaining that her daughter needed new stuff for her first apartment, but couldn’t afford it. Particularly, she wanted a microwave oven. Since mine was sitting in the basement, I told her she could have it. Since I sort of knew how the person thought, I figured she’d want to pay something for it. And when she did, I told her I didn’t want any money, but I’d trade her for DSLR camera that I knew she wasn’t using. And this suited her just fine.
Why did I ever stop doing this?
I don’t know if it’s the economy, or what … but I suspect that it is … more people are bartering and trading for material items and services than they have for a long time. Amazing. In some ways we advance economically as a society, and in some ways we go back to the things that worked for the people who founded this country.
Some things never lose their simplicity.