The generous materialist's confession: I give stuff away so I can get more stuff

By on Nov 4th
Take a treasure, leave a treasure

My son, investigating the Take A Treasure Leave A Treasure basket outside our neighbor's house

First confession: I am a materialist. I like stuff. I like acquiring it, I like having it, and I like organizing it. I hope this doesn't shock anyone: yes, I was raised by hippies. Yes, I'm all for intentional consumption and supporting indie businesses. I try to be intentional about it, but FUCK YEAH I love my stuff.

Second confession: I am a preener. I need to interact with my possessions — I need to use my things, touch my things, smell my things, and wear my things, to fully appreciate the things. This love of interacting with my stuff combined with sharing a one-bedroom home with my family of three means that I am a hoarding materialist. I need my possessions close at hand — if it's stored, I can't touch it and I might as well not have it. My friends with overstuffed, intimidating storage units packed tight with crap will tell you this quirk is a blessing. As much as I love something, if I'm not actively engaging with it, then it's time to get rid of it. And if I want to get something new to preen over, then I need to get rid of something old. One in, one out.

Third confession: I am lazy. I could list stuff on Craigslist or eBay, but the time spent to photograph, post, and deal with emails, and then shipping/coordinating pick-up doesn't feel worth it for, say, an old but lovely set of dog food/water dishes.

All these confessions combine to create this truth: I am obsessively generous, because it means I can acquire more stuff.

I shed my stuff constantly, off-loading bags of Etsy-purchased indie duds at clothing exchanges at least once a season. I leave a little FREE pile out on the corner by our house whenever there's a non-rainy weekend day. Lights, old kitchen supplies, flatware I've replaced, books I've read — it all goes out on the corner with a FREE sign, and is always gone within a couple hours.

I can't get Tavi's hand-me-downs out of the house fast enough, and have been known to offer friends toys and clothing that Andreas swears Tavi is still actively using. A neighbor has a "Take A Treasure, Leave A Treasure" basket on their front steps, and I'm a fan of dumping Tavi's toys there if he hasn't touched them in, oh, say, five days.

I cannot shed things fast enough. Do you like this hoody? IT'S YOURS. Do you need a cute lampshade? YOU CANNOT LEAVE UNLESS YOU TAKE THIS WITH YOU. Do you need some paperbacks? Walk past my stoop on a Saturday and get your browse on. The last time we moved, we had a barbecue where each guest was required to take at least one arm-load of our stuff away with them to keep. Take it! Take it all!

I like to see this desperate generosity as the silver lining of my somewhat unattractive materialistic streak. Yes, my love of stuff is probably not my best quality. Being an offbeat consumer is still being a consumer, which can quickly slide into poorly budgeted stupidness.

But it can also result in rampant generosity, which feels pretty good.