Putting the Salvage in Salvation Army

You know, I had this post all set to go last week, with a glowing review about the awesomeness of getting rid of stuff with the Salvation Army. But then it turns out, Salvation Army was not, in fact, awesome. Exactly the opposite. But the story still has a happy ending, so keep heart! All’s well that ends well!

Over the past year, we have been working hard to simplify our life. To that end, we have been collecting everything in our house that is not nailed down and tossing it into a designated closet and/or our guest bedroom to get rid of. Ideally we would unload this stuff at the family rummage sale, but we found out last year that we could only fit a fraction of what we had in our car. Well, we’ve collected a lot more stuff since then! Since our giant closet was filled all the way to the back at about chest high, and there’s no way we could get it all to Wisconsin anyway, we just decided we needed to unload it immediately.

But as I said, it was way more than we can fit in our car, so what do we do with it? Enter the Salvation Army: they pick up your stuff! We simply scheduled a date for them to come with their truck and pick everything up.

In preparation, we got everything all together, sorted it, boxed it up, and carried it all up into the living room. It was a massive mountain of stuff! We had > 20 boxes of books, toys, clothes, etc. as well as a computer and monitor, stereo and giant speakers, a couple of small pieces of furniture – all kinds of stuff. Seeing the entire pile there was pretty impressive, and I really felt like, “Wow, we are really getting rid of all of this stuff!”

It felt great. Always a bad sign.

The pickup window they gave us was from 8 – 4. Couldn’t narrow it down, no possible way. Okay, fine, Sara is home on that day anyway. However, I was starting to have a bad feeling about this. By the time 3 p.m. rolled around, I felt sufficiently justified in calling and checking up a little bit.

“It’s not 4 yet.”
“Well, I know, but I just wanted to confirm we were on the schedule for today.”
“If they told you you’re on the schedule, then you’re on the schedule.”
“Well, I know, but…”
“You just need to wait.”
“Yeah, but can you…”
“Is there anything else?”

Guess what? They never showed. And by the time I called back at 4:30 everyone was gone for the day. I guess I should have read the Salvation Army Chicago Pick Up Service on Yelp first. It turns out, they never show up. For anybody. Luckily for us, we hadn’t taken a day off of work, and we weren’t in that big of hurry to get rid of our junk (other than it was taking up a large chunk of our living room, and keeping little hands off it was a little difficult!). From what I could gather, they just schedule their pickups for the day, and when the truck is full they go home. No phone call, no reschedule, nothing. Sorry!

So, we had a decision to make: do we call the next day to reschedule, knowing that most of the time they simply just don’t show up with no care for your schedule? No, we do not.

Instead we found a Goodwill close to my work where we could drop off our own donations. Such a good decision! It took me three trips with my car absolutely stuffed to the gills to get it all there, but it wasn’t very far out of my way anyway. I wish we had decided to do this from the beginning, because we would have been finished that week, instead of spending days waiting in vain for the Salvation Army. The people of Goodwill were, in direct contrast, friendly and helpful, without attitude.

So we ultimately got rid of all of our stuff, and I must say, it was inspirational. You’d think that getting rid of all of that stuff would satisfy the itch to weed out the junk, but it’s kind of the opposite: I’m eyeing everything up thinking, “Do we really need this?” Almost as soon as it was out the door, we started a new pile in the closet.

Looks like we’re going to have to make this a regular occurrence!

Simplifying Childhood for our Children

I recently finished reading Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.

I admit this is something of a confirmation bias, since I selected a book I am predisposed to agree with, but one particular section that really resonated with me was the one that talked about simplifying a child’s environment, specifically getting rid of toys:

Is this a toy that “does” so much (this button pushes the ejector rods, this button triggers the lights, this button launches the missiles), that my child’s main involvement will be sitting there pushing buttons?

And:

By simplifying the number and complexity of our children’s toys, we give them liberty to build their own imaginary worlds. When children are not being told what to want, and what to imagine, they can learn to follow their own interests, to trust their own emerging voices. They can discover what genuinely speaks to them.

Yes. That.

I miss boredom! When I think of my childhood, I remember being bored a lot, especially on lazy summer days. This was usually followed up by the creation of some fantastic game. Now we fill kids so full of activities that they never have time to be bored, the way we were. What are they missing out on?

Toys that don’t do things can become anything, in play. When we don’t try to fill children’s minds and toy chests with prefabricated examples of “imagination,” they have more freedom to forge their own, to bring their own idea into play.

So why do we do this to our kids?

Let’s say your child has a favorite stuffed elephant who sits in a place of pride on the bed when it is not being hauled about. You and your spouse and any family member who sees this human/elephant love story can be inspired to re-create it by purchasing stuffed elephant siblings, other jungle animal cousins, or stuffed “friends” of every kind.

I tell you one thing’s for sure – after reading this I definitely don’t want Evie to have the pillow pet she’s been begging for!

This book is very thought provoking. I don’t agree with everything 100% (I’m not so sure about the chapter on talking less, even if they did use Pa from Little House as the example!), but I’d say I’m there with them on at least 95%. Worth a read for any parent out there who is interested in simplifying their and their kids’ lives!