The Junk Yard

Our printer died. It was a sad day for a homeschool mom. Fortunately we were two days before Christmas break and the ink was about out, but still… It had been a trusty printer. We’d had it for years. It was given to us. Not what I would have bought for myself, but I couldn’t find a good enough reason to replace it while it worked. However, the $60 cost of replacement cartridges always left a bitter taste in my mouth and the print quality was just ok.

And actually it didn’t die. It still turned on and it still recognized its print que, but the roller malfunctioned and wouldn’t suck the paper through to print on it. I’d noticed some time ago it was pulling stronger on the right side, but not enough to matter until it just wouldn’t at all. So I had this printer that was now useless to me.

Where did it go? Trash or Donate?

The obvious choice was trash, but in another life I may have hesitated. How many reason could I have to donate my useless printer?

“Someone could replace the roller and get a good printer out of it. Someone else. Not me because I don’t know how. Someone more savvy could do that. All it needed was a new roller and it’d be good to go.”

“Maybe someone needed a part off of it. Maybe someone else had the same printer but the scan hood broke and needed just that part. Maybe someone else needed that.”

“Maybe someone needed a junk printer for smashing purposes to reenact that scene from Office Space where those guys take the office printer and bash it with hammers. Maybe someone needed to do that. After all, I actually did that one time for an advertising photo at the print plant I worked for years ago (true story). Maybe someone else need to do that.”

Or maybe not… Maybe and most likely I’d be donating a worthless printer to a thrift store that someone else would just throw away or try to sell to someone else that would take it home, buy $60 worth of ink only to realize the roller didn’t work.

I’d just create a problem for someone else down the line, but isn’t it tempting to donate junk? Often times the emotional value we place on our stuff is higher than the physical value that is left in it. Maybe not so much a printer, but how about a child’s stained clothes? We remember our child wearing those outfits and as we hate to throw them out, we think, “Well at the very least someone could use those as play clothes.” Seeing as the trash is not an option we donate the less that perfect clothes and try to sell the rest, but we should be donating the sell clothes and trashing the donate clothes.

We (collective we) have to stop seeing the thrift stores as an alternative for the trash we can’t really bear to trash. I’ve been guilty and I’ve seen it time and again, especially in consignment situations where consigners will take the best of the best to consignment and then donate what the consignment sale won’t take, which is usually damaged or stained goods.

When we moved into our home, there was a miscommunication between a donation center and the previous owner about a pick-up date and she ended up leaving the donation pile in the garage. I knew that it would be here and there was supposed to be another day scheduled for pick-up but I didn’t know what was in the pile. A chair, an old vacuum and some other things is what I was told. Seeing that I’d seen her post several nice things for sale on Marketplace, I thought there would be some nice things in the pile.

Boy was I wrong. The chair had been ripped to shreds by an animal and everything else was mostly parts of something else. There was one Tiffany Style lamp that was only mildly broken on the edge of the shade that I kept and now place the broken end towards the wall. Everything else I was embarrassed to have donated because now it would be seen as my pile of crap that I would bestow to some lucky guy getting paid to put it in the back of a truck. My friend and I rolled the rest of it down to the street and had the trash company pick it up.

I made a pick up call, just like she had, but for some reason in her eyes this trash pile was ok to donate to other people. Ok to donate, but not good enough to sale. I can only guess the difference was that she had emotional attachments to it that I didn’t have because I hadn’t lived with it. I hadn’t sat in that chair for 10 years or I hadn’t received that vacuum as an anniversary present, or whatever. All I know is when we are donating possessions we wouldn’t consider selling, we’re treating the thrift store like a pull-a-part junk yard for all of our stuff and it’s not fair because the thrift stores (which are usually ministry-based) want to actually sale our donated stuff and make money. They don’t want our trash and they certainly don’t want to have to use their money to pay an employee to come pick up our trash.

I think it’s easier to believe that we are extending the life of our junk as it’s overshadowed by the good deed feeling of donating it, than it is to see our once loved (maybe still loved) stuff for what it actually is, which very well may be trash.

So here’s a call to good humans to be good donaters! To not get caught up in our own emotions over material possessions which possess no emotions of their own. To be the house the donation center is excited to get a call from and to put our trash exactly where it belongs.

Oh, and I bought a new printer.

. . .

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