When Does Reuse Become Hoarding?


Image credit: striatic, used under Creative Commons license.

Whether it's brilliant ways to reuse your books, or an easy way to reuse wine corks, TreeHugger has seen plenty of craftsy, DIY examples of reuse as a creative way to greener living. But I've been thinking lately that good intentions can lead to bad decisions—more specifically, I've been wondering at what point reuse becomes hoarding. I should be clear that I am a huge fan of reuse. I think it makes total sense to save your waste jars, bottles, corks and whatever else and try to find creative, fun things to do with them rather than throw them in the trash. But the key is to actually find things to do with them—if they end up sitting in your closet taking up space, then they are not a help but a hindrance.

We've all been there. I have friends who are into canning who can't stand to see a jar get recycled. I have homebrewing friends who have more bottles saved up than they could possibly use in a lifetime. (In my experience, homebrewers tend to create empty bottles almost as fast as they create full ones.) And I have gardening friends whose potting sheds are almost unusable because of the backlog of plant pots, containers, and random nicknacks that might just come in useful one day. I've also had friends who got so into the admittedly awesome Freecycle that they ended up snapping up any and every offer, whether or not they would ever find a use for the item in question.

The problem is not just that these items are in limbo, sitting in storage when they could be put to good use by someone else. I would actually argue that unless an item is actually going to get used, you'd be better off throwing it away - even if that means landfill (as a last resort!) - than let it sit in your cupboards taking up space. Too much stuff weighs us down, it clouds our thinking, and it takes up space that could be used to live a more orderly, efficient, simpler life.

Yes we need to learn to love our stuff, but sometimes love means letting go.

More on Reuse, and on Finding True Value in Material Possessions
Love Your Stuff: Material Possessions Are Not Evil
Forums: What Do You Make from Junk?
The End of Cheap Materialism and the Value of Enough
Freecycle.org: It Really Works!
Brilliant Ways to Reuse Books
An Easy Way to Reuse Wine Corks