Last week I was off the grid during a spring break trip to a family farm. This farm has been in the family for around 100 years now. During this time they survived the great depression and weathered the ups and downs of agriculture in a small southwest town. The family has long practiced the idea of waste not / want not. It has given our kids a glimpse of the past and family history. However, it has created more work now to make the buildings safe. The process of cleaning up 100 years’ worth of debris got me thinking about the practice of waste not /want not. By the end of the week I was convinced the value of this practice can be a myth if not executed wisely.
I am a big believer in reusing or recycling items that no longer serve their original purpose, it is very important to reduce what goes into our landfills. This only works if careful thought is given to what you save for later use. As we were cleaning up the tool shed and garage buildings we found buckets and buckets full of bent nails. During the depression it was important to save all the nails, even the bent ones, so that you would have one available when needed. This was probably even true up to the 1950’s as the country recovered from WWII. Unfortunately the practice carried on into the 1990’s. At this point the old nails weren’t being reused so the piles of waste nails just grew and grew. When we cleaned out the buildings, all these old nails were sent to the scrap metal recycling center. They will now be melted down and used in new steel products. It seems that the habits of the past were carried on without any real thought of whether or not it would make a difference in how they lived their lives.
Digging through decades of broken tractor parts, farm tools, and bailing wire has renewed my commitment to keeping only the things that truly serve a purpose. Keeping old items just because they might be useful one day leads to tons of waste that must be dealt with at some point. In the case of the family farm it’s been up to us and our kids to clean up the old and make it new again. We saved many items for family history’s sake or because they really can be used again in the new and improved farm. I often asked “what are you going to do with this?” when my husband wanted to save something that could have been reused but in reality would never be used by us.
I would challenge you to ask yourself these questions whenever you are contemplating keeping something you no longer use:
- Is it still is a useable form?
- Will I really ever use it again?
- Can someone else use it (donate or sell)?
- Can it be recycled?
If you can answer yes to the first two questions, then keep the item. If you can answer yes to either of the last two questions, then pass the item on for someone else to make use of it. If the answer is no to all four questions, then dispose of the item properly. Saving items for the sake of saving them will create wasted time and effort at some point down the road. Choose wisely.