On Giving Away the Things We Don’t Need

I have a running vest I love, partly because it’s cute, but mostly because I splurged to buy it which I rarely ever do.

Clothes aren’t my thing. 

  1. I don’t have the fashion gene, which I learned after watching my children, one of whom obviously has it and the rest of whom just as emphatically don’t.
  2. I’m truly a terrible shopper.
  3. I don’t like spending money. Except on books. I spend money on books. And cheese. Books and cheese. And beer. Books, cheese and beer. That’s all I need. Unlimited books, cheese and beer, and I’ll happily run around naked for the rest of my life.

I mean, I want to look good. Sort of. Not to the point that I’m willing to inject my face with Botox or, you know, stop eating cheese. Although I’m just fine with those of you who do those things because MORE CHEESE and WRINKLES for ME. Yippee! And, to be honest, that whole I-don’t-do-Botox thing is way, WAY more about how much it costs than about not wanting to inject poison into my face or not wanting to participate in unreasonable standards of youth in women. I wish that was why, but really I just need the money for cheese.

Do you hear what I’m saying about cheese? Praise Cheeses.

My point is, I want to look OK. Semi-fashionable. Not Awful. Sort of Target-Chic-meets-Pajamas and willing to picket on behalf of yoga pants as legitimate public daywear.

But every once in a while, I splurge on something to wear. Something that’s not from the sale section of Ross Dress for Less or 2 for $12 at Target. And when I do, the purchase must meet certain criteria lest the Guilt of Money Spent overwhelm me. It must be something I’ll wear often. It must be something “classic” with clean lines. And it must be in either a neutral color or a color I wear often so it will pair with other things I own. 

photo (85)My Nike running vest was a splurge. $100. Black. Snug and loose in all the right places. Somehow both comfortable and fitted. Ideal for running in Oregon.

And it never worked for me. Not ever. No matter how many times I tried it.

It turns out, I don’t like to be too warm when I run. I’d rather run in my crappy cotton t-shirts, which is exactly what they say not to do because cotton doesn’t wick right and it can cause chafing, and chafing, as we’ve previously discussed, is no joke.

So I did what any reasonable person would do when she finds herself saddled with something that doesn’t work: I held onto it, hoping things would magically change.

I held onto it for years, letting it collect dust in my closet and taking it out from time to time to try again, sure this time it would be fabulous and I’d be glad I wisely clung to it.

Because $100!

And because it should work. 

Like, oh, I don’t know, a rules-based faith, and picking the Right Parenting Method, and eating lots of lettuce.

Good things. Classics. Things that work really well for other people and look great. Things I keep in my repertoire because they’re comfortable, even when there’s a persistent whisper that something’s not working… and a hint that even the classics need to be evaluated from time to time… and an ongoing suspicion that I might want to consider whether I need to be brave and face some changes. That I may need to purge the things collecting dust in the closet and make room for things that will work better, that will be useable, that will be sources of Light and Life and not guilt or angst.


It’s so much easier sometimes to just hang onto the things I don’t need, you know? And then suffocate under the pile of them.

But I’m in a process right now of purging – 40 Days of Lent: 15 Minute Projects – because I’ve grown tired of the lack of breath that comes from Too Much Stuff, and it turns out I’d rather be breathless from the effort of doing something about it. 

And so I sighed a big sigh and got rid of the Nike running vest this week.

I gave it to a friend who – get this – is USING it. For RUNNING. REGULARLY. That friend texted me to say thanks and that she loves it. Which made me really happy. And also made me feel like I should’ve unloaded this a long, LONG time ago. 



If you’re joining us for 40 Days of Lent: 15 Minute Projects, today we’re – yep, you guessed it –
Giving Away Something We’ve Hung Onto But Don’t Need.

This one may be HARD. It may take more than 15 minutes to talk yourself through it. That’s OK. It’s a fine way to use your 15 minutes, and it’s good practice to take the time to talk ourselves through releasing the things we don’t need.

You can find the click here to find the Compiled List of all the 15 Minute Projects to Date.

 And Congrats to Alyson Engelbrecht who tackled Day 13: A Surface.
Here’s Alyson’s Before:


And here’s Alyson’s After:


Nice work!



Environmental Living Tip of the Day

Since I’m patently Not Qualified to offer environmental living tips, I’ve asked my friend Leslie to join us here periodically during our 40 Days of Lent: 15 Minute Projects to offer tips, tricks and simple solutions to treat the earth better.

My Question: I’m trying to reduce food waste at our house, so I need an easy and fast way to deal with scraps. What’s the EASIEST and FASTEST way to set up a compost bin and how much time does it take to maintain?

Leslie’s Answer: Some people don’t even use a bin for compost; they just have a pile in the corner of their yard. That’s the easiest and fastest way to start. Keep a compost bucket with a lid on your counter or under your kitchen sink so you can gather scraps as you cook and eat. I like the stainless steel ones that have a filter to block the odor, which you can buy at places like Target for around $25, but you can use anything with a lid. Roughly, you want 1/3 green (grass clippings, plants), 1/3 brown (paper bags, newspaper, cardboard) and 1/3 food scraps (nothing with protein – no cheese, meat, etc.)  A compost pile takes minimal time depending on how good you want your dirt. In the summer you should “turn” the pile every few weeks. You can also purchase a compost bin for as little as $50, or, if you have a handy person in your house, it’s a pretty quick project to slap 4 pieces of wood together. 

Leslie Hodgdon Murray is a Quaker pastor who is pursuing her Master’s of Divinity with an emphasis in Christian Earthkeeping. Her passion in life is helping people reduce waste, simplify life and reduce their ecological footprint. 



P.S. If you’re giving something away, I would LOVE to hear what it is and why you’ve a) hung onto it, and b) decided to let it go. 

“Green Leaf Lamp” image credit Meawpong3405 via freedigitalimages.net

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11 responses to “On Giving Away the Things We Don’t Need”

  1. […] So the premise is you eat vegan meals during the day, which is NOT the part of eating plan that’s perfect. Obviously. Because I’m not going to be a vegan before 6pm or, really, anytime. Not because I’m opposed to veganism; it’s just a) I’m nowhere near organized enough to put an entire vegan eating plan together and then, hahaha, stick to it, and b) cheese. […]

  2. Last month I finally sold my drafting desk from college. I graduated in 2000! I held on to it for so long because I paid over $250 for it as a poor student, and I thought one of our kids might be able to use it. But it was sharp cornered, awkward, too large for a bedroom, slanted so no place to keep art supplies, etc, etc. Got $75 for it and freed up a spot in the basement!

  3. First, I just want to say that my two year old doesn’t hear “Jesus”. She thinks it is “Cheese-us”. And cheese is one of her favorite things ever. It’s possible that when she finally understands, she will be outraged that there isn’t a cheese based religion.
    Also, I have several baby items that I have been holding onto. Not the super-special ones that I will never give away. Just items that I haven’t been able to bring myself to put in our donation bags because a) they were expensive and I think they should be worth money and b)I spent too many hours researching the best perfect item, and I can’t give them to just anyone who won’t appreciate them. Now I am inspired to give them away, and I know just the right the person. Thanks for the push!

  4. Last Christmas I finally gave up my ex-boyfriend’s leather jacket. Yes, I hung on to it for over 10 years. It was way past time to get rid of it, and oh the freedom that came with getting it out of the house! I just had a hard time convincing myself to get rid of it because it was afterall, a very nice leather jacket. But the baggage that came with seeing it in the closet just wasn’t worth it!

  5. Beth, this whole series is inspiring me to do amazing things. Yesterday it was the bulging garbage bag of clothes that have a new home at the Salvation Army. Today–do you suppose anyone wants my bread machine? I hang onto it hoping that NEXT time the bread will turn out light and delicious. Sigh…

  6. An idea for a compost bucket – the plastic gallon ice cream bucket! Has a lid and is a reasonable size that (ahem) naturally ‘makes’ you empty it regularly. 🙂 It is ‘free’ and if it gets cracked – no loss, just replace it with the next empty one. In our house we have a constant supply…:)

  7. Oh, and my compost heap is two pieces of plastic lattice cut in half (so four 4×4 pieces) on a simple frame of 2x4s. The holes let air circulate, and suprisingly little falls out.

  8. Ummm, I’ve been collecting things to give or sell. I’m going to go work on getting the van loaded with them! Because? Space, please!

  9. On the compost bucket…I use the plastic Folgers coffee cans. I keep it near the stove and toss scraps in it, and it’s the 7yo’s chore to dump it in the compost heap when it’s full. Sometimes the younger ones like to take this chore over, and the size is perfect for them to handle. About the time it gets really nasty, we have emptied out another can, so I toss the old one without guilt because it saw plenty of extra usefulness!

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