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Garage Sale Spirituality

Linnea Wang
On Consumption (May 2013)
Healing the World

Since when could anyone find spirituality in garage sales? Just think about the junk, the mess, the work, the dust on items left in the garage for months…years!  This is all as mundane and earthy as it gets, and utterly disgusting! Yet in every aspect of garage saling there is opportunity for spiritual experience and meaningful soul growth.

Planning: Even before your meeting or church decides to hold a Simplify Life Sale, there is a seed of awareness that grows in someone or in several people.  Perhaps you have held voluntary simplicity groups. Perhaps the budget of your meeting/church doesn’t include as much giving to others as you would like.  That seed of awareness germinates into ideas, plans, action steps and opportunity.

Planning for a Simplify Life Sale brings with it clear awareness of the excess stuff pervading our culture, overflowing from our closets.  There is a clarity and spaciousness created when unneeded items are removed. To quote Carolyn Stephens, “…In life, as in art, whatever does not help hinders.  All that is superfluous to the main object of life must be cleared away, if that object is to be fully attained.  In all kinds of effort, whether moral, intellectual, or physical, the essential condition of vigor is a severe pruning away of redundancy. “

Selling: Once the goods are at the sale, sorted neatly and priced, the items begin to sell.  When folks who need things purchase them at low or insignificant cost, that is equivalent to our sharing those items with others who have need of them. What is unneeded stuff to me could be just what another person truly does need!

There’s a double opportunity here, not only sharing the excess goods with local folks but also sending the proceeds to where they can be most efficiently utilized (Africa and India come to mind).  We are all aware of the inequity of the distribution of wealth in this world.  Here we can transfer some of that wealth relatively easily and transform it into opportunity for others.

Purchasing:  If you buy something that you actually need at a garage sale, you are recycling, saving money and denying the omnipresent commercial system of at least one sale. The abundance at a sale provides you with a discrimination task.  Do I really need/want this?  Then there is the “good energy” moment when you find just what you need in a way that seems uncanny, serendipitous at least. 

Cleaning Up: If you have ever cleaned up after a large yard sale, you cannot miss the awareness of excess and our difficulty in dealing with it. You may develop a real appreciation for the organizations in your community that will take the dregs of your sale (and employ specially-abled persons in the process).  They will make good use of the leftovers.

David Orr, well-known ecologist, speaks of “nothing ugly, up or down stream.”  Having to deal with physical stuff and where it actually lands can help us become aware of the amount of non-recyclable stuff we use. It can help us to ask before we purchase something:  What was this made of?  How much toxic material does it contain?  Can it bio-degrade or be somehow re-used?

A Simplify Life Sale transforms “stuff” into opportunity and empowerment. The proceeds of your sale might go to many very worthy organizations in your local community or to communities around the world. For example, Right Sharing of World Resources is a Quaker organization dedicated to addressing the inequity in the distribution of wealth in the world through the funding of micro-enterprise projects in India, Sierra Leone and Kenya. They also work to raise awareness in the wealthy world of our privilege and opportunity to share. Even small donations provide women and their families with dignity, hope and opportunity for meaningful change. ~~~

Linnea Wang is a member of Montana Gathering of Friends and an active supporter of Right Sharing of World Resources. A longer version of this article can be found on the Right Sharing of World Resources website.

Community action Economic inequality Giving David Orr Consumption

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