Of all the reasons I’ve seen for selling a car, my favorite was the one a friend listed with his station wagon: “We outgrew it!” Just as his family needed more seats than the little Mazda could offer, our family has managed to cram two adults, three children, a giant fuzzy dog, and often an assortment of family and friends into our little townhouse … for a while. We stored; we stacked; we chuckled when we read about a family trying to find each other in their massive house. We might not know where we’d put one more chair when company came – but there was one problem we were not going to have.

 

After years of searching, we found our Goldilocks place: not too big, not too small, neither too close to the city nor too far from it. Boxes multiplied: at first a surplus box or two from work, then a rich variety from Lowe’s, Home Depot, the liquor store. What goes together? What room will be this one’s destination? Does the bookshelf from the children’s bedroom go in their new bedroom, or in the family room?

 

Amidst it all, one question kept coming back. What deserves to make the trip, and what doesn’t need to come at all? What has already served its purpose, or had no real purpose to start? What didn’t fit, didn’t work, got set aside for a just-in-case that never happened? From clothing that was almost the right size to kitchen gimmicks that ended up in the back of the drawer, my favorite local thrift shop (Repurposed, whose profits help victims of human trafficking) has found new homes for so much that was just getting in the way. Sometimes it did so with astounding efficiency: As we lugged one piece of pretty-but-impractical furniture into the building, a lady exclaimed: “Is that for sale?”

 

Our question often was the opposite, “Why did we buy this?” Normally, it heralded an item’s trip to Repurposed, but it often sparked a reflective conversation on goals, hopes, things we’d meant to do and directions we hadn’t realized life was heading. One day, I tried asking the same question about apps on my phone: How many do I really use, and how many had I downloaded for one particular task months or years ago? How many changed, one “update” at a time, until they were nothing like what I’d originally meant to install?

 

The changes weren’t always bad – SoundCloud, all that practicing has paid off! – and happy surprises also abounded when we cleared out our old house. Missing markers, crayons and Lego pieces rejoined their sets; the children’s joyful drawings appeared from their creative hiding places; books we’d meant to read came back to mind as we packed our library.

 

If our entire culture were to move, what forgotten treasures might we find tucked away? Would we rediscover respect – for individuals, for nature and for the limits nature places on individuals – and ask why it hasn’t seemed more relevant than the technocrat’s “we can, therefore we should” attitude? What about communication – the real kind, with people meeting over a cup of coffee – instead of the fancy imitations that never quite measured up? Might the concept of enough – enough money, enough stuff, enough market dominance for one company – still pertain?

 

Let’s find out. Let’s go through our shelves, mental and physical, and see what beautiful things we’ve forgotten there.

 

But if you need a giant three-crockpots-in-one gadget, don’t pay full price. Repurposed has one.

 

 

Author profile
Charles Horton, MD
Charles Horton, MD

Dr. Horton specializes in anesthesiology and is associate editor of the ACMS Bulletin