March 27, 2023 by Dymphna

T-Bomb: How op shops ended up drowning in stuff

Truth Bomb Tuesday: We all want the same thing, and the op shops can’t cope.

All the op shops are full.

Have you noticed this? It’s not just me is it? Quite a few around my way have stopped taking donations all together.

They’ve just got too much stuff.

And it’s not that they’re not always packed with customers, and that things aren’t always just flying off the racks.

There’s a very rapid flow through from donation to sale item to someone else’s wardrobe.

Which tells me that maybe they don’t have the staff to process it all (and I have heard that about a lot of volunteer organisations. When they shuttered operations during Covid, their volunteers went out and found other things to keep themselves busy.) So maybe it’s a staff story.

But staff shortage or not, the fact is that they have too much stuff.

And if our op shops are drowning in too much stuff… what’s does that say about what’s going on for the rest of us?

I’ve got a theory.

We shop to give ourselves a reference point for meaning.

Back in the old and ancient times, you hunted hard all day, and then you had a mammoth to show for it. Job done. Sit back and relax

These days, you can bust a gut for months and still not really have anything to show for it. Or maybe you do. Behold my mostly updated spreadsheet!

Where is all this hard work getting us?

And so trinkets and gadgets give us an answer. I busted balls this week, but at least now I can afford to go out and buy a GPS fitness tracker.

For a brief moment, it justifies all of our hard work. It’s all worth it.

And in that moment, we feel powerful. I can just take this item if I let them have some of my money. And that’s often a counter-point to the disempowerment we feel in our day-to-day lives.

And so it doesn’t surprise me that the rise of mindless materialism has come at the same time as our lives have become more and more busy, and our working lives have become more and more disempowered.

We’re hungry for meaning. We need to know we’re doing ok. ‘Stuff’ comforts us in the moment.

But we also crave simplicity. Covid gave us a taste of that. We enjoyed the ease and simplicity of house arrest.

(it was intense too, but it gave us a taste of simplicity.)

And so now we’re off-loading stuff.

And the cycle accelerates.

We buy stuff to give us sugar hits of meaning. We send it on to the op-shop because we crave ease and simplicity.

But we’re all beating around the bush.

We have to hit this stuff directly.

This is why I say you need to know your “why”. The first step in the journey is to get really clear on your motivations – to understand exactly why you’re doing this and who you’re doing it for.

If you can do that, you’ll feel strong in your path, and won’t be tempted by the sugary seduction of ‘stuff’.

And clarity of direction and purpose, will make everything feel more simple.

We can take charge of our lives.

… and we can stop asking op shops to enable our dependencies.