What better way to start a new year than with an organized basement?! I spent the morning of yesterday’s dreary, Chicago winter day in the basement with my family, cleaning out shelves and bins, and attempting to put some order into the room we call “The Unfinished Part (of the basement)”. The room that houses our treadmill, the laundry, the classic creepy crawlspace, as well as crafts that have been accumulating for the past 15 years.
Included in this array of crafts were Perler beads (the kind you iron and pull off of the shape), buckets of plastic beads, sewing kits that had been opened once and put back on the shelf, all the necessary supplies for rainbow looms and friendship bracelets. Most of this had a fine layer of dust covering the surface, indicating that the fad for exchanging rubber bands had passed several years ago.
What do we do with all these leftover toys?
The parts and kits that are still in good condition will be donated. Someone, I’m sure, will be very, very happy to learn how to sew a felt frog. But the rest, we ended up throwing out. We had outgrown the crafts, and they were just taking up valuable space on our shelves. Much of these materials are non-recyclable, some of which were popular before recycling labels were standard. Who knows, maybe half of it could have been recycled? But the little bits of fabric I used to weave to make pot-holders, and the bracelet string that is cut too short to use for anything useful, these little leftovers of fun afternoons are now going to pollute our planet.
Despite everything we did end up throwing out or giving away, we have kept and saved timeless wooden toys, legos that will be rebuilt and reused, dolls and their clothing that can be passed down and shared, and countless other childhood pastimes.
All this leads me to mention that perhaps the toy industry could use some reconfiguring, or at least a little thought into the high-turnover, high (potential) waste that is characteristic of the sector. Many toys are played with for a bit of time, or a craft is done once or twice, and then something new comes out and the old one is discarded. Instead of always buying the latest and greatest, perhaps we would be better off to just make do with what we have until we’re certain this toy or craft is something we want, and will be used to the end of its useful life. So, think before you buy 🙂