The New Year brought it's usual resolutions and one of the items on my list was to clean out all my crafts closets, cupboards, containers, etc., purging myself of 20 plus years of accumulation. I'm taking little 20 minute and 1/2 hour bites at it so that it doesn't become too overwhelming, but each time I have a go at it I create a pile of "stuff" that I'm not sure what to do with. So much of it is too old to be of interest to those involved in anything trendy, and yet it is still "good". I hate to think of any of it going to a landfill, particularly when there might be someone out there who might find some of the stuff useful. And yet, it is occupying too much space in my home and has become a burden that I need lifted.
As is frequently the case in life, I was led to my solution indirectly. I clicked on a link a friend had posted on Facebook which took me to a website I found interesting enough to explore further, which led me to another link, another website, another link, and voila! My solution was the Long Beach Depot of Creative Reuse in Long Beach, CA. It is about an hour's drive from where I live, but with my van loaded with donations, my two children, my friend, and her two children, I trekked down there one Sunday afternoon to check it out and---hopefully---rid myself of a trunk full of potential treasures for someone else.
After an easy drive and a brief few minutes of being lost (the exit we were supposed to take was closed for construction!), we found our way to an up and coming art-ful community where I found a parking spot directly in front of the depot! I felt like this must be my lucky day, as I hadn't been sure how we would deliver all of the stuff if we had to carry it very far! A table was set up in front of the building and two young ladies were standing next to it with yarn and crochet hooks in hand, trying to teach themselves how to crochet with some yarn that must have been donated by someone. Upon entering this little storefront, I looked around in surprise at how little room there was in this place---how much can this little place hold?, I was thinking. I found a woman behind a cashier's counter wearing an apron and she immediately began telling me about the place and showing me around. It was astonishing to see how much she was able to actually find room for and keep organized and tidy and visually interesting!
Lisa Hernandez, the owner and operator, along with her daughter (one of the young ladies out front), opened Long Island Depot for Creative Reuse 3 years ago after leaving the corporate world and looking for something more community oriented and meaningful to do with her life.
She has obviously found her passion and radiates peace, love, enthusiasm, and friendliness from way down deep. She shared her story with me as the girls rummaged through the treasures, inspired by the creative examples hanging everywhere of what could be made with such simple items as shopping bags (crocheted market bags and rugs!), paper clips and paper scraps (cute little necklaces and straps!), corks and ink pen nibs (push pins and jewelry!), rubber inner tubes (really cool purses!).
What impressed me the most about Lisa and her mission was not that so many people came on a regular basis to donate and trade (some items are available for free if you leave something else) and purchase supplies for art projects and other things; nor was it that there were so many items that I would never have even thought of saving or collecting for a place like this, had I known it existed previously (plastic "thingies", prescription bottles, film canisters, unused punched out Valentine's cards, feathers, puzzle pieces, game pieces...);
nor was it the admission that this non-profit company was able to support herself and her daughter, even with some proceeds going to artists in the community. What impressed me the most was that Lisa's mission was more about community than saving the environment. "Green" is so hip and trendy right now, and that is a good thing! But, Lisa's efforts to make her business as green as a business can be --(her business cards are donated office labels with her name and address printed on them which are carefully centered on, say, a cut up cereal box)-- are a means of supporting and connecting businesses, artists, neighbors in her immediate neighborhood. A recent recipient of a Pepsi Refresh grant, Lisa created a Creative Reuse Day event during which local businesses and artists were showcased and visitors were given the opportunity to let their creativity flow. Judging by the articles and photos, it was a fun and inspirational day that brought people together for the purpose of learning good environmental stewardship and the importance of knowing your neighbors and supporting the businesses in your community.
As she and her daughter helped my friend and me unload the back of my van, I would comment, "I'm not sure if anyone would really want these old large scraps of wrapping paper" and such and each time Lisa or her daughter Yoshino would say, "Yes! You'd be surprised! People will use these!" I was so relieved to see so many of my formerly cherished, but abandoned projects and materials find a temporary home! And at the prices the items in the Depot are selling, I have no doubt they will move quickly. Lisa explained that her 1 and 2 and 3 cent prices (of course, some items are more, but still VERY inexpensive!) encourage people to make them move--she doesn't want anything to sit for long in the store.
An hour or so after pulling up in front of Long Beach Depot for Creative Reuse, we piled into the car for the long ride home---each of us with treasures that had once been someone else's trash! and my camera card filled with photos. I left with more than that, though. I left with inspiration for another blog post and best of all, the knowledge that my clutter was on it's way to new homes and NOT the landfill! I'll be going back soon, for sure! I still have a lot of bins to go through!
There are several creative reuse centers around the country, so do a little research in your area! You might find some inspiration, some little treasures, or at the very least, a place that you can pass on your own no-longer-wanted items in which someone else someone might find potential!