Last night I sat down and watched my first episode of "Tidying Up With Marie Kondo" on Netflix. If you haven't seen it yet, the premise is about simplifying your life by slowly and methodically ridding your life of excess and clutter. The first episode featured a young couple with two small children who had been married for five years and had accumulated a lot of things in their house that made it almost impossible to do the simplest of household tasks. The clutter also seemed to be impacting their relationships with one another and their kids as well.
Ms. Kondo has a very simple five step approach to cutting up the house so that a individual or family could tackle clutter and excess in a manageable way. Just so you know, camping gear was not on the list... But the garage was a separate area and we all know that most of us store our outdoor gear there. The first items that were addressed by both the husband and wife in the episode was clothing.
Ms. Kondo instructed the couple to each take all of their clothing items... (all of them) and place them in a pile on the bed. As you can imagine both were shocked at the exercise. The wife in the episode had two full closets of clothing and a dresser. At the end of the exercise a huge mound of clothing was before the wife in the episode. It was not till this moment that she was able to see the excess she had accumulated. Tearful and ashamed she mentioned to Ms. Kondo about how she felt about having so much when others have so little.
Ms. Kondo reassured the couple and offered her instructions on how to tackle this gigantic mound of clothing and how to easily decide what stays and what goes. Quite simply, does this piece of clothing provide you joy? Essentially do you feel comfortable in it? Do you love it? Does it give you a spark? If not, then let it go and thank the item. Later in the show the couple had accumulated nine trash bags of clothing from their family to donate. As I was watching this I instantly began to draw the parallels between this average American family and those of us in the outdoor space and how we are continually accumulating gear (clothing, tents, backpacks, mats, sleeping bags, etc.). Many of us continue to purchase new items to replace potentially, older, heavier, bigger or outdated gear yet don't often look at the whole of our consumption. It was not till all of the clothing that was on the bed in one large mound did this couple realize how much they had consumed and more importantly were not using.
Gear Forward challenges the outdoor community this winter before the spring hiking and camping season begins to "Tidy Up" your outdoor gear. Follow the exercise that Ms. Kondo provides and find an open area and pile up all of the sleeping bags, backpacks, boots, headlamps, stoves, tents, hammocks, etc. One by one, item by item, ask yourself does this piece bring me joy, happiness does it give me spark? In addition, similar to the teaching of the Minimalists, ask yourself when the last time you used this piece of equipment was or do you have an upgraded version that you enjoy more? Make your two piles, gear to keep and gear to thank. Thanking the item, even in last nights first episode felt a little odd, I will admit when it came to saying goodbye to a sweater or scarf that you no longer wanted. However, letting go of gear and saying thank you to it seems more appropriate.
Before Gear Forward was established and I was "nudged" by my bride to take stock of my overflowing gear room and get rid of some of my gear, I instantly thought about the places I had taken certain pieces and the experiences I had. Thanking your gear, allows you to realize that the gear is not the memory, the memory stays with you even if you let go of the sleeping bag, tent or backpack. What wasn't addressed in the show last night but I bet help led the family to a new and profound happy place was the feeling of giving back and helping those in need by donating clothing, furniture, household goods and other items that had overstayed their welcome in their home.
Some of the first items that were donated to Gear Forward in it's very early days was my own. Some of the gear I had purchased and some had been provided to me to review for my blog. However, I was attached to all of the items, because I had taken them on adventures with friends, seen things I had never seen before or used the gear with my daughters on weekend camping trips. Giving up that gear that I didn't need anymore felt good because I knew that young men and ladies would soon benefit from the donations I was making that would help them create experiences and memories like I had made with the gear. Remember, gear hanging in a gear room or closet doesn't benefit anyone. I regularly advise our generous donors to Gear Forward about where their donated gear ended up. All of our donors feel that "spark" when I tell them about the Scout in need or camp in need that received their gear. Donors feel and express a feeling of elation when they hear that their gear was given a second life in the outdoors.
If you want to declutter your gear and take stock of equipment and feel that spark by donating to youth in need who want to explore the outdoor world like you have, then we ask you to take our challenge. Next weekend, make a huge pile of gear in the basement, garage or in living room. Find that spark with the items you cherish, need and enjoy then let go and thank the items you think would benefit the next generation of adventurers in need. To donate the items you thanked visit: www.gearforward.org/donate-gear.html
Executive Director/Founder - Gear Forward
It’s the end of 2018 and the beginning of another year. As we look back at what was an amazing year for Gear Forward we take pause to remember all of those who have donated to our cause, the continued and new partnerships formed and the kids we have helped to discover the outdoors.
Towards the end of 2017 Gear Forward addressed a need for a Cub Scout Pack in Katy, Texas. This was the largest gear need undertaken by our non-profit at the time. To satisfy this need Gear Forward created it’s first online Facebook fundraiser to raise the necessary funds to purchase fifty sleeping bags for all of the youth impacted by Hurricane Harvey in late 2017. The fundraiser was a huge success and lead to a gear company donating a significant amount of gear to the boys in addition to the items procured by Gear Forward. Having proven the fundraising tool as a resource this option provided Gear Forward another avenue to address non-traditional or larger scale needs in the upcoming year.
In 2018, Gear Forward raised nearly $8,500 in donations via Facebook fundraisers via direct need fundraisers, general fundraisers and birthday fundraisers for Gear Forward that were created by supporters of Gear Forward. These funds directly supported the purchase of sleeping bags and tents for the USC Troy Camp in California, Girl Scout Troops in Minnesota for the purchase of tents, a Boy Scout Troop in Puerto Rico who were impacted by Hurricane Maria in late 2017, and to provide outdoor essentials (swimsuits, towels, bugspray, suntan lotion and duffle bags) for underprivileged youth attending the 4-day summer camp experience at Camp Care-A-Lot in our hometown of Springfield, IL, just to name a few.
In addition to assisting youth with outdoor gear deficiencies in places like Colorado, New York, New Jersey, and Tennessee we also gave back to our veterans this Veterans day weekend by sleeping outdoors in a cardboard box to raise funds for homeless veterans in Springfield, IL. Our supporters once again came through and not only reached our goal but exceeded our fundraising goal and raised a total of $1,050. These funds were provided to the Fifth Street Renaissance to complete renovations on a new family and female veteran home for homeless veterans.
Our year could not have been what it was without the support of outdoor enthusiasts who continually support Gear Forward financially, allowing us to make necessary purchases for youth outdoor organizations when on-hand gear doesn’t meet the need or specific items are required to fulfill the gear gap. In addition to our individual supporters, we can’t forget the many new partnerships we have developed and continued to foster in 2018. Two key-note relationships are with Campmor and the New York New Jersey Trail Conference who since March of 2018 have hosted gear donation boxes at their locations which have helped to outfit hundreds of youth in the local NY/NJ area as well as bring about awareness of Gear Forward and our mission. We would also like to mention the new relationships we forged with the Ozark Trail Association, Hart Outdoor, and Sasquatch Fuel.
On January 1, 2018, Gear Forward announced that we would begin taking donations of Boy Scout and Girl Scout uniforms to assist youth in need of outdoor gear who also may have a uniform deficiency. Since the announcement a year ago Gear Forward has continually received both Boy Scout and Girl Scout uniform shirts, pants, belts, hats and other accessories on a regular basis. We are proud to report we have also outfitted many new Cub Scouts who were in need of their very first uniform shirt and we are very excited to outfit more scouts in the coming year.
In 2018, Gear Forward expanded it’s cadre of Gear Forward Ambassadors to nearly twenty members to assist in the outreach and connection to the outdoor community around the United States to identify needs and source gear to satisfy local needs. With the growth and pace of activity of Gear Forward in 2018 two of the Gear Forward Ambassadors were asked to take on new roles and become more involved on a day to day basis to not only address current needs of the organization but to assist in its growth and future development. Gear Forward would not have had the year of success it has enjoyed nor would so many youths in need have the gear they need to get outdoors without the tireless effort and dedication of Ms. Diana Richards and Ms. Jennifer Glasgow Potts, both Gear Forward Development Coordinators.
In 2019 Gear Forward is ready to expand even more. We plan on growing our ambassador group across the country, which will help us outfit even more of the next generation of adventurers. We appreciate every single one of you that has helped in any way to spread the love of the outdoors to our youth in need, and we have so many exciting plans that are presently under development to help more youth get outside in this new year. We wish you all a happy and healthy new year, and stay tuned to see what Gear Forward will do this year!