How Much is Too Much Outdoor Gear?
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 an 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 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 Many of us continue to purchase new items to replace potentially, older, heavier, bigger, or outdated gear yet don't often look at the whole of our consumption.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 night's 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 its very early days were 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 as 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 as you have, then we ask you to take our challenge. Next weekend, make a huge pile of gear in the basement, garage, or in the 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