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Eugene Should Host an Abundance Swap in 2020

December 27th, 2019 by dk

You may not have even sorted out your holiday wrapping and cards, separating those with glitter and foil from your recycling pile, but the outcome from the year-end celebration is already obvious. What you really needed from Santa was more closet space.

Storage bins and other organizing do-dads will be discounted for the next month. So will diet supplements and gym memberships. The post-holiday message is always clear: “Your stuff will take up more room but you really should take up less.”

That’s what we get for accepting a visit by a jolly fellow who has to suck in his gut to fit down our chimney. Calorie counting may have taken a holiday, but the calories accumulated nevertheless. In fact, that word sums up the result most of us see from dieting: never the less.

Let’s instead tackle our seasonal accumulation of stuff. Let’s follow Ashland’s lead in 2020. (I’m not referring to Ashland’s yoga-mat-in-every-household policy, though that wouldn’t hurt.) For the past 18 years, Ashland has staged an Abundance Swap in early December.

Here’s how it works. Ashland residents bring to the Swap a few items they own that someone else might like to receive as a gift. Per their instructions: “… fun, useful, interesting or beautiful items in really good shape that you feel you can spare. Note: ‘Quality’ doesn’t [always] mean ‘expensive.’ It means well-made, worthwhile, likely to be valued. The original price doesn’t matter.”

They place the items on a table for others to peruse. Those who bring items have the opportunity to see first what others have brought. No money changes hands. Even bartering is not allowed. It’s an Abundance Swap, after all. You could call it a back-of-the-closet exchange, but that doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.

The city of Eugene has hosted fix-it fairs to help residents keep their stuff out of the landfill. This would serve the same purpose — or purposes. An Abundance Swap is really three brilliant solutions, dressed up as one.

We have many excellent thrift shops doing this all the time, but with one important difference. Abundance Swap participants can pass along the story that goes with the stuff. Truth is, we often hold our stuff because we can’t part with their stories. Seeing a beloved object go to a good home can add a vital sweetness to an otherwise bitter grief.

Many of us prefer not to buy anything new when we have alternatives, so an Abundance Swap redoubles our effort to conserve. If we come home with as much stuff as we took to the Swap, we haven’t enlarged our closets — but we have rearranged them. That can be progress.

Finally, an Abundance Swap triples as a community celebration that fits our land’s history. It’s really a potlatch feast for our stuff. Everyone brings their own abundance to the table, making the whole community more sustainable.

Seeing how we and our neighbors have more than we need is a genuine cause for celebration. It’s certainly doing us no good in the backs of our closets.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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