Stuff for enriching our lives

What stuff enriches our lives? Although many if not most enrichment are experiences, not stuff, some actual "things" fall in this category.

For us, much of this involves books, music, and photography.

(Electronics of various kinds and our habitat and edible gardens also enrich our lives, but they're discussed elsewhere.)



Solvay library ©Janet Allen
Our library, one of the many libraries donated to communities by Andrew Carnegie

As much as we like books, we have too many. Even though we've been very active library patrons our whole lives, in the past, we often would just buy a book that we thought would be good to read, but also to have as a reference. (We only rarely read fiction, which we get only from the library.)

It's really hard to part with books that we believe are quality books, those that have good information or perspectives.

It's even hard to get rid of outdated books or textbooks—especially expensive computer texts—since in the past there has not been a good way to dispose of them other than in the trash.

Fortunately, we've had some opportunities recently in our county to donate books to book sales at libraries, the newspaper (which raises money for its Newspapers in Education program), and so on, but it's possible no one buys these texts and they simply go to the landfill.

The main thing, though, is that we're being more discriminating about what books we actually buy, rather than borrow from the library. We might in the future buy e-books, too, but we haven't done this yet even though we have a Kindle, which we use for library books.


One way we reuse books is to buy used books on Amazon. We even have sold some books, but this is a lot of work.

And of course we go to the library to "reuse" books!


OCRRA does have opportunities to take books in for recycling, and they even display them first so people can go take them if they want instead being shredded.


It turns out that books we've bought because they'd be good to refer to we've only read once and there they sit on the shelves, waiting to be referred to.

I must admit that we've even bought some books with the best of intentions, but never actually got around to reading them. (Some of these are about global warming, which I find too depressing to read about lately.)

Musical instruments

Viola ©Janet Allen
John's viola

Our biggest instrument-buying days are behind us. Our children were very active and talented musicians in a number of instruments. We were constantly upgrading violins, trombones, and oboes. Fortunately, we had already bought a very good piano before our children were born, and it's remains a good piano. Since our children have grown, John, who learned to play strings as a Suzuki parent, switched from violin to viola, so we've added that to our orchestra.


At this stage, we probably won't reduce the instruments we have, now that our grandsons are approaching the age when they may want to learn an instrument.


Digital photography is a blessing since it allows for taking zillions of photos without the expense of developing, which increases the chance of getting a few good ones.

Unfortunately, digital cameras probably (I haven't researched it) also come with problems associated with electronics in general.

Some problems I can't correct as an individual. There's no reason, with the correct policies, that the components of cameras and other devices couldn't be designed with recycling/reuse in mind.

Children's toys

Unfortunately, we had children in the age of plastic. If we were to be raising kids today, we wouldn't be buying that stuff, although we never went overboard with commercial toys, especially because we didn't think they really had much play value or enrichment potential.

One exception was Legos. Certainly it is an excellent way children learn creativity and problem solving (especially the older sets which left more to the imagination than the more commercially-oriented sets today). It was always nice to have toys that actually worked instead of the cheap stuff that might provide an hour or two of play, then fall apart. And the significant amount of money we invested in Legos now does seem like it was an investment, first, since if fostered our son's natural inclination and talents with building, and second, because we now have grandchildren who will soon be old enough to use them. And they'll work just as well as the day we bought them. What I don't know is the environmental impact of the manufacture or eventual disposal of these plastic objects. I'm glad we have a plentiful supply so we don't have to ever buy them again.

The other major item we purchased was art supplies. We generally bought the "real" artist stuff from the art store i.e., Berol colored pencil sets instead of the cheap "kid's" brands. (Toxicity is something to consider, though.)

All in all, we didn't purchase too many toys other than the ones that provided important learning experiences and concept development. We emphasized experiences and good quality art and music teachers instead.