Lake Superior Zoo, Duluth, Minnesota

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Written by Holly Henry, Director of Marketing
I have one mitten in my desk drawer.

It’s a beautiful knitted mitten, never worn and made of colors I like. I got the mitten as a gift at our staff Christmas party. The rules were we had to re-gift (recycle) something we had around the house and tell the recipient its story. At the Lake Superior Zoo that, indeed, is part of our overall mission – to tread lightly on the earth and reduce, reuse, recycle.

The mitten came with this note: “I knitted this mitten four years ago and never finished its pair. It is truly one of a kind.”

Among other gifts exchanged were wine glasses, a hat, a handmade purse, a statue of a fairy with a mustache and, well, you get the idea. The gifts ranged from practical to hilarious and we shared laughs, stories and lunch as we exchanged them. Everyone enjoyed giving and receiving their treasures.

As I’ve aged I’ve started to evaluate the usefulness of most material things in my life. Do I really need two coffee pots, a cheesecake pan (I’ve never even made a cheesecake), 12 hats, two cheese graters and enough black suits to attend a funeral a day for a year? No. Nor do I need a closet full of fashionable clothes from my previous job when I now dress like the Crocodile Hunter every day for my job at the zoo.

And so, I decided some time last year to evaluate what was important in my life and give other things away (Goodbye Coach purse, duplicate copy of The Sand County Almanac and rarely-worn black fleece jacket.) My life is less cluttered now and turns out others seem to truly enjoy these pre-loved items. It really is true that “One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure.”

Becoming unattached from material things is such a freeing process. Try it for just one day. You’re likely to find out that you can live without a lot of “things.”

Beware though. As with most things in life, the more you give away, the more that comes back to you. For instance, a co-worker has now offered to knit me the other mitten!

posted by Keely Johnson at


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