The Scavengers’ Manifesto
This blog was inspired by our book, The Scavengers’ Manifesto. It’s a powerful guide to making the most of the many modes of legally acquiring stuff for free or cheap — but it also examines the philosophy, history, spirituality, science, and economics of scavenging. An instruction manual and initiation ceremony and liturgy all in one, The Scavengers’ Manifesto links together a wide spectrum of seemingly disparate activities that no one ever seems to have realized before are connected.
Look around you. The way in which human beings acquire stuff is shifting. Expanding. Forever. All around the world, millions are salvaging stuff, trading stuff, recycling stuff. This is the end of the shopping monopoly.
It used to be that when anyone wanted anything, he or she dashed to the store and bought it new, full-price. Mission accomplished. Back then — not so long ago — getting goods by any other means besides new and full-price was considered suspicious: the realm only of bottom-feeders, bums, moochers and cheapskates.
But today, scavenging doesn’t mean the squalid ragpicking that it used to mean. From Freecycling to thrifting, from swapping to clipping coupons, dozens of different pursuits count as scavenging today. Just think how many ways you scavenge on a daily basis. You scavenge just by tracking down a good deal.
We wrote this book because we wanted to redeem and reclaim the whole notion of scavenging. It’s our lifestyle and we like it. We — Anneli Rufus and Kristan Lawson — have both been scavengers for as long as we can remember. As soon as we could walk and talk, in cities far apart, both of us were scrounging, foraging, and finding stuff. In college, still not having yet met, we both filled our rooms with thrift-shop clothes, kitchenware, and secondhand books. And in the years since we met, neither of us ever had to explain — or apologize — to the other for picking up pennies from the street or lifting trash-can lids to peer inside them or seeking, in every store, what’s on sale. We wrote The Scavengers’ Manifesto because seeking out the free and the cheap is neither a shame nor a flaw but a skill and a virtue. In a paved-over consumer culture, as economic crises loom, scavenging is an age-old, exciting and enlightening way to save money — and maybe even save the world.