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This clever Halloween tradition makes your clutter disappear

A large bowl of candy and toys
Courtesy Scott Matthews
Trick, treat, or used, but perfectly good toy?
  • Lila MacLellan
By Lila MacLellan

Quartz at Work senior reporter

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

My brother-in-law and his family invented a simple, genius Halloween tradition: Every year, they collect “used but perfectly good” toys to add to the bowl they present to trick-or-treaters.

New Yorkers who are dedicated to living as minimally as possible, Scott Matthews and his wife came up with the system to offload toys that their 14-year-old daughter, Sasha, had outgrown. Costumed visitors can walk away with a candy bar, a bag of chips, or, say, a toy gyroscope for budding physicists.

Trick-or-treaters almost always prefer the toy. And they’re not fussy about taking home something that’s not brand new, as long as it’s clean. “By the end of the night, everything is always gone,” Scott says.

Sasha, a high school student in Manhattan and a prolific political comic artist, never regrets the giveaways. The tradition aligns nicely with her environmental and social activism: As she’ll point out, toys are a prime contributor to the world’s mountains and floating islands of waste. She’s also careful not to offer toys with any small pieces that could be choking hazards.

For her parents, it’s a “relatively guilt-free way to declutter,” says Scott, who takes some satisfaction in nudging children toward a game or hobby, instead of more sugar. Still, he says, “The only way to help the environment is not to consume this stuff to begin with.”

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

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