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Find Your Treasure at a Freecycle Event

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In case you missed it, today is Earth Day. I don't know how it's possible to have missed it, but then again, I live in San Francisco. If there is one thing I learned quickly about the area when we relocated from Boston, it's that they take their recycling seriously. I don't survey the nation on their waste disposal system, but I'd guess that few have a composting bin for pick up each week on trash day.

Most years, I try to use today to write about the environment. (You can read some of my past posts: Four Lazy Ways to Save the Environment and Happy Belated Earth Day.) Sometimes I don't succeed since being environmentally friend often costs a little more money. So rather than regurgitate some information about buying CFLs or better yet, these new Dimmable 6 Watt (50 Watt equivalent) LED Bulbs that will save you money over a number of years, I thought I'd tell you a little story about a person who changed his environmental ways last weekend: Me.

Over the years, our home, like many others, has gathered a large amount of "stuff." We try to have a yard sale every couple of years to pair down the stuff that we don't use as much. It's not a great return on time spent, but our place is always a lot cleaner. With our last yard sale we opened up enough room to get an elliptical trainer. (That was well worth the day of cleaning). At the end of every yard sale, there is the stuff that didn't sell. Sometimes I'm just shocked that people would pass up the awesome stuff that I'm making available to them at a deeply discounted rate. The question becomes: What do we do with this stuff?

The easy answer for many is to donate it Goodwill for the tax deduction. Since we take the standard deduction, this doesn't get us any value (except for cleaning up the home). My theory was always to just box it up for the next yard sale - different people will want different things. My wife spotted an advertisement for a local Freecycle event. I don't know if it is related to this Freecycle or not, but since the term is trademarked it likely is. In my head, I thought this was going to be a colossal fail. The idea of bringing our stuff, that no one thought was worth 50 cents, to a place with a bunch of other people junk (ours is "stuff", theirs is "junk" naturally), spending the Saturday with it didn't have much redeeming value to it. And when my wife tried to sneak in my extra DVD of the Matrix (I bought one at a yard sale without realizing that I owned it), I called foul. "Some of this stuff has actual value", I claimed.

It turns out that I had the wrong impression of the event. It was run far differently than how we expected it to be run. There were tables and people simply dropped off their junk in the appropriately marked section and walked away. Other people picked up stuff that they liked or had a use for. The rotation of stuff was pretty quick. With so much stuff coming and going, it was hard not to find something worthwhile. Someone left a bunch of CDs with such awesome music as Garbage and Fiona Apple. My wife and I came out of there with about 5 CDs each. One of the keys to this pickup was that it didn't take up a lot more space. We rip our CDs to our computer and store them in books, so CD easily fit the bill. My wife also saw an interesting book that she liked that will go on Paperback Swap when she's done reading it.

When we realized how it worked, we went back home to get more stuff for a return trip. (My wife was in a real cleaning mode that day). When we dropped off our second batch of stuff, my wife literally tripped over something. I stopped her immediately, "Honey, it's a dog bed, but it's actually a suitable size for Jake." Jake has two dog beds currently. He has the one that we got when he was a puppy which is far too small for him unless he curls in a ball. We have a larger one that is his size, that he snubs. This one was the size of the larger one but in the style (has little walls) of the one he liked. I grabbed it evaluate it's condition. I have to admit that I felt a little odd about a used dog bed. I mean there could be fleas, right? Plus we treat our dog almost like he's a person and we don't cheap out on something like a dog bed that's low-cost and would get a lot of use. However, we have been unable to find anything like the smaller one anywhere. For the price of free and with it being in good condition it was worth a shot.

Aside from when I get his leash for a walk or trip to a dog park, I don't know if I had ever seen Jake so happy. He brings it from room to room so that he can sleep on it. He brings it upstairs to bed with us and bring it downstairs in the morning. Sometimes he'll just sit on it and give us this goofy smile. Whatever drug is in that bed, I want some.

Next year my spare DVD copy of the Matrix will be at the Freecycle event. It's too bad it wasn't The Terminator, so I could end with an "I'll be back" joke.

Last updated on April 23, 2011.

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