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I have been reading The Nonconsumer Advocate for years. Katy regularly blogs about the incredible “free” piles in Portland, OR. These are small mountains of no longer loved items that Portlanders leave at the curb with a “free” sign. Katy has scored some amazing finds from these piles.

I try to go for a 3+mile walk in my neighborhood every morning and Tuesday is trash day ‘round here, so I often see what people are putting out at the curb for pickup. In my old neighborhood, it was protocol to put a “free” sign (in English and Spanish) on all the bulky items. In this neighborhood, the actual signs are rare, which is a shame. Here’s what I saw at the curb with the trash cans this week:

*Two large gas grills. I’ve never had a gas grill so I can’t say if there was something crucial missing from these, but it made me sad to see them landfill-bound.

*A crib mattress. Lest you think I’m being gross, this mattress was completely encased in plastic (as most crib mattresses are because babies leak) and would’ve been simple to disinfect and donate to Goodwill. Some young expectant mom would’ve been thrilled.

*A full-size mattress still wrapped in its original heavy plastic.

*A recumbent exercise bike. It looked well used, but unless there were missing parts I couldn’t see, it was still functional. Another item that could’ve gone to Goodwill instead of the landfill.

*A push lawnmower. I can only assume, based on the appearance of the drought-ravaged lawn of the house at the other end of the driveway, that the owner has decided to ditch the sod altogether. Goodwill would’ve taken the mower in a heartbeat.

*A cat scratching post that looked practically unused. I almost grabbed this for my cats but they already have three.

*Three office chairs at two different houses. The single black chair had worn pleather upholstery, but the pair of matching brown ones were in great shape. All three could’ve gone to Goodwill and been sold for $5-10 each.

That’s just what I noticed today and it wasn’t particularly unusual. I call my garage a pit of despair because I have all manner of stuff stacked up in piles that only make sense to me. Much of it is waiting for pickup or drop-off at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. I try to donate everything that’s still got some life left in it. I shop thrift stores on occasion and am usually pleasantly surprised at the treasures to be had.

What about you — do you put “free” signs on things at your curb? Does your city have designated days for putting out large, unwanted items for neighbors to take? Do you have regular garage sales? Have you ever noticed what other people consider trash?  What do you do with the stuff you no longer want or need?

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