One Woman's Trash

by Jessie Ann Moser

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Helping Others without Spending Money

A group of well-coiffed ladies, members of the local art league, meet at a country club for their annual league banquet. The acrylic painters congregate at one table; the watercolor artists mingle and take seats at another. The water colorists' conversations turn to work space, what inspires, tools of the trade, and how to organize the home for easy access to their craft. A new member, unsure of the reception of her confession among so many upwardly mobile women, shyly admits how she acquired the used kitchen cabinets in her studio. She rescued them on trash night; her neighbors remodeled and put their old cabinets out at curbside. The conversation, infused with environmental consciousness, takes up this new thread as each woman, in turn, enthusiastically confesses to an occasional bout of trash picking.

Why do so many Americans put useable goods at curbside? Because they want someone to take it? Maybe so. If someone finds the item and can use it, that is nice, but often these potential finds end up in a landfill instead. How can Americans encourage each other to not throw useable goods away? Can recycling our stuff, our clothing, our shoes, and old furniture become as natural as it now is to recycle spent soda cans?

One way to educate for change is to tactfully point your neighbors in the direction of the charities that will accept their used goods. Volunteer to be the point person for a neighborhood yard sale. Circulate a flyer to all the neighbors with an invitation to participate on a date and time of your choosing. Ask for a small donation toward the cost of placing an ad in the newspaper for the sale to attract lots of buyers. Knowing that there are some people who just don't have the time or wouldn't want to participate, be sure to also include the names and phone numbers of charities willing to pick up useable goods. In my local area, Good Will, VIA, The Salvation Army, and Family Services are four great charities that sell donated goods at reasonable prices to people like me who like to shop at bargain prices. Put the information right on the flyer; the phone numbers of charities that pick up donations would be the most helpful. That way, if someone is not inclined to join your sale, they at least might think to call a charity before tossing the items.

Set a good example; never throw away useable household goods. Put the items out on trash night, but take them in if they aren't gone before the trash trucks roll. Donate useable goods to charities that are looking to sell these items and turn them into cash for non-profits serving the disabled and mentally challenged. One man's trash is truly another man's treasure (or a woman's treasure).

Take the Next Step:

  • Opportunities to find useful things are everywhere! Check out to see how others are salvaging trash.

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