September freecycling

September 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

Here’s this month’s freecycling not covered elsewhere:

  • 50 12″x15 1/2″ kraft paper envelopes (from the office that closed)
  • 6 unused Maxell audio cassette tapes
  • 120 4 3/4″ x 6 3/4″ white envelopes (the previous owner of our house had a business selling  greeting cards and party supplies, which may begin to explain why she left us a couple hundred greeting-card-sized envelopes)
  • 17 Gustav Klimt notecards and 25 Klimt postcards
  • 24 Archi-tetes postcards
  • Popsicle mold

That’s 243 more things unstuffed! I’m aiming for even more in October.


Closet treasures

September 20, 2012 § 3 Comments

Our local YWCA‘s DRESS FOR SUCCESS program provides work-appropriate clothing for disadvantaged women who are job-hunting and starting new jobs. They accept donations of gently-used clothing and accessories, most of which go to the women they help. However, as part of their fundraising for this program, the YWCA sets aside designer and vintage clothing, shoes, handbags and accessories for their annual Closet Treasures Sale. On an October Friday evening and Saturday (October 12 and 13 this year), they sell the donated items to the public at well below their initial prices.

Last year, several coworkers and I attended the preview sale on Friday. High quality, and such bargains! For less than $150, I brought home a red wool/alpaca winter coat, a black cardigan that I’ve lived in, two work jackets (both red tones – it was a theme), a custom-made blouse, and a gorgeous caramel brown Coach bag.

Why, you may be wondering, am I writing about buying clothes on a blog that’s about getting rid of stuff? First, I have no objection to buying things (clothing included) that you will use and enjoy. It’s acquiring stuff that you don’t use that’s the problem. Second, I love getting good quality items at a reasonable price, and this sale is a fabulous place to do that. Third, and more to the point of this blog, if you have good-quality clothing that you’re not using (and you’re in the Seattle area), donating it to the YWCA is a fabulous way to put that clothing to good use, whether they decide to sell it at the Closet Treasures sale or use it as part of a work outfit for a disadvantaged woman who’s trying to get a job.

Recently, I dropped these five items off at the YWCA for this year’s sale:

  • linen blouse
  • wool/silk tweed trousers
  • cross-body leather purse
  • lined raincoat
  • silver and opal earrings

The following clothing wasn’t work-appropriate, so I dropped it off at the Big Blue Truck:

  • 2 pairs shoes
  • 1 pair shorts
  • 1 pair pajamas
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 2 pairs socks (brand new… an identical pair made my feet itch)
  • 1 wool jacket
  • 2 sweaters
  • 1 wool scarf
  • 7 T-shirts (I’m reducing the number of these I have with anything printed on the front)

And, after almost a year, I realized I’d only used that beautiful Coach bag once (I’m trying to weed the brown from my wardrobe), so I sent it off to my mother, who loves it and will carry it. Giving your stuff to someone you know who will enjoy it does the trick, too.

Books for the ladies

September 4, 2012 § 1 Comment

Imagine, just for a moment, your life without books.

I don’t just mean life without shelves full of books. I mean no e-reader, no library card. I mean your life with no easy access to books.

Imagining that possibility is painful for me, but for many people who are homeless, it’s a reality. Sad, isn’t it?

The last project I completed at work included the design and construction of a new home for Mary’s Place, a day shelter for homeless women and their children. They do great work, tending to the daily needs of women while trying to help them get off the streets and into housing and jobs. Marty Hartman, the executive director, always calls her clients “the ladies,” and after working with Marty for a couple of years, that’s how I think of them. Although my younger feminist self bristled at the term, I now like the sense of dignity it conveys, especially for women who have lost so much.

After attending a Seattle 7 Writers event at which donations were collected for the pocket libraries they create for folks who have limited access to books, I thought about giving some of the books I’ve been purging from our library to Mary’s Place. When I emailed Marty to ask about donating some books for the ladies, she replied:

“The gift of reading is an incredible gift and one we treasure! It allows us to escape our struggles and explore new worlds! Such a welcome relief from our journey through homelessness. We love paperback books of all kinds! Hard backs are a little heavy to pack around.”

I know all about escaping into a good book, though my struggles are small compared to those of the ladies. I hadn’t thought about how the weight of a hardback might add to the struggles of someone who carries everything she owns with her each day, but Marty has, and I’m glad she clued me in.

Do you have some paperbacks that are looking for a new home? Please think about giving the gift of reading to the ladies (and their children) who seek shelter and support at Mary’s Place (or, if you’re not in Seattle, your local shelter).
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Hauled away

September 3, 2012 § 1 Comment

There are some things that you (by which I mean I) keep because you think you might possibly find some use for them. But you don’t. These are things that you can’t donate or freecycle. They really are just trash or recycling, but they’re too much to put in your city bin for weekly pickup.

In Seattle, you can either put that stuff in your vehicle and take it to one of the city transfer stations, our you can take the easier, costlier route and call a hauling company. A good hauling company will take almost anything, and will recycle everything that they can.

Last week, I called a hauling company to take away some stuff from our garage, yard and basement. George and Cassandra arrived when they said they would, and quickly loaded up this stuff:

  • 4 dead 4′ fluorescent light fixtures
  • 2 burnt-out 4′ fluorescent tubes
  • bag of portland cement (left by previous homeowner, got wet and turned into something akin to concrete)
  • part of a tricycle (left by previous homeowner; Paul scavenged back two wheels for our chicken tractor)
  • old foot locker
  • old metal cabinet (left by previous homeowner, rusted and falling apart)
  • old window sash (no glass)
  • dead shop-vac (left, almost dead, by previous homeowner)
  • old wall-hung porcelain lavatory (removed during remodel, no luck freecycling)
  • 2 old, damaged doors (removed during remodel)
  • damaged cork bulletin board
  • bent, rusted cookie sheet
  • broken down mechanic’s creeper (left by previous homeowner)
  • 8 rotting 2x10s from old raised beds
  • 5 short pieces of 4×4 and 2×4
  • 4 split/leaking garden hoses
  • 5 broken plastic pots
  • 2 political yard signs (circa 2008)

They also took all of the dried out paint cans that I had ready to go.

When they were gone, everything looked so much better! It’s satisfying to see such a large change happen so quickly.


September 2, 2012 § 4 Comments

Do you have a penny jar, or some other container in which you keep the spare change that accumulates around the house? Ours is a green and blue handmade pottery bowl that sits next to the phone on a little counter in the kitchen.

I wouldn’t describe coins or the bowl in which we keep them as extraneous stuff, except that the bowl is large enough that it holds a LOT of coinage, and anything else someone tosses in it. The bowl has been in that spot since shortly after we finished our kitchen remodel in 2006, and it had never been emptied (though I raided it for quarters occasionally) until Paul commented recently that it was getting too full. So earlier this week, I poured the coins into a small cookie tin (sorting out the screws and paperclips and buttons that had somehow sneaked into the bowl), and lugged them off to the coin counting machine in a nearby grocery store.

When the machine was done sorting (which sounded like a slot machine jackpot), it had counted: 26 quarters, 161 dimes, 74 nickels, and 1340 pennies. That’s 1601 coins, totaling $39.70. I was surprised; I hadn’t expected it to be so much!

I could have taken cash for a 9.8% fee, but I opted for a store gift for the full amount. Paul asked if I was going to get him a present with the gift card. Maybe I’ll get him a this cute piggy bank. It’s smaller than the bowl we use now, which means it would take less space on the counter, we’d have to exchange the coins more often, and I wouldn’t find screws mixed in with the pennies and nickels.. Those would all be good things.

Making paint dry

September 1, 2012 § 2 Comments

The house was painted excrement brown, with darker trim. That may be one of the reasons why, in the booming Seattle housing market of 1999, it had been on the market for a month. And the paint faux pas didn’t end with the exterior; the smallest bedroom was painted a deep gray (Battleship gray? In Seattle? Or anywhere other than a battleship?), and the dining room had pastel blue walls and a pink ceiling.

We bought the house anyway. Despite the colors, and a bit of bad remodeling, the house had good bones.

When we moved in, we found in our basement a stack of half-empty paint cans, the remnants of all the bad color choices the previous owner had made. Those cans had to go. We learned that Seattle residents could take their excess latex paint to a city hazardous waste drop-off; the city blended the lighter colors together and sold the paint to institutions as “Seattle beige.” So that’s what we did.

And then we repainted. We used three colors on the exterior. The walls of each room are painted a different color, and there are two ceiling and interior trim colors. Of course, it took a few sample quarts to get some of the colors right. We bought a lot of paint, and didn’t use all of it.

When I started unstuffing our basement, I gathered paint cans from a couple of dark corners. I remembered that we’d moved some paint to an old cabinet in our garage, so I pulled those cans out, too.

And then I counted. All told, there were 31 quart cans, 39 1-gallon cans, and six 5-gallon cans. More than a dozen were empty. Several had never been opened. Most were 1/4 to 1/2 full. Sadly, much of the paint stored in our unheated garage for several years was ruined — some of it oddly lumpy and smelly. Temperature extremes aren’t good for paint.

(Let me pause to say that these numbers were startling. And embarrassing. Most of the unstuffing I’ve done has been of items whose utility doesn’t change over time. My having held onto them for longer than necessary didn’t change whether they were trash or treasure-for-someone-else. But, like shelf-stable foodstuffs, paint eventually goes bad. We had a lot of bad paint. Such a waste.)

I was set to deliver a car full of paint cans to the city drop-off, but surprise! Seattle no longer takes back latex paint. Current research shows that dried latex paint is not hazardous; the city now requests that you dry out the paint, either by leaving the can open so it dries naturally, or by mixing in clay cat litter or paint hardener. The dried paint can then go in the trash.

Several big bags of kitty litter and a handful of stir sticks later, I’ve dried out the paint remaining in 18 quart cans, 17 1-gallon cans, and 3 5-gallon cans. I don’t understand why we had so many empty paint cans, but they did come in handy for the drying-out process. I still have 13 quarts and 5 gallons to go.

(One of Paul’s coworkers shared the method he uses to dry out paint: Pour a thin layer of paint in a Rubbermaid or similar container. When it has dried, pull the paint slab out of the container (it won’t stick), roll it up, and put it in the trash. The let it dry, then peal it up approach worked pretty well when one of the old paint cans leaked a puddle of paint onto our driveway, so I’m going to try it in plastic this weekend.)

I’ve freecycled one full 5-gallon can of exterior paint (a trim color that didn’t work with our main color).

We have 3 1-gallon cans from oil-based paints that will go to the King County hazardous materials drop-off next week.

In total, that’s 59 paint cans gone or going soon.

And, in a corner of the basement, there are 14 1-gallon cans and 3 5-gallon cans of interior paint and primer. All are colors currently on the walls/ceilings of our house, and we have some painting to do this fall, so at least for now, they get to stay.

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