Non-Consumer Mish-Mash

by Katy on July 6, 2010 · 14 comments

It’s time again for Non-Consumer Mish-Mash, where I write a little but about this and a little bit about that.

The New vs. Old Debate

There is a very interesting debate going on over at Get Rich Slowly about items never to buy used. Sparked by a Wise Bread article that seems more writer’s opinion than anything else, it’s getting a lot of feedback from GRS readers.

I highly recommend taking a look, as people’s “ick factors” vary so widely. Definitely good food for thought.

Throwing Money at a Good Cause

I am the first to admit that I can get a little tight fisted when it comes to money. I am so used to finding free or almost free options for this, that and everything, that it can be hard to actually spend out. (A Gretchen Rubin term, from her fantastic book,  The Happiness Project.)

Both my kids started out in a Japanese language immersion program in kindergarten. My 14 year old just finished eighth grade in the program, but my 12 year old left it mid-third grade. There was a lot going on at the time that I won’t bore you with, and we’ve been mostly happy about the decision.

The 12 year old took a two month Japanese elective at the beginning of the school year, and has been pining to rejoin the program ever since. I had assumed that this was an impossibility, but the school’s principal recently brought it up as an option.

Long story short, we are now paying for twice a week tutoring through the summer, with no guarantee that my son can learn enough to catch up with his old cohorts. But this is money well spent. My son is super jazzed to be learning Japanese again, and I feel that this is what our money is supposed to be available for. Not frittered away on first run movies, brand new clothing and expensive gift giving.

My son may not be able to rejoin the program, (three-and-a-half years is a lot to miss!) but he’ll be so much further along than if he’d done nothing. And it most definitely won’t happen if we don’t throw some money at the problem.

Hunt, Gather, Scavenge

I don’t know if the rest of the country is doing this, but Portland is in love with the “Free Pile.” A pile of stuff, sometimes boxed, but often not of unwanted goods that people put in front of their houses with a hastily scrawled  “Free” sign. It’s gotten to the point that it’s hard to go anywhere without looking through at least a pile or two.

Just yesterday, I had walked to Fred Meyer to pick up a gallon of milk and some dinner fixin’s. I tend to take different routes to and fro in order to increase my chances of finding something cool along the way. (Yeah. . .  I know, I’m kind of weird.) And sure enough, the route home walked me right past a pile of stuff on a parking strip that mostly looked to be mostly junk.

I quickly found two matching Crate and Barrel brand snowmen mugs that were in perfect condition. I brought them home, scrubbed them down and stashed them in my secret gift area. I can now officially say that I’ve got a head start on the boys’ Christmas stockings. Free stuff and the feeling of being on top of the details of life. How awesome is that?

I most definitely would not have found them if I hadn’t varied my walking route. So I guess that being weird pays off.

In case you think bringing home other people’s unwanted stuff is filling my house with crap, here’s a partial list of some of the items I’ve lugged home over the past year or so:

  • Still shrink wrapped 5″ X 7″ canvas, when my son immediately turned into a cool artistic piece.
  • A small black patio table, whose graceful curve perfectly matches my new rock wall.
  • A pair of Keen Mary-Janes that had some bright yellow paint on the soles. I scrubbed the paint off, and sold them for $5 at a garage sale.
  • A black Columbia Sportswear fleece jacket that fit my son perfectly. When he later lost that jacket, (the fate of most outer ware for this particular child.) it wasn’t as upsetting as if I had bought it.
  • A variety of different terra cotta flower pots.
  • A variety of different plants.
  • A small painted wooden step stool that looks adorable in my front yard, holding a couple different pottted plants.
  • A plastic lawn chair, that sits in my sons’ tree house.
  • A great floor lamp, (complete with shade) that I later learned was from Pottery Barn.
  • A cute mid-century bedside table that’s currently on my to-paint list, but is currently in daily use in my spare bedroom.

I could go on and on, but I’ve got to get out of my pajamas at some point today.

Have you been lugging home other people’s unwanted stuff? Or have been putting you own stuff out for others? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Frugalista July 6, 2010 at 11:29 am

I’m all about investing my money and not just spending it. Japanese for your son is invaluable. An old contact of mine was a Japanese minor in college and has had awesome careers such as teaching English in Japan, producing for a Japanese tv station and now the state department.

Some things I buy new, other used. At the end of the day, people need to think of the reasons why they are purchasing items and what the return is on the item.


Annie Jones July 6, 2010 at 11:37 am

Our household is a veritable revolving door of used things coming and going for free, for pennies on the dollar, and/or for a fair pre-owned price. While I can’t say we never buy new, we try to buy as much used as possible. When we’re done with something, we try to share the bargains and bounties with others.


Stephanie July 6, 2010 at 11:59 am

While rearranging the attic, my husband took a bunch of items to the backyard, destined for the dump. Instead of wasting those things -and paying the dump for throwing it away! – I moved them to the porch, snapped some photos with my cellphone, posted them “Free” on Craigslist, and everything was gone within 2 hours. Much quicker, easier, cheaper, and less wasteful than going to the dump. I don’t have time or interest in holding a garage sale. This way, it just gets the junk out of my hair!


Marci July 6, 2010 at 12:38 pm

We too have a household consisting of free and inexpensive second hand stuff. On occasion we do buy things new such as socks and underwear, but almost everything else in our home is gently used.

We use Craigslist or Freecycle to post items that we no longer need, or we put it out in our front yard with a “Free” sign. My 20 year old son had recently acquired a 55 inch projection screen tv free from a neighbor who bought a brand new HD plasma tv. After my son’s disappointment that it was really too big for his room, we set it curbside for “free” and within hours it was gone. Rather than paying to dispose of his “free” tv, he was able to offer it to someone who would be able to use it.


Carla July 6, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I was thinking this afternoon about something free I got a long time ago. When I was a teen I wanted an antique bed in the worst way. Mother and I trolled the junk shops but anything remotely suitable was at least a hundred dollars even back then. Ahem, no thanks. That was waaaaaaaayyy past the budget of our household. We had probably looked for about a year and one day our next door neighbor called. She had heard about an old bed somebody wanted moved out of their garage, free to whoever moved the thing. We went to look at it. The lady had been holding the bed for someone in her garage for years (the original owner died) and it had a generous coating of oily fumes on it, but it looked sturdy and exactly right for my little bedroom. We hauled it home after thanking her profusely. She, of course, thanked US for taking the thing. It turned out to be solid oak and was probably built around 1870, give or take a few years. Mother, a friend or hers and I scrubbed the thing down and gave it a coat of paste wax. It positively gleamed after the oily residue was removed. This was in the late ’60s and I still have it. It is one of my prized possessions. Free.


Rebecca July 6, 2010 at 3:04 pm

the huge range of “ick factor” is extremely funny to me. People won’t buy a used mattress, but sleep in hotels and at other peoples homes all the time. I used to work in the hotel industry. the sheets get changes, but the blankets maybe see soap once a year. Or won’t buy a used food appliance, like a toaster, but never think about what goes on in the kitchens of restaurants they eat in. You just hope not washing their hands before making your meal is the biggest offense.

I had a friend who would not think about using her husband’s toothbrush. But she kisses him, does other intimate things with him and has birthed 3 of his kids.

I guess I am definitely not a germaphobe.

I buy used almost exclusively, the exception being when something comes up and I need it now, and I can’t find a substitute. Doesn’t happen very often.


Tracy Balazy July 8, 2010 at 5:31 am

Rebecca, you make a FANTASTIC point about sleeping on hotel beds and eating at restaurants!!!!! I must add the hotel point to my retort (I already use the restaurant one, about eating off silverware of unknown cleanliness) when people give me the “ewwww!” about buying clothes and stuff at resale and garage sales. Thanks!!


Karen July 6, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Yeah, I think it’s more the thought of used mattresses, not the reality, which turns people off. I think we all assume that hotel mattresses are pristine or at least once were brand new. My husband got a case of scabies from staying in a very nice hotel, so you never know. He did call the management later, when his doctor told him how he got it, and they were not pleased to hear about that.

Also, I was once a pantry chef, and the uncleanliness of the kitchen was a real turn off, yet the customers had no way of knowing what the hygiene situation was. The restaurant was again a very upscale one, but situated in an old building which had many issues. I always thought that the clientele would be shocked to see our kitchen. But I guess what we don’t see, we can ignore. A lot of people operate under assumptions, including those who “have to” buy new.


BagelGirl July 6, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I’m sorry to say you’re treading on my pet peeve here. Why can’t you own something (new OR used) simply because you like it? Why do people have to add, it’s “Crate & Barrel” or it’s “Pottery Barn”? That doesn’t necessarily make it better or nicer looking than other products. Seriously, who are we trying to impress?

And especially coming from a non-consumer…..


BarbS July 6, 2010 at 8:28 pm

I *love* non-consumer mish-mash! Thanks for sharing 🙂

I’ve just finished reading “The Happiness Project” which I absolutely loved as well. I may even have to buy it (the shock!) even though I have been using the library exclusively for several years now. I’m actually working on the “spend out” resolution, as I think sometimes a bit of extra money, spent wisely, can bring much needed ease and relaxation to my crazy life. I do know that this comes from a place of privilege. But sometimes I realize that a few extra dollars spent makes my life enormously easier. And that’s part of “simple living” as well.


Tracy Balazy July 8, 2010 at 5:40 am

Yes, I curb-shop when I see good stuff out there. I have a 1950s or ’60s-era Cosco green metal-and-chrome step stool, the seat that has steps that pull out from underneath, that I found on my way to work last year on the next block. It’s in great shape, too. I use it to reach my high kitchen cabinets.

We only had three kitchen chairs, and a few months ago, I found a fourth on the curb that’s very compatible with the others (also a light oak with a black seat, close enough in looks to “go” with the rest yet different enough to make it look interesting).

My big wicker arm chair, several plastic storage totes, and an art deco lamp I eventually sold on Cheapcycle all were from curb-land.

I vowed last summer not to buy anything new, within reason (excepting the usual, socks, underwear, etc., and I’ve found THOSE new at garage sales, too, including some Victoria’s Secret undies in my size with the price tags still on), and so far, excepting dog chew toys (which I can sometimes find, but not usually because dogs, well, chew them up) and cat toys and a scratch post (which I should try to make myself), I have stuck to this very well.

My last new large purchase, last June, was a twin mattress for our extra bedroom, which is my refuge when my husband snores. I put the new mattress on top of a box spring I got on Freecycle. When I picked up the box spring, I was amazed at how clean and like new it was!

We’ve wanted a food processor for the longest time, and last week, I finally got one, also on Freecycle, and it’s very nice. So, no new for me!


Lisa July 8, 2010 at 9:16 am

I am so glad for mishmash day! And I’m also glad that I don’t have a squeamish bone in my body. Free stuff always outranks stuff that has to be paid for. Once something’s cleaned and in good repair, to me it’s preferable to ‘new’. I’m often on the receiving end and just as likely to be on the giving end when it comes free items.


Rachel July 8, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I often check out the curb for goodies that others no longer want. My favorite is now my son’s dresser: Antique oak. I refinished it and bought new handles for it – now it’s an heirloom.


Deb July 9, 2010 at 6:05 pm

other people’s stuff rocks my world! I’m only sorry I missed out on those Keen Mary Janes if they were a size 8!

I’ve scored awesome old woodframe windows & doors – yanked them right out of the dumpster on the street after checking with the contractor. Used them for my greenhouse and gave some to a glass artist friend. I scored a perfect classic Webster grill out of a dumpster as well.

I love dividing plants and perennials and giving them away. This spring I thinned a bunch of iris, daylillies, and daffodils. They were gone within 1 day of listing them on Freecycle. Love it!

I’m an As-Is Goodwill Bin Store maven and have scored the BEST finds – antique hooked rugs, Italian Tole Chandelier, vintage silk comforters, collectible cookie jars, artwork, wicker patio furniture, very cool vintage leather purses. All of it at .69 cents a pound, which is as close to free as it gets.

And when I want to get rid of other people’s stuff, I sell it or gift it, no problema.


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