Green and Tidy

Helping people all over the world declutter and create homes they love

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I’m excited to welcome Vivienne Egan to Green and Tidy. Vivienne runs BinOracle, a blog devoted to finding value in rubbish, and rubbishing mass consumption. I love Vivenne’s blog so much, I asked her to write a post for Green and Tidy about how she decides whether to take home things she finds on the street. Here’s what she has to say on the subject…

 Image: grammaticus_ocracker

It happens all the time, doesn’t it? Well it seems to for me: you’re walking down the street and you see it sitting there. It piques your interest. You look closer. What is it? A bag of clothes. Some dusty crockery. A saucepan, a box of glass jars, a pile of CDs. A chest of drawers. A wardrobe. A bed base.

I love finding and using things from the street. I love recycling and upcycling and sharing, a love I inherited from my mother, who was always picking furniture up off the side of the road. As a teen I was vaguely embarrassed by the fact that she’d pull over while driving and make me help her load whatever item she’d spotted into the back of the car. As an adult I’ve gotten over that, and these days I have to stop myself collecting everything I see, “just in case” I need it.

I’m naturally a bit of a hoarder, so it’s a struggle to reconcile my magpie-like instincts with the fact that I only have a limited amount of space and not all that much need for many of the items I find on the road. So, to fend off my inner hoarder, I go through a mental checklist before making off with my latest treasure:

  • Is the timing right?

By this I mean that, quite often you’ll be heading to work, or walking home with the shopping, or on your way to an event when you come across an item. If it’s good enough to come back for, or to call someone to come with a car, that’s great. If not, you’ve saved yourself a lot of trouble.

  • Is it in good condition?

It’s easy to overlook defects when things are offered to you free. But if it’s not in good repair, unless you are a skilled restorer, leave it.

  • Do you have a use for it?

A hard one to answer honestly, if you’re a hoarder. It’s easy to persuade yourself that you “need” a seatless chair because you’re definitely going to restore it and sell it on Etsy. But the fact is – for most of us – you probably won’t, and you’ll just have a seatless chair kicking around. Be honest with yourself. Do you need it? Is it worth your time?

  • Do you have a space for it?

The old adage “a place for everything, and everything in its place” is a useful rule of thumb here. Think about your home, your wardrobe, your cupboards, your outdoor spaces. Will that space be enhanced by this item? Is there room for it?

If you can [honestly!] answer yes to all four of these criteria, then congratulations, you have found treasure worth taking home with you. And I have found some fabulous items – from clothing to furniture to kitchenware – that have been really handy.

But if it fails on any of those counts, keeping walking – it’s no good to you. Trust me!

  • Thanks for your post Vivienne. I’ve found some great stuff on the street too. Everything from tinned food (students moving out I think), through a guidebook for Madagascar (which I was just about to visit), to four deep tureen-style ovenproof soup bowls (which I use for things like individual veggie shepherd’s pies). You’re right that it takes discipline not to bring any old tat back though. I love your rule-of-thumb that, if it’s not worth coming back for, it’s not worth having.

  • Vivienne

    You’re very welcome, it’s a pleasure. Living clutter-free is an uphill battle for me!

    • You’re not alone. I think everyone struggles with it in our affluent societies. And it stops up to one in 20 of us from living a full life.