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Have you heard the one about the homeschooling family that lives on less than $22K a year in an area that costs above 100% (116%) of the National CoL Index?

I haven't quite figured out why so many people still persist in perpetuating the myth that living on a single income and homeschooling on a dime aren't possible. I can only suppose these are people who can't imagine life without a daily trip to Starbucks and dinner out several times a week. The people who actually shop at malls (*shudder*) and think "Brand Name = Best". The people who really live by the "Keeping up with the Joneses" mentality.

That? Would not be us!

Welcome to our world. We cook from scratch. Buy from thrift stores. Find 95% of our homeschool materials for free. This is my blog and this is how we do it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Free things.

I have never actually been "Dumpster Diving" in the sense of literally climbing into a dumpster. My husband did once, but that was to rescue a litter of puppies someone had cruelly tossed in.

That said, I have "harvested" some great items from the trash, either because it was beside a dumpster or it was left out for trash pick-up.

I once found 2 bulletin boards with wood frames. They're big - 3 feet by 5 feet. I brought them home, cleaned them up, painted the frames, and covered the surface with contact paper. Now the kids use them to display awards and pictures.

I also found a dresser that just happened to match a dresser we already had. I brought it home and cleaned it up and now my husband and I both have our own dressers, instead of trying to keep all our clothes in one.

Then I found a color printer and a fax machine on a curbside while I was out for a walk. As I stared at them, rather dumbfounded, I thought, they had to be broken beyond repair. But, just in case, I went up to the house and knocked. The gentleman who answered informed me that, no, they both worked fine; he simply had no need for them because he now had an all-in-one office machine. Because I was many blocks from home, I very forwardly asked if he wouldn't mind if I moved both items to his porch so no one else would take them as I ran home as fast as I could for my wagon to come fetch them. He seemed very amused by all this, so he carried them himself back into his house and told me to just ring the bell when I got back. Thanks to that find, my husband is able to do a lot of work here from the house, saving us gas money, if nothing else!

I found a lovely turkey platter on top of a few bags of curbside trash. The previous owner was watering her yard so I asked if she minded if I took it and after giving me a strange look, she shrugged and said I was welcome to it. We use it every Thanksgiving now.

Okay, before you run screaming from my insanity and apparent lack of class, stop and think for a moment. Where does all this stuff go? To our landfills. Have you ever actually visited a landfill before? We have. The people there were very friendly and took us on a tour. We went as a field trip with some other homeschool families. As we drove around looking at these massive hills, our guide explained to us what each "hill" really was. One was at least 4 stories tall and while it *looked* like a grassy hill, it was, in fact, a gigantic mound of nothing but old kitchen appliances.

We have become such a "disposable" society; people throw away perfectly good, usable items for no other reason than, "I got something new.". And because we do this, we're creating landfills that stretch on literally for miles. That's the real insanity here - not my trash-picking.

I have "harvested" many other items - a beautiful wooden doll house; a rocking horse I didn't need because my kids were long past that age, but I cleaned it up, repainted it and donated it to a shelter for homeless mothers; a large Rubbermaid container full of yards of fabric; an end table, a sewing machine (It simply needed a new bobbin and it works great.); many books; a wooden jewelery box I cleaned up and gave to my daughter, and several rolls of shelf paper. All right, the shelf paper is a pretty horrendous pattern - a floral disaster in some wretched colors, but I was able to line all my kitchen cabinets and drawers with it and frankly I don't care what it looks like. It's not like my guests ever see it and it gets the job done.

Our biggest free item was a car. Yes, a car. No, sadly, I didn't find this one by a dumpster. :) But I want to tell you this story anyway. Several years ago, we were living in an apartment complex on the edge of town. Out of the blue one day, a neighbor knocked on our door and informed me that she hated living here and she was going back to New York. (After only 3 months.) Then she stunned me by handing me her car keys and telling me I could have her car. She was fed-up and leaving and didn't even want to drive back. She'd bought plane tickets for herself and her daughters.

Her exact words were, "I'm giving it to you because you were the only one who was nice to me." What was "nice"? I kept an eye on her youngest daughter as she and my own daughter played outside. I took her daughter to the pool with my kids. I made her family dinner one night. Nothing remarkable at all, but, as it turns out, apparently we were the only ones to welcome this family to the complex and the only ones to extend friendship.

At this time we really needed a new car. Our previous vehicle was on its last legs and it was a huge concern for us. We'd never mentioned this to our neighbor at all, so she was literally a God-send.

I'm a big believer in the idea that you are rewarded big and small for your good deeds and I think this is a perfect example of it. We drove that car for three years, until we'd saved enough money to buy the van (used!) we drive now. Then we gave the car away to a young man with a wife and new baby on the way.

I probably have a strange reputation in our neighborhood - "Oh, look! There's the woman who picks over your trash!" - but that's fine with me. Everything I've rescued has gone to MUCH better use than becoming another mound in our landfill, so my neighbors can think what they will. And I encourage you to adopt the same "trash to treasure" attitude if you don't have it already. You really never know what amazing item you might find!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is actually quite encouraging because you never know how God is going to provide.


June 5, 2007 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

My mom goes out all the time, driving through the better neighborhoods looking for good finds in the trash. Just about everything she gave our family at Christmas this last year was from her finds. The boys got a really heavy high quality set of shelves, the girls got a wicker vanity plus more. Her and her friend also collect a lot of metal on their jaunts and they can make up to $100 off of a few nights of picking up scrap. People throw away way too much nice stuff, especially when there are so many out there in need who could use it.

June 5, 2007 at 10:31 PM  
Blogger Jenni said...

God does provide! And yes, it really amazes me the things people just throw away without a thought. It's a very sad commentary on our society that we have so many people struggling, and others who casually toss things in the trash without making even the slightest effort to see of their items could go to better use.

June 6, 2007 at 4:20 AM  
Anonymous Lenora in Texas said...

My husband's great grandmother would find furniture thrown out, manage to take it home, strip it, refinish it, and even re-apolster it. (forgove my spelling) Uncle Marvin ended up taking a lot of her furniture. He's now got two antique claw footed tables, and several other items that are antiques. Mom Eva had a very good eye!

June 6, 2007 at 6:07 AM  

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