Take what you need and leave what you don’t.That’s how the “Free Box” works.

The Free Box consists of a row of shelves that line the outside of a building in downtown Telluride, Colorado. Shelves are stocked with items for home and personal use. Notes posted on a board offer larger items such as furniture and appliances along with phone numbers to call if you are interested in them.

Anyone can shop or stock the Free Box. Items are left by residents who no longer want them and visitors who come to Telluride for a season, purchase what they need for their stay, but then don’t want to lug them home. Volunteers keep it all tidy.

My son and daughter-in-law shop the Free Box. As they purchase new items, they return the old for someone else to use. Their sofa, coffee table, and a beautiful desk are Free Box specials along with some of their clothes, books, plates, and cups.

My son and daughter-in-law remind me of my parents who were very practical people. Mom and Dad didn’t waste money on what they believed was unnecessary. Most of the furniture in our home was handed down from other relatives. I used to tease my mother that her decor was Early Salvation Army.

Honestly, I’m not that frugal. But I do have a practice of removing two items from my closet for every one that I bring in. If I purchase a new top, two items need to be tossed or placed in the charity bag. I do cheat a bit by counting literally everything, like counting each glove, sock and shoe, but this is a way to thin out some of the things that I no longer like or fit into. When I feel badly about getting rid of something, especially an item I rarely wore, I remind myself that passing on what I am not using is good stewardship. Someone else may really need it.

We have many non-profit groups in the area that collect clothes. Salvation Army, Purple Hearts, and Amvets distribute used items to the needy and sell the rest at reasonable prices in their shops. But what if people could just take what they needed without a middle man deciding who is most deserving? The Free Box feels more like sharing than accepting charity. It is less embarrassing and more dignified.

I wonder if this system could work in cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, or Cincinnati.

©Mary K. Doyle

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