The 'Free Stuff' shelter in Waitati has a problem! Some people are
interpreting the sign to mean they can be free to dump their own
rubbish -- and pass it on to those who look after the shelter.
Recently when I drove into Waitati, the shelter looked like an
uninviting hovel. The entrance to our charming village was desecrated
with broken appliances (if the oscillating fan is broken off its stand
at your place, it won't fix itself for the next person), furniture (no
one else wants your broken desk either), clothing spilling out onto
the path (if it's too stained or ripped for your kids to wear, no one
else will wear it), and single shoes waiting to trip people up (27
shoes had no partners at last count).
I like what a 'Free Stuff' pile says about our ethic of sharing
resources, and have taken home many 'that's just what I needed' items,
but if it's not also part of a reduce-reuse-recycle ethic, then it is
just accumulating junk in the main street -- I'm sure some people are
actually using it as the place to leave their weekend rubbish, judging
by some of the bags I picked up.
Mandy has done a sterling job starting and maintaining the shelter
(Thanks, Mandy, you're a brick) but I'd suggest that it's time more of
us took a turn -- and more of us took responsibility for how we share
• What if some of us – seven to be precise – each chose a day per week
to keep an eye on the accumulating stuff and make the decision to
chuck some when it's our day on? I've put a list on the wall and you
could put your name to it if you think this is a good idea.
• What if people took only washed and useable stuff to the shelter?
We could commit to this, and challenge others who are treating the
place like their personal dump station when we saw it happening.
• What if those with wheelie bins let me, Mandy or a person on the
list know if they would be willing to let any spare space in their bin
be used sometimes for those items being culled from the shelter?
• What if, before donating items, we each asked the basic question:
'Does it have any useful life left in it, without needing mended
• What if NO LARGE ITEMS were left by the shelter, but were added to a
list in the shelter with the phone number to ring if interested in
looking at it? Earlier in the month, someone put up a sign on the
wall for some large items of furniture they had available in
Warrington – great idea. They did not litter the pavement... or get
main operating parts ripped off them and then get left useless beside
the road. Does anyone have an old whiteboard which could work for
I'm sure others have more ideas or similar disquiet over the
impression we are making for each other and our village. Maybe
someone even wants to write an 'Alternative Use' column giving ideas
for common items we need to dispose of. Maybe I'm just sick of
dealing to the junk left behind by students in the North End of town,
and want our place to be more peaceful and pleasant when I return home
from work. Maybe I'm just a crabby old villager!
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