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Recycle, Reuse, Regift - Martha Carr

Most of my apartment is furnished with donated items. I didn't set out to do that, but I can't say I've really minded how my interior decorating has turned out. The couch came from my neighbor, Mimi's friend, who wanted to buy something brand new and bigger. There was very little wear and tear on the brown apartment-sized fold-out, and I got it for free. Neighbors even stepped forward to help pick it up and get it inside.

There was a loud metal ringing as the guys tossed it over the low chain-link fence, to get it within the gated building where I live, but it was no worse for the wear. I could hear them laughing all the way from my kitchen.

I threw out the two throw pillows and replaced them with something new and brighter from Target. Next step might be a new slipcover.

The glass dining room table came from my former neighbors, Lorena and Dave, as they moved out of town. The desk, a lamp and the famous purple chair were all courtesy of former neighbors Sheila and Andrew as they packed up their belongings for the suburbs.

I even scored a really nice iron skillet and new wok from my neighbor Matt when he redid his kitchen last summer. All free for the taking and almost like new.

There were even more great things available, but that was all I could fit inside my place. At some point it's not a benefit, it's just hoarding. My rule of thumb is always whether or not I need it and can use it now. If not, I leave it for the next person.

My son, Louie has inherited the ability to find deals and has three couches in his apartment. There's one for each roommate, which can only make sense when you're in your early twenties.

Louie holds the prize for scoring free furniture. The week before he was moving into his first apartment with almost no furniture at all, a friend mentioned that his girlfriend was buying all new furnishings. She just wanted to get rid of the old, if we could come and get it. Suddenly, Louie had a solid oak dining room table, desk and dining room chairs, a matching couch and chair, ottoman, an oak TV stand and dishes, glasses and silverware.

After we filled the U-Haul, Louie looked at me and said, "It's like an apartment starter kit." It was an amazing act of generosity, that got him started on the right foot.

I have been on the giving end of things as well, and handed over furniture, like a nice dining room table and chairs. It was fun to help set it all up in its new home and imagine the memories that were going to be created anew.

There's a lot to be said for passing on some of the blessings we've received to others when we're through with them. It's a spiritual kind of recycling and ensures we don't get stuck in the idea of lack.

It's never a good idea to hold onto objects in order to keep the past alive. Too much of that leads to packed rooms, which ironically makes it harder to honor the memories of people who are no longer with us or eras that have ended. Nothing is noticed and very little gets used.

Better to stick to the rule of less is more, and when possible, getting it for free is best.

The whole trend has encouraged me to go hunting for second-hand clothing stores and shop at Goodwill and the Salvation Army, which have great bargains on everything from household items to formal attire. There's even a small second-hand clothing store in my neighborhood that has designer label clothes that are gently worn. Wearing those clothes just makes me look like the pants or the shoes are still good, and old favorites. I can live with that image. The money I've saved can go toward a bigger purchase, or a trip, and in the meantime, no one's suffering from a lack of a place to sit or something to wear. More adventures to follow.

Martha's latest book is the memoir, A Place to Call Home. www.MarthaRandolphCarr.com. Email Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.