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He Embraces a Stuff-Free Lifestyle

En español | If Mike Morone’s big idea works, lawns across America will be loaded with free usable goods on September 25, 2010 for national Give Your Stuff Away Day.

Morone, a 52-year-old former teacher turned entrepreneur, notices waste of all kinds—lights left on in office buildings, for example—so it is no surprise that Give Your Stuff Away Day is his brainchild. The event was first unveiled last year and called Curb Day. It’s a national swap meet, if you will, a day to reshuffle and recycle our collective unwanted but usable goods and, as Morone puts it, “magically shift ownership in one weekend.” Just bring items to the curb and watch them get snapped up. Then take a stroll to find some free stuff for yourself.

“I’m thoughtful about waste,” says Morone, who lives in suburban Rochester, N.Y. “I notice what people throw out.” And what he noticed around his own city is that value is relative. “I gave a nephew an old car,” Morone says. “To me it was not valuable, but to him it was. He fixed it up and used it for about a year.”

Spreading the word

Morone, a married father of three, says he grew up organized. “I don’t own anything I don’t use. If I buy a new shirt, I get rid of one I have.” He owns nothing ornamental or unnecessary, the types of things that would become clutter. “I love books,” Morone says, “but I don’t own a single book. I go to the library probably twice a week. I bring back 10 to 12 books at a time. It seems a waste to own a book.”

The idea for a national giveaway day came to Morone while he was driving and he saw junk piled on curbs on garbage day. “I thought, ‘I wish people would put it to the left [of the trash] so it would be easier to spot if it was something useful.’ Then I thought, ‘Why don’t we do that on a day when there’s no garbage pickup?’”

Morone hopes the idea catches on. He has sent thousands of e-mails to businesses, government offices and nonprofit organizations. Media outlets such as USA Today and bumper stickers touting the event’s website were placed in public places and on long-haul trucks, which have helped to spread the word. It seems to be working—Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, R, has declared May 15 Give Your Stuff Away Day in her state.

A fan of secondhand

Morone believes that there are people in communities all around the country who are just like him: “They love secondhand items.” But he’s also seen “people who are approaching 90 years old who are still collecting stuff when they should be getting rid of it.”

He believes that too many folks hang on to things for too long. He cites as an example the life and death of a used bicycle. “It gets moved around in a garage for years but never gets fixed or ridden. It gets put out as garbage, but it’s not left on a curb long enough for someone else to take advantage of it, to fix it up and make it useful.” Eventually, he says, it ends up in a landfill.

Give Your Stuff Away Day will reduce clutter in homes and businesses, and eventually reduce the trash that goes into landfills, says Morone. But to make the event a success, he says a few guidelines are in order. He asks that participants not put trash, recyclables or illegal or dangerous items on their curbs. No food, drugs, chemicals or weapons. It’s also important for participants to follow local ordinances and to be responsible about disposing of whatever goods are not picked up.

Part of the theory behind Give Your Stuff Away Day is that a mass swap benefits the planet, an idea that fans of the event on Facebook seem to like. Says Morone: “Homeowners benefit because they get rid of stuff. People who pick it up benefit. Landfills benefit because fewer items go there. Municipalities benefit because there will [over time] be less stuff to pick up.”

Grassroots cause

Give Your Stuff Away Day is a citizen-based program, however, and Morone believes it should stay that way. “Let government solve bigger problems,” he says. He understands that there is reluctance on the part of local governments to embrace the idea because the day’s leftovers could create messes in neighborhoods and more trash to haul in the week after the giveaway. But he argues that throughout the year there will be fewer items to haul to landfills, and besides, “Christmas is messy. Over 20 million trees are left on curbs after Christmas. But we think it’s worth it.”

Like the winter holidays, the event also may provide an economic reward in these tough times—a “small boost,” says Morone. “Say my wife gives away five pair of shoes. Now she can go buy another pair.”

Morone supports giving goods away throughout the year to local or national charities like Goodwill. “There are always ways to get rid of items,” he says. “But none is as easy as putting them out on your front lawn.”

 

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