But It Was Free!

I have a compulsion.

Maybe it’s always being around college campuses (my hometown has a college), or maybe it’s because I’m kind of a psychotic recycler, but anytime I see someone’s junk labeled “Free” lying around somewhere, I have to check it out. And a lot of times I’ll take something. Because it was free! But this is most certainly a bad habit.

Doesn’t mean I should forgo all freebies. I just need to narrow down what’s good.

For instance, yesterday there were these stackable letter trays out in the hallway of the building my office is in. Since I’d been thinking about picking up some up for my desk at work (and possibly home). So the encounter was rather fortuitous.

Other times, like when I picked up a CRT monitor which ended up just collecting dust, were not so good.

So how do you know when to grab the free thing or when to leave it on the curb? Well, after much thought, I’ve developed a set of rules for myself:

  • If it fulfills a need or want that immediately comes to mind, grab it.

If you take a few minutes to think of how you would use it, then it’s probably not worth it. If you have to INVENT a need or want for it, chances are it’s junk, even if it’s nice junk

  • If it doesn’t work, leave it

Unless you’re an incredibly handy person, or have the kind of time to spend repairing something, then by all means. But most of us don’t want to rewire a lamp or are junk artists. Best way to guage whether it’s worth fixing or not is if you can concievably (without spending too much money) fix it within a month. Longer than that and it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

  • If it looks cheap, chances are it’ll break soon anyway, so leave it

Unless you want to use it in the meantime while waiting on funds to buy something that will last. Like if you really need a table and you see a flimsy card table being given away, it would be a good thing to serve a need temporarily. But you’ll have to find a way to get rid of it eventually, so maybe waiting is better.

I still have the compulsion to pick things up, but at least I can talk myself out of keeping them now.

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One thought on “But It Was Free!

  1. J says:

    Oh man, was that ever a hard compulsion to shake. I still stop, but like you, I’m a lot more likely to keep walking now.

    Unless it’s books. If it’s books, I’m probably screwed.

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