A free pile forgives us our sins | Living with Gleigh

My husband and I cleaned out our tool shed last weekend. I call it a tool shed on a very loose level. It's a little wooden shed that was here when we moved in 20 years ago and we have stored tools in it, but it also collects other random items we don't know what to do with.

The other “storage” facility that was on our property when we moved in was a dilapidated sun porch. It was an old, enclosed structure with fiberglass siding and roof just outside the sliding glass door off our family room. It really wasn’t useful except provided a place to throw stuff we didn’t know what to do with.

About three or four years into our residence we decided to tear down the sun porch and make an actual, usable porch. The first task in that endeavor was to disperse the stuff we had accumulated.  I remember it seemed overwhelming to deal with the items we’d amassed. I must’ve kept them for a reason and I had to find them new places in the house, garage or shop. The other thing I remember very clearly is how easily we dispersed the stuff, because it mostly ended up being junk and made a one-way trip to the dump.

I think the sun porch clean out may have been our first experience with a free pile. Anything we felt was too good to get thrown away, not worth pulling together a garage sale, but would never be accepted at Goodwill, we put out in front of our house with a “free” sign. We live a couple houses away from a busy street where there are no sidewalks and the cars probably all drive too fast. But a free sign pops out like flashing neon to even the most rushed driver.

Even with the experience of having to disperse saved stuff off the sun porch, it doesn’t stop us from accumulating more stuff. The tool shed is the perfect out-of-sight-out-of-mind storage. We clean it out about every five years or so when we can't actually get to the tools we store in there. And of course, anything we get rid of goes into the free pile in front of our house.

I just love that free pile. I love to see what people take, I love to "catch" people taking it because often the stuff is just gone like it blew away, I love feeling like I'm recycling, but most of all I love that the free pile forgives us our sins.

I did a major clean out of the shed this time. My biggest accumulation seemed to be in pots, planters, whatever you call them. I had a ton of them in different shapes and sizes and made from different materials: the store-bought, plastic variety, odd ceramic things that could only have come from garage sales, and empty plastic pots I must've kept after I planted whatever was in it. There were brown ones, green ones, blue ones, pink ones, flowery ones, and teapots and watering cans I’d made into planters.

But as I went through the shed nothing came to me. There was no memory from any pot I touched as to its origin. I didn't know why I bought it or if I even did, I didn't know why I kept it, I didn't know who gave it to me, I didn't know what I was planning on doing with it.

Out to the free pile every single one of those pots went. And like usual there was that moment where my confidence was shaken: “No one will take this stuff and I’ll have to throw it away.” But like magic, usually when my back is turned or I run to the store for a few minutes, everything vanishes.

If I had to throw all those pots away (and I'm talking a major pile), I would have felt tremendous guilt. But the free pile accepts all my "sins" without judgment and makes them all go away. I don't feel guilty anymore; although if I remembered if I spent money on any of them, I probably would. But I don't and neither does the free pile.

We should all be like the free pile.


Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is committed to writing about the humor amidst the chaos of a family. You can read her column every week on and more of her writing and her daily blog on her website


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