Skylights and a fortuitous meeting

30 Aug

Via Freecycle I picked up some lumber and two skylights from some folks, Heather and Jason. Heather is a professional organizer so we had a good chat about reducing clutter and getting rid of stuff you don’t use but have a hard time letting go of. That can be a tough one. She pointed out that an organizer’s job is not to judge what you should keep and what you should get rid of, rather to help you consider your stuff from a different perspective (such as, “Do I really want or need this?”). She has a very no-nonsense air about her that I would definitely want around if I were looking for an organizer or just someone to help with cleaning out the garage or what have you. It was obvious from the outside and interior of their home that she also has impeccable taste, and can really declutter, reorganize, and re-beautify a room, not just help get rid of stuff. Check out the before-and-afters on her site. If you are near the 805 or 818 area code and want some help decluttering or just setting up a room, in my opinion you can’t miss. And, no, she didn’t ask me to say any of that! 🙂

They had a bunch of extra building and storage materials from their home remodel and from her clients; Heather mentioned that, like me, they donate anything they can to people on Freecycle.org or to Habitat ReStore rather than sending it to the dump. Since I live about 20 minutes closer to the local ReStore than they do, I offered to deliver their donations along with my next batch.

When I explained I was looking for reclaimed materials to build a little house, Heather introduced me to her neighbor, who handed me her cell phone: It was her sister Claudia, who owns a local doors and windows company. Claudia was surprised I would want used windows or doors, and happy that I would pick them up to save her crew from taking them to the dump. I believe that counts as a win/win/win. Thanks, Heather!

I am curious to find out just how many windows Claudia’s company replaces in a month, and whether I can help set up some way to keep them out of the landfill on an ongoing basis. I’m reminded of the words of Dan Phillips of Phoenix Commotion, a truly amazing person. You have got to watch some of the videos on Dan and the houses he builds, or check out the New York Times article, including the slideshow. In this video Dan remarked that without his program to build houses from materials that would normally have been sent to the landfill,

“A town this size would otherwise be discarding usable building materials that would build a small-scale house once a week… We’re burying a small-scale house once a week! Well, that’s crazy, when we have these families that would do ANYthing to own a house.”

Dan is referring to Huntsville, TX, population 38,040. It’s a bit of an isolated town in that it doesn’t run right into four other towns around it. Ventura County (where I live) has little separation between towns or cities. It has a population of almost 800,000: twenty-one times larger than Huntsville, so we’re probably throwing away about three houses’ worth of materials every day.

Doing my project with salvaged and reclaimed materials has introduced me to so many cool people I’d never have gotten the chance to meet if I just bought everything new.

Almost everybody who finds out about my project is happy to help. Nobody has given me a weird look for using free and salvaged items. Instead they immediately start thinking of other things to donate, or people they could introduce me to who may have something that could benefit me. It’s a really unexpected bonus and it’s making this fun.

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One Response to “Skylights and a fortuitous meeting”

  1. Heather September 30, 2010 at 12:22 am #

    Chris,
    I finally got to see your blog and am pleasantly surprised by your kind words about me, my business, our house and knowledge.
    Keep up the great work on this blog and let me know how I can help to spread the word!

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