• A few weeks ago, my 10 year old son had a friend over for a playdate. I was doing some light cleaning and de-cluttering around the house.  It’s just amazing how fast junk piles up when you have four kids. He saw that I put a box of books down by the front door and asked about them. I invited my son and his friend to join me because I was planning on dropping the books off at the local Goodwill. Without responding I saw him kneel down by the box of books as he began to flip through some of the pages. I immediately knew that this was a bad sign because someone always has ‘throw-away regrets’ every time I try to clean out the house. If it’s not a stuffed animal or clothing article, which I haven’t seen them wear in years, someone’s complaining about how they cannot live without that item. I already know the drill. Then like clockwork, my son looked up at me with his saddest puppy eyes and said, “Dad, how can you get rid of Curious George? He’s is my favorite!” I hate seeing my son sad and no one wants to part with sentimental items.  But I’ve been there so many times before that if I gave in, to each and every one of their pleas, they would have to put me on one of those hoarder intervention shows. So, I stood fast and explained, “We all had to give up something, son and we can’t keep everything that we have. Otherwise, we’ll have no room for anything new.” He grudgingly released his grip from the book and placed it back in the box.

    As I carried the books to the trunk of my car he then jumped up and grabbed my arm and said, “Wait dad, I have an idea.” I pulled away clearly annoyed and reiterated in a slightly raised tone, “We’ve already gone over this and they have to go!” He was still jumping up and down clearly excited and pleaded, “I want to make a library, dad. It’ll be educational and I just need some books to get it started.” I paused for a minute and hesitantly decided to hear him out. He explained how he would decorate the plastic milk crate that the books were in to make it look like a library. He added that he would put it in the front lawn, where it would be accessible to people and they could borrow or drop off a book. I’ve heard of something like this where neighborhoods have decorative mailbox-sized lending libraries. But I hadn’t seen any in our neighborhood. After he described his plan to me it seemed to make sense but I didn’t want to get stuck having to take care of or maintain it. He assured me that he would be fully responsible for it and even offered to donate them to Goodwill immediately if he failed to do so. I figured I had nothing to lose and that it was worth a try. At least the books would be out of the house for now and the back-up was that they would be donated. I was cool with that. He and his friend worked all afternoon to decorate two plastic crates (one for his friend, of course), which they mounted on small step stools, and then loaded them with books.  My son set his out on the front yard by the sidewalk. His friend, who lives in a large apartment complex, was excited to put his in their main lobby (hopefully with the permission of management).

    Now that a few weeks have passed, I can tell you that the ‘book exchange project’ has been a hit. Not only did it make for a great playdate, but my son has kept his word of maintaining the front yard library. The neighbors all love it and have thanked us for putting it out there. Two have started libraries of their own since it has been so popular. The kids are even keeping less extraneous books on their shelves and look forward to getting a new addition (a surprise book left by a neighbor) on a daily basis. Some people have abused it and have left some trash in it, but for the most part people have been respectful and appreciative of the service. It’s done so well, that I’m thinking of expanding our operation to include clothes and other items as well. That way I can get rid of more clutter and provide a service at the same time. I’m loving it already!