Free Box (Tarot of Michelle)

Be mindful of the true cost of possessions.

The story of Free Box begins on Alder Street in Eugene, Oregon. A main route to the U of O campus, Alder Street passes through pleasant neighborhoods populated by student renters. There’s a lot of foot and bicycle traffic, which makes it an ideal environment for free boxes.

I just loved the free boxes in my college neighborhood. I got books, household items and the occasional odd crafty thing. It was very gratifying to put free stuff at the curb and see it go away.

The young idealistic college student in me still loves the recycle-reduce-reuse idea. I like to see things fixed; every object should live out its useful life, serving its highest and noblest purpose.

Image by the author

The mature, slightly more conservative homeowner in me has seen the darker side of free boxes. Junk or garbage makes the neighborhood look trashy. Passing hoarders are compelled to fill up their cars. There are too many temptations to fix broken items. People take things that aren’t in the free box. Some users on giveaway or exchange services have entitlement issues. When free items don’t disappear, it can be a nuisance to dispose of them. And everything takes up space.

My enthusiasm for the free box idea hasn’t waned over the years. I still drive by the neighbor’s perpetual free box, and I’ve gotten some useful things there. But my participation in the free box has become more judicious; I now reconsider twice before putting something in my car. I’ve implemented a rule: if something comes home, something else has to go away.

The Free Box card says: be mindful of the true cost of possessions. “Free” isn’t free. Even if something is “free,” there’s a cost to dragging it home: it doesn’t just take up space in your garage, it takes up space in your brain, too. And there will be a cost to getting rid of it too. 

Free Box says: it’s good to be generous, and it’s good to know the difference between trash and treasure. It’s good to reduce the number of my possessions, to de-clutter and donate on a regular basis, to keep life simpler and cleaner. I must wisely spend energy on managing my possessions: choosing them, maintaining them, storing them, and disposing of them.

A story behind one of the cards in The Tarot of Michelle. Follow the developmental art as a Patron on Patreon.

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