Here at the Pilot, we're getting ready for our Citywide Garage Sale event, coming up around early May. We're already getting calls from people who can barely wait. We'll be getting you more details on that soon.
Citywide clean up days are in the works this spring in Storm Lake - more on that soon too. And one of the most booming websites in the city is the Garage Sale Storm Lake Facebook page.
It's all about making your trash someone else's treasure, or vice versa. Let's embrace our junk, Storm Lake, I say.
Reality: We're not the uber-rich semi-retirees of million-dollar Okoboji lakefront mansions or gated West Des Moines 'burbs, filet-mignoned and townhoused up to our earlobes.
By and large, we're a blue-collar area, hard-working, scraping-by. People from all over the world working extra hours to get our kids through college.
Even most of the folks here who are well off don't especially act like it.
Most of us aren't spending weekends sipping champagne in the whirlpool spa. Most aren't wearing suits unless we know somebody who's being buried. Most of us don't consider balancing portfolios or attending to the latest Mediterranean design craze as our idea of a groovy time.
Regardless of socioeconomic rank, we're jeans, t-shirt and flip flop folk. Hard to tell a rich guy from a poor one, at least on Saturday. We were recycling and repurposing here before those words became stylish. For some of us, because we had to, and for the rest of us, because it's fun.
The most upscale home design store in town is recycled out of an old shop/storage shed. I've seen its proprietor, perhaps the most famous decor designer in western Iowa, make a fabulous television console out of a broken, raggedy piece of kitchen countertop rock and a couple of outdoor flower pots turned upside down.
My friends on Facebook don't post pictures of fancy stuff ordered from boutiques on the coasts - who would care about that? They post pictures of ratty old furniture they found for nothing and their kids have helped strip, sand and refurnish into something better than new.
Go to the car shows they have here every year. People mostly ignore the expensive new sports car section. They crowd around old Camaros and Mustangs rescued from the boneyard or a heap of mouse crap in an old shed.
A lot of good entrepreneurs around here get it. Their stores aren't about having the most expensive stuff, but incorporate some found treasures and handmade stuff with character to it.
Those TV shows about the lifestyles of the rich and the famous? Yawn. But you know what never gets canceled? - "American Pickers," "Pawn Stars," "Antiques Road Show," "Storage Wars," "American Restoration" and the like. Because people really like musty, dusty, rusty crap.
Ads for garage sales are a significant part of this newspaper's business. Yard sales and auctions are an economic engine that would make Wall Street blush. You sell your junk, take the money and go to other peoples' sales and buy their junk, which you will probably sell again at your garage sale the next summer.
It's not so much the money that drives this system, as it is the whole idea of rescuing something, of bartering the great deal, the pursuit of the fix-it-up project that may or may not ever get done.
We're junky. Let's not just face it, let's embrace it.
The town that becomes the junk capital of the free world will prosper. Junk, if done right, could attract more tourism than swanky resorts. Here's how it can be done:
1. Build up the town's junk quotient. Have a day once a month when everybody is invited to put whatever they don't want out on the curb for others to come by and pick up. Just because you don't want it, doesn't mean someone else wouldn't. Clear out the basement for free, and get the satisfaction that someone is getting some good out of it. Will it look a little Jed Clampett-ish? Yep. Who cares? Wouldn't it be fun to have a treasure hunt every month?
2. Get the college in on it, too. Each year when students move out, lots of furniture, carpets and such go into those huge dumpsters they haul in. Put the stuff out on the campus grass instead, and let people in need make something of it if they can.
3. Turn unused space into a massive flea market that will bring people to town. Use the Cobblestone, it's sitting empty. Or old South School. Or even the sidewalks downtown. Local causes could make some bucks peddling old books, furniture, collectibles. Make a big deal out of it.
4. Let nothing go to waste. I learned recently of a recycling center like many of our area cities have, where people can not only bring in their recyclable items for free, they can pick out up to 10 items from shelves of reuseable items the public is allowed to shop, picked out of the scrap sorting line. People throw away a lot of things others might want - full cans of paint and bottles of cleaning products, old tools, toys, kitchen gear, tires. Why let anything go into a landfill if someone can use it?
5. Promote and encourage all of our stores that deal in cool junk. We have several funky antique shops, stores that re-sell donated things for bargain prices to help charity, consignments stores, local artist and crafter studios, unique shops that do or could sell crafts, local art, primitives, vintage fashions, etc. as a sideline. Help them! Make an antique crawl. Advertise them together as a community. Throw seminars on collecting coins and stamps, furniture refinishing, turning old windows into cool blackboards.
6. Set aside a lot where people could sell or trade vintage cars, motorcycles, bikes, parts and motor memorabilia one weekend a month. Instant attraction, zero cost.
We could spend a fortune trying to promote ourselves as being chic and urban and sophisticated, and probably they still wouldn't be. Cool - we can live with that.
Let's be what we are - creative and resourceful and thrifty; artistic, sharing and respectful of history.
Waste not, want not.
Our future might just be, in part, in our old trash. Let's get junky.