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The shared shelf

I've lived in a lot of apartment buildings, and expect to die in one, since there's just no way to even plausibly daydream about owning a house in America. Inside my apartment building, in the corner of the front lobby where everyone's mailbox is, there's the shared shelf. It has no marking or sign, but that's where you can leave or take anything at all.

It's like a Little Free Library, but it's for anything at all, not just books. If you have something you don't need you can leave it on the shared shelf, and if you see something that you'd like, take it, it's yours.

I always glance at the shelf when I'm checking the mail. Sometimes on Sundays, when there's no mail, or other days when I'm bored, I'll walk down the hall just to see what's on the shelf. Whatever's there, it will be reliably gone within a few days, and quicker if it's cool. Video games and food are the quickest things to vanish.

The neighborhood here is, let's say, not high-income, and neither are the people in my apartment building, so the shared shelf is appreciated by everyone. It's not uncommon to see your neighbor walking down the hall with something in his/her hand, saying "Score from the shelf!" It's lots easier than loading the car and driving to a thrift store to drop off old stuff.

I asked the building super if she ever has to throw things away off the shelf, and she said "Rarely." Some joker once left a one-pound package of ground turkey on the shelf, and the super said that it was pretty bad by the time she saw it. My apartment complex actually has two buildings, and she said, if something sits on the shelf for a week or so she'll take it across the lawn to the other building, where there's a matching shelf.

Anyway, it's an idea, if your landlord isn't a rat bastard and will allow it. Does anyone else have something like the shared shelf in your building? It would also be a great idea, I think, outside the building, for anyone at all — the neighborhood's own little thrift store, but without a cash register.

Things I've left on the shelf: • Clothes (lots) • Books, after reading or giving up on them • Magazines • Earbuds (I hate earbuds, but they come with free with some electronics) • A painting I grew tired of • Music on cassette tapes • Silverware (stainless steel) • Movies on DVD • Super-strong magnets, cuz I had extra • A hot plate • A wool cap • Food an ex-flatmate left behind • An old set of plates • A chess set • Cheaters • Loaves of bread • More.

Things I've taken from the shelf: • Lots of canned food, one or two cans at a time — everything from juice to soup to quail eggs • Unopened boxes of cereal, often • A mid-sized chifforobe • A set of speakers • An alarm clock • Some weird salt and pepper shakers (which I put back on the shelf a month later, when I decided I hated them) • Diet soda • A different wool cap • A snow shovel • Peanut butter • Movies on DVD • More.

 

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