Got a locker full of stuff? Deposit it in the Furniture Bank

Furniture bank
via The Furniture Bank

Why are so many people renting lockers when the stuff can be put to good use by people who really need it?

The self-storage business is simply huge. According to Adam Minter of Bloomberg, in a post titled Somebody's making money off all our junk:

Today there are roughly 54,000 self-storage facilities in the U.S., which is home to 90 percent of the global self-storage inventory. Those sites hold 2.63 billion square feet of rentable storage — an area roughly the size of Palm Springs, California, golf courses and all.

Minter notes that while much of it has to do with consumerism, a lot has to do with other factors including "disruption, serving as a temporary resting place for the stuff of the dead, the recently divorced, the downsizers and the dislocated."

Somebody was sure making money off my junk. I first got a storage locker when I closed my architectural practice and needed a space to store my drawings for a decade. Then I followed Minter's pattern of disruption, downsizing my living space, then storing stuff from my mother-in-law and then my mom. It cost a lot of money for a 10x10 locker; this is Toronto where rents are high and even a locker costs $300 per month. Totalling up how much I have spent over the years is too embarrassing to mention, but it amounts to more than a full year's salary. After getting rid of my few good pieces thanks to Vintage Home Boutique, the locker was full of the kind of unfashionable furniture that nobody really wants these days, like upholstered chairs and brown cabinets. I really didn't know what to do.

But earlier this year while attending Toronto's Green Living Show, I saw a booth for The Furniture Bank, a charity that will send in a crew to pick up your furniture, clean it up and get it into shape in their workshop. I was particularly worried about all the upholstered furniture in this age of bedbugs but they explained that they have a bed bug strategy to deal with them.

These efforts have proved successful to date. In the last 2 years, we have helped 10,383 people and transferred close to 64,961 items of furniture to clients, of which there have been just 2 cases of a reported bed bug issue – a 99.98% prevention rate!

They then will work with social agencies to place the furniture with women, children, youth and family services, refugees and newcomers, and community, health, poverty and homelessness services. Since they started 20 years ago they have collected half a million times and diverted 35 million pounds of stuff from landfills. Brian Scudamore wrote in the Globe and Mail:

People affected by furniture poverty often get caught in a cycle; they’re up against a wide range of barriers to securing stable income. Compared to rent, utilities, and food, furniture just isn’t a priority. But the cost of going without it is great, too: it can lead to insecurity, social exclusion and isolation....“In the Toronto area alone, roughly 50,000 people are living in a state of furniture poverty each year,” says Dan Kershaw, Executive Director of Furniture Bank. “They can afford the apartment; they have the keys, the lights, the food, and they’re making do. But they can’t become successful members of society without the furniture required to turn their houses into homes. This is why we exist.”

The fee for pickup wasn't cheap, but the Furniture Bank explains:

The primary enterprise of the Furniture Bank is its furniture and housewares pick-up service. The fee charged helps fund our charitable activities, which included soliciting, transporting, storing and distributing furniture to nearly 11,000 people who benefited from our donors’ generosity.

The fee also is less than two month's rental on the locker, which is now finally empty, and I will receive a charitable donation receipt for the value of the furniture.

Furniture bank locationsGoogle maps/Video screen capture

This particular Furniture Bank is in Toronto, but there is a Furniture Bank Association of North America that shows them distributed across the USA and Canada.

All that money I spent on rent for the storage locker could have been put to much better use, and all that furniture and stuff that I was storing is now being put to use as well, for people who really need it, and not a bit of it goes to landfill. This truly was a win-win situation.

Related Content on Treehugger.com