Wednesday, June 18

A craft project that will change your life!

GUEST BLOGGER: Kelly Niland

Hi Friends of SFGirl. You may remember me from a recent Unexpected Guest post here. It was extremely flattering to be included on a site along such fashionable and fun homes (thanks, Victoria!). And while I love my house and feel lucky to live here, there’s a lot of stuff you couldn’t see in the photos that goes on OUTSIDE the house that is, um, less fortunate.

I live in SF’s Mission District and have for many years. There are myriad things I love about the neighborhood; however, there’s no way around it—it’s still sketchy in a lot of ways. Yesterday, for instance, I stepped outside to scoop the newspaper off the front steps. There, next to our street tree, a midnight visitor had gifted us with this:

We get a lot of unexpected gifts around here. Recently, it was a vintage computer that was just about ready for the Smithsonian, sitting next to a ripped-up duffel bag. Some of these items can fit in my trash can, but some of them are too unwieldy or, as in the case of e-trash like computers and TVs, expensive to toss. So I’ve come up with my own one-woman-warrior solution, and that's to express, on behalf of the discarded item, the sadness of having been left behind, all alone in a strange place. Granted, the former owner is long gone by the time I’m discovering their belongings, but what I can do is remind passers-by, as well as would-be junk depositors, that trash on the street is a depressing thing, perhaps for the forgotten item (does plastic have feelings?) and definitely for the people who have to walk, and live, near it.

After the computer incident, I started thinking, Hmmm, so what would be the best way to convey such a message, in a way that everyone can understand? I settled on the most recognizable statement I could think of.

I went online and ordered some sheets of round day-glow-green stickers and then whipped up a frowny face template on the computer and printed up the whole stack. Now, I carry a sheet of stickers around in my purse and, when I’m out and about and happen upon some discarded bag of trash or mattress or TV sitting forlornly on the sidewalk, I slap a sticker on it.

I gotta say, it’s pretty cathartic. And, I'm not kidding: I’m convinced this act even increases the chances of prompt removal of said discarded item. I can’t prove it, of course, but have noticed anecdotally that these things don’t tend to hang around long after the sticker’s on. For instance, even though the 311 dispatcher I talked to yesterday told me I’d have to wait three days for pickup of the TV, look what I beheld just an hour after applying the sticker:

Really! No idea where it went, but it was gone, and that’s the point. I’m taking back the hood, one frown at a time! If you’d like to try some stickerfication of your own, let me know. I will send 5 sheets of stickers to the first 5 people who write to me here. And for those of you who would like to make your own, you can find the frowny face template here and order the labels here. Let me know how it works for you!

Turning frowns upside down all over town,
Kelly

28 comments:

zee said...

I love this idea so much! I live in a similar sort of neighbourhood- lots of lovely people and all that, but a lot of people who dump their unwanted household crap outdoors and optimistically wait for it to be removed by the local authority. We joke that the easiest way to get rid of unwanted furniture around here is to dump it in a public space and then phone the local authority and complain about it. I would definitely love to stickerify the stuff that gets dumped around my hood- I like how the stickers personify the plight of the dumped goods, but also make a worthwhile social commentary. Such a great idea!

Allison said...

What an excellent idea. I wonder what the difference in action would be with happy-faced items? Would they be more appealing to people because they were happy? Or would they sit there longer?

trudesign said...

i love this idea! How cute. I would totally use the stickers in my hood!

victoria said...

Fabulous--such a smarty pants!

I could love some of these stickers in my 'hood!

nina said...

Your project makes me smile! Such a good idea. When I was quickly scanning your post without reading the text, I thought the post was about getting rid of your tv, so after that you'd have plenty of time for craft projects...

LINDSAY said...

I love this story! We live in the city and sometimes I totally take advantage of the fact we have trash pickers. I hate to see anything useable go to a landfill, so I neatly arrange my trash, often decorated with post-it's letting passersbys know, that the item works and it's free for the taking. I've yet to see anything I put out there make it to the garbage truck. Hooray for recycling :)

Anonymous said...

Instead of "decorating" the trash, did you think about actually throwing it into a Dumpster or taking it to a Salvation Army type locale? Seem a bit better for mankind as a whole... but then, maybe that's just me

kelly niland said...

Actually, Anonymous, San Francisco charges a fee to discard electronics like TV sets and computers. That's why they're so often dumped on the streets. And who knows what trash is functional, either for a passerby or the Salvation Army? As for your dumpster suggestion--there aren't public dumpsters in this town. But thanks for your helpful suggestions all the same.

Cheers,
Kelly

angelica annette said...

haha thats cute. when i was younger i always thought everything had feelings so i would never get rid of anything. im slowly realizing i HAVE to get rid of some things, but i still get sad about it.

Tracey said...

I missed being the first 5 to get stickers, but am definitely printing off my own! Great idea!

Veronique said...

I live in Montreal, Quebec and my neighborhood is often scattered with discarded items such as this one. Moreover, people have no respect for which days are trash/recycling day so everyday, there is something sitting on the curb.. sometimes up to three days before pickup time. I think this idea is wonderful.

kelly niland said...

Okay, you've all sold me. Stickers for everyone so far! To each of you who has already written, please email your mailing address to me at kelly@kellyniland.com and I'll get some sheets out to you.

Enjoy, and please let me know how it works for you!
Kelly

Jenny RInzler said...

I live in the mission too, and will be looking for your stickers as I step around piles of crap. Love the idea, but will admit that I put useful/non-trash items out for people to take. However, my personal rule is that after 24 hours if it hasn't been taken, I put it in the garbage or donate it. I wish my neighbors would do the same.

Cynthia said...

Excellent guest post and I will also be watching for your stickers since I'm a neighbor too.

alice said...

That is such a cool idea. It would be awesome also to stick on cars that cut me up when I am on my bicycle, mean bus drivers, people who spit in the street etc!

candace morris said...

this is soo hilarious!

Anonymous said...

I love your idea! I live in the mission area and see way too much trash on the street. Usually it's a beat up old suitcase filled with someone's filthy unwanted clothing, shoes and other random items. Yuck. And hello? . . . aren't there a zillion thrift stores where you can dump your crap anyway? But occassionaly there are good things to find. Like my 50's dinette chairs and coffee table. That's when I say cheers to trash!

angie said...

that is hilarious! way to comment in a funny way and how cool that it seems to work… people must feel sad when they see the sad face and want to give it a happy home. sad discards find homes because of you!

Sarah said...

How cute, I wonder if that would work in my part of town? ;)

Pamcasso said...

that is awesome! I would never do it, but it would be fun to go through my mother's house and see if frowny faces would help get rid of some of her stuff- she's a bit of a hoarder!

kapcity said...

ooh fabulous idea!!!!! i had a lovely gift of a childs training potty left at my step just last weekend...if only I had the stickers sooner!

Laura Surma said...

i'd love some of these stickers for graffiti in hayes valley. what a great social statement.

jess gonacha said...

This is such a clever idea! I love it. What a nice way to get the message across. :)

Ana said...

way to reclaim your neighborhood!

meligrosa said...

very positive passive action!
-
I have a strong belief that (SF resident myself) people do go to a diff. neighborhood to do this. thought I had come accross some google-mapesque website that you can shoot soemthing you come across and upload it so it could be useful for someone, i cant remember the name though.

Topsy Turvy said...

I love it! So clever!
As to Anon: yes you could just discard the trash, but that doesn't make a statement to the transgressors or anyone else who happens by, except to tell them that if they leave their trash out someone else will take care of it. The frowny face seems like an non-confrontational way to make people think twice about their actions. After a couple of days, I'd probably go back and discard if it still remained.
-Lana

Lynn said...

meligrosa, i think the site you are referring to was http://www.garbagescout.com/ , which appears to not be live anymore (except for a screenshot, so you get the idea). you could take photos of things left on the street and upload them with the address, then they'd show up on a map so people could go by and get them. -- lynn

Ann K. said...

Please also tell your friends and neighbors about www.freecycle.org.
Freecycle is dedicated to keeping stuff out of landfills. The idea is simple: post an "offer" on your local freecycle Yahoo site; those who want the item email you and arrange a time to pick it up. In my area in suburban Phila, even electronics/TVs/computers/lawn mowers that are BROKEN are snapped up for their parts or by someone who is handy. The other part I like about freecyle is that it truly helps people who could not otherwise afford some of these items. One person's trash, another person's treasure.