I cleand up the upstairs storage room some today and threw away many big boxes full of useless crap. The Free Shop should have more organising around it, so that people don't get frustrated when everythings a mess and no one else wants to deal with it, and so that the Free Shop may live for another 1000 years. Free Shoppers of the World Unite!
I'm not sure if everyone understands the point of having a Free Shop and to me seems like either people think it's great or that its a dirty waste of time, space and effort. The former think every piece of rag and every mcdonalds toy found from a skip is worth keeping, whereas the latter often fail to show respect to the people who are giving their time to Volunteer for the Forest in the form of running the Free Shop.
I guess the Forest is first and foremost an arts hub, and it is reasonable to ask where does the Free Shop fit in. In my view the Forest Cafe Free Shop idea is and has been threefold:
1) Promote re-use and re-cycling
2) Distribute material belongings to people who cannot or do not want to afford them in a world of post-scarcity
3) Collectivise materials for art projects
As a bonus, doing the Free Shop, organised consistently - say, once a week, brings publicity and customers to the Cafe.
I also think that the needs and opinions of the people running the Free Shop should come first in determining the amount and quality of the Free Shop offerings. The situation now is, that there is too much stuff. This is partly because non-organisers bring too much bad quality stuff and partly because organisers don't want/cannot be bothered to throw bad, broken, nasty and dirty shit away without remorse. Sure, running the Free Shop is a great hobby for OCD cases and hoarders, but in order to run a functional Free Shop, there needs to be some guidelines. Good, useful, valuable things never cause a problem because they move fast out of the Shop.
I propose the following things for starters:
-Broken clothes: Bin it
-Ugly clothes: Bin it
-Promotional t-shirts: Bin it
-Broken shoes and shoes without a pair: Bin it
-CDs, DVDs, c-cassettes that someone got from a magazine, are about self-help or religious enlightening: Bin it
-Most toys, unless its really cool: Bin it
-Most childrens clothes: bin it (I'm sorry but I don't think these move)
-No VHS cassettes, CRT tvs (the bulky, old, non-flat tvs), inkjet printers, VHS players. If someone tries to bring one in, politely tell them to put it on up on Gumtree or the bin. The batteries from the remote control are good tho!
-No bad books: this may include but is not restricted to religious books, self-help books, outdated school books and other non-fiction, bad and cheap fiction, most childrens books (especially books promoting militarism and gender roles)
-No cardboard boxes for storage: they break down so easy and just cause more trouble. Plus, there are a million good, solid plastic boxes in the world without a use.
-Store different types of item in different boxes: clothes in one, books in another, cables in a third etc.
And so on, and so on... (a Zizek quote!)
Today I threw away a VHS player, a broken plastic microwave kettle, a mug with a used, wet teabag still in there, a toy badminton racket, loads of ugly, worn-out jeans, a couple of dusters, a few handbags, a bunch of toys and g*d knows what I don't want to remember its too painful to remember.
There probably isn't even enough room in the Forest Cafe bin and some of the junk has to stay in an be in the way of people, also causing a safety issue by blocking fire exits. But I hope everyone gets the point by now.
I can't personally promise, that I will be there on Sundays. And that's how it's been with the Free Shop; people turn up to run the Shop when they are not too hungover, can be bothered etc. And I don't think this is going to change. That's why its good to have guidelines that help you give your effort when you are ready to.
Thats my 2 cents.