One Man's Trash is this Boy's Treasure

by Christine Klein

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Having recently gone from a full- to a part-time job, the family finances were rather tight. So I looked for ways to reduce our expenses wherever I could. One Saturday morning, my son, then age six, was especially bored. With a faraway look in his eyes, he recited a half-dozen places he'd like me to take him. The movies, the family fun center, the toy store. All, of course, came with a price tag we couldn't afford.

I had no money to entertain my son that day. Besides, I had a dirty house to clean. We needed a free children's activity. That's when I spotted it. My neighbor had placed a small toaster oven out with his trash. I had an idea. With the neighbor's permission, I took the oven, cut off the cord, handed it to my son, and told him to get to work. Naturally I checked to make sure that there weren't any warning labels about disassembling the toaster. He was told to get me if he saw any labels. Safety first!

Using the tools he had gotten for his birthday, he began the task of taking this oven apart. It wasn't easy, and it wasn't quick. But it was cool. Way cool.

It didn't take long for his older sister to ask if she could help. Later a handful of other kids in the neighborhood wanted to pitch in. After two whole days of "oh my goshes" and "look at this," the toaster oven lay in a thousand pieces all over the garage floor. What seemed like an enormous task for a kindergartner became a weekend filled with discovery, pride, and fun.

He was elated. And he couldn't wait for "show and tell." I was proud too. We had successfully replaced spending money with being creative. This weekend of fun didn't cost us a dime.

In the three years since my little Einstein uncovered the workings of a toaster oven, trash day has become his favorite day of the week. And the absolute best time of the year, in his opinion, is when the neighboring community holds its annual "trash bash." Last year, we loaded the van, twice. Space heaters, clock radios, and weed wackers made their way to our garage. No longer headed for the local dump, these priceless gems were now in the hands of a budding engineer who could hardly wait to tear them apart.

Christine Klein is the author of the book The Simpler Family: A Book of Smart Choices and Small Comforts for Families Who Do Too Much. She is a freelance writer and lives with her husband and two children in Cincinnati Ohio.

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