Free days. Lists.
'For free' rummage sales.
Free Days: Thrift stores have a unique problem. If they do not sell items within a certain period of time and have no other outlet for the items, they many times have to throw away usable items. If they have a free day, they worry that it will detract from existing sales and also worry that volunteers (who also many times would like things for nothing — especially when many get no monetary compensation for their work) would put things into 'free' piles that they could access instead of putting things out for sale.
I can't know for sure but I've always thought that 'free piles' (of things that haven't sold for a long time) brought in MORE business. A free day occasionally is a good thing. I browse through 'free' boxes at rummage sales and rarely find anything I need but many times find usable things: If it's aluminum pans, I recommend they turn them into the recycling facility for money. If it's stuffed animals or puppets and they are in good (and clean) shape, I recommend they donate them to the library system. If it's ragged T-shirts, I've occasionally grabbed a few, cut them up for rags, put them in newspapers bags marked 'cleaned rags' and sent them to thrift stores (if I don't need them myself). Note: I have no passion for cutting up a lot of them but it's no big deal to cut up a few extra every year.
Lists: The Internet has made it much easier for people to get rid of things for free (multiple community-wide lists). A neighbor put a working gas dryer out curbside just yesterday. I believe it's gone today. I don't know if they put it on craigslist but believe they've put curbside items on the list in the past. If someone hadn't picked it up (much easier for them), a local thrift store was a phone call away — but then they would have had to pay attention to when it got picked up, etc. etc., etc.
For Free Rummage Sales: But what I really think is missing is a huge 'parking lot' free rummage sale: Once or twice a year, people could bring items (large and small) to some large city parking lot. The city garbage collection employees, thrift stores and recyling people could be 'engaged' at the end of the day to haul away everything left (this would cut down on city-wide garbage collection).
People couldn't just come and take everything and anything (unfortunately some people like to just fill their houses with things and others would spend their time profiteering when other people in the community actually could USE things). They would have to pass some checkpoint where they noted HOW the item would be used to enhance their or their families wealth or the community's wealth, with the goal being to get a collection of stories about how resources are finding their way INTO use in a community.
And if they came back next year, to get back into the 'free' rummage sale to TAKE things (anyone of course could BRING things), they'd have to let someone know how they did — perhaps put some posting on the Internet.
Focusing People: When you get people focused on putting things INTO use, more things get used. And if people are focused on using things (and how things can be used), it stands to reason that more things will get done.
I myself would never want that one really creative kid or adult who grew up poor in community to NOT create the things they could have created if they had had the resources to do so. Interestingly enough, people in the community would have an opportunity to start identifying these motivated and creative but resource restricted souls if they showed up looking for things. But first they'd have to have a place where they could show up.
I'm not much of a people motivator when it comes to people who lack motivation. But I ALWAYS believe that motivated people should have the resources to pursue their passions.
And, as a P.S. I've already noted that a 'missing in action' college course (all those young, bright creative minds) could assist communities greatly in identifying unused resources and finding ways to get those resources put into use--not just in their own communities but nationwide (and even globally). (OPEN)
And, as a double P.S. I talk a lot about unused resources. Lots of people (many of them your neighbors) have things they do not use at all or all the time. It can be difficult to step back and say: THAT is not mine.
The only resources I've ever thought people should focus on giving away are their own. If someone else wants help in downsizing items they've already chosen to give away, they will ask. But, I've also noted that the more distribution points you create and the more opportunities you publicize for HOW things can be used and how they are being used (without being thrown away), the more likely it is that people will be willing to give.