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Finding Purpose for Our Renovation Materials

Just about every post got multiple replies, so it took a spreadsheet to track who wanted what and when they could pick up the item. Things usually went to whoever emailed first, but sometimes they went to those we felt were most in need — like a Brooklyn couple who spent last year hunkered down with two young children in a new home with no shelves, closets, storage or electricity. (They took closets, a bookcase and a chest of drawers.)

A lot of the stuff we donated was replaced by newer versions. Like the kitchen, a Bronx family took the old cabinets — which had arched raised-panel doors and white plastic veneer that we weren’t crazy about — in the spring so our contractor could start demolition. They fetched the matching appliances several months later, once our new ones arrived. The old equipment worked well, just not with the cabinets we had picked for the renovation.

Even the most random items — the bottom of a bathroom vanity and a 30-pound box of stone tile samples we were considering for our kitchen floor tiles and had picked up from a stone showroom — had takers. People came in cars, with pushcarts and on foot.

Peter Yao, a medical student, showed up with a hotel luggage cart. He was picking up matching bookshelves from the old bedroom that our sons had shared for his apartment in Hell’s Kitchen — 2.4 miles and a subway ride from our apartment. To get them home, he borrowed a luggage cart from his old Lenox Hill apartment building, wheeled it six blocks to our place, loaded the bookcases onto the cart, taped them together so they would stay put, and rolled them another five blocks to a friend’s apartment where Mr. Yao’s mother fetched them in her van a few days later. Mr. Yao said he likely would have passed on the endeavor had the cabinets cost anything.

“If they hadn’t been free, I definitely would have had second thoughts,” he said.

One of the great things about our new apartment was the number and quality of built-ins in many of the rooms. Turns out, we didn’t need one 16-by-8-foot cabinet-desk-bookshelf combination, so we posted it on Craigslist. Lee Glenney, a nursing student, had wanted some place to store the books and papers cluttering his Harlem apartment for a decade. He had been looking on Craigslist but said most offerings are damaged, or worse.

“I could tell from the pictures that it was of high quality. It was very clear that it wasn’t from Ikea,” Mr. Glenney said. “My wife was vehemently against anything that was from Ikea.”

Given that these cabinets were solid maple, nicely painted and well crafted — and given that Mr. Glenney grew up working on boats and docks with his father so knew his way around a jig saw — he figured he could trim the unit to fit his home office/cats’ playroom. So, last summer, my sons loaded his U-Haul with big chunks of cabinets, which Mr. Glenney reassembled and repainted.

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