Home Tomagrams Please Don’t Take My Free Sign

Please Don’t Take My Free Sign


Fashioned from a paint sample drywall scrap, one of my best free signs was also one of my most quickly pinched.

Vashon Islanders have many quirks. (Just ask someone from Seattle.) As a community of free spirits, our behavior and island traditions often beg for scrutiny from those unfamiliar with our island ways. Case in point: free-cycling and the end-of-the-driveway giveaway pile.

Whenever we have something bordering on not worthy enough to donate to charity, but good enough to reuse or recycle, folks here tend to leave such treasures at the end of their lanes with a homemade sign stating “free” (just to establish that a taker is not a stealer).

Does it work? Heck, yes, in fact let me list some of my remains of the day that disappeared from the driveway before nightfall: hot pink hot tub, gutters, bent lawn chairs, twisted chicken wire, and a hardened bag of cement. (Go figure.)

Now to the point of my ramble, a couple tips:

  • Takers: The free sign is not part of the deal; free designates the surrounding items, not the board with which the offer is posted.
  • Givers: Don’t make the free sign more appealing than the stuff you’re offering.

Boz the bulldog supervises the barn clean-out, barking at the things that need to go, things worthy of a place next to the free sign.


  1. They took your sign??? I suppose it was more fetching than the seized up bag of cement, but really. Here in upstate NY, they just plop a pile o’ stuff at the end of the drive and leave it there – rain or shine.

  2. My daughter lives in a beautiful suburb of DesMoines and once a year they have a day (forget what it’s called) where everyone can put WHATEVER beside the curb for free pick-up at the end of the day (not usually free). During said day, anyone and everyone are invited to drive by and pick up whatever suits your fancy. I was there last year on this day. It was like shopping curbside. Some of the neatest finds – although, of course, my daughter was in the process of cleaning out and didn’t want anything…and I couldn’t fly back with it. Rather a neat idea to be sure. I like your FREE sign…obviously someone else did too!

  3. Tom..they took your free sign??? I am howling here! That is too funny, well, honestly… the hardened bag of cement…really?? Given my very over active imagination, plus the fact that I do revel in true/crime/murder mysteries…I gotta wonder?? Yikes…but then again, if Vashon Island is home to your gentle soul, I would have to say no worries. Once again you have put a smile on my face and given me a hearty chuckle! 🙂 Bless your heart!

  4. I heard a story once about a season ticket holder for the New Orleans Saints who, during a particularly bad season, left his remaining season tickets on the dashboard of his car with the window rolled down at a busy mall parking lot just hoping someone would take them. When he got back to his car someone had left additional tickets with his. Some days you just can’t win. Perhaps you have stumbled across a new business opportunity making custom “free” signs?

  5. I’m the last house on a dead end lane so “Free” signs don’t work here like they do on your road. Dang, I was the last to see your sign-I even propped it up after I took your fencing-never dawned on me to steal it. I like green and purple-your next free sign should be green and purple…

  6. The irony will be driving past someone else’s house and seeing your “free” sign advertising their goods. Guess it just a sign of the times…… argggg

  7. Wow! Too much!! It is a nice sign I like how you print but you forgot to put in smaller letters ( not the sign!) Have you ever done any commercial drawing? That’s what happened your sign had too
    much personality! lol 😉

  8. That reminds me of a Craigslist ad (I think?) that I read about a year ago. It seems a guy had a bunch of giveaway stuff in a little utility trailer hitched to his lawn tractor with a “FREE” sign on it. Apparently the scavenger misinterpreted the sign (really?!), thinking the entire set up was free, and took the tractor too. I thought later that this might have been one of those urban myths but it’s a funny story nonetheless.

  9. Hmmm…seems that next time, you may need to add some explicit fine print. “Free*” … “*just not the sign”. It works around here too…I’ve seen neighbors unload the contents of their attics and garages that way. I have an 80lb bag of rock solid cement that I found during our workshop ‘cleansing’ last week…it’s free to a good home, maybe I should give the free sign a whirl…I’ll just staple the sign down first 😉

  10. Maybe they just needed a small scrap of drywall to patch a hole and the “free” paint job was just a bonus. I had someone take a couple of hardened cement sacks from me to make a small bulkhead in their garden, once.

  11. Ha ha ha! Good advice about the free sign! The cement is mysterious though I’m more alarmed with the concept that you could give a hot pink hot tub away so easily.

  12. Your free sign was a beauty, and I hope it’s put to good use by the taker.
    I suggest the next free sign be duct-tape wrapped cardboard and include the word “stuff”. Once you’ve used it sucessfully bring it to the thrift store for resale.

  13. Janet, based on zest for life, I do believe you could be sisters. And if shipping to New Zealand or Lebanon wasn’t so pricey, I would have happily sent it your way or Joumana’s. 😉

  14. Oh no, not the bent lawn chairs! Stumbled on your lawn chair story the week you posted it & have enjoyed your site since that day. Thank you Tom!


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