One of the things I love about my job is decorating. It can be fun and challenging to walk into a home and visualize it in a completely different way. It’s amazing seeing how adding a simple thing such as fabric can entirely change a room. And the other great thing about my job is that in the seventeen years I’ve been in business, I’ve amassed a good deal of decor that can be used over and over for a limitless number of themes.

For example, I have these hand-painted cardboard cutouts of trees and clouds. They can be used to create a backdrop for almost any theme: a fairy party, a garden party, superheroes, princesses, knights, doggies, carnivals -- you name it! It’s pieces like these that I adore the most, because they’re so versatile and get used again and again. Star showers (mylar stars attached to plastic fronds that fan out like fireworks), three-dimensional paper streamers, generic fabric birthday banners, and paper lanterns also fit into this category of reusable decor. As a party planner, this sort of thing is invaluable; I’ve built a resource for reusable decor that allows me to provide a wide array of pieces for my clients at an incredibly low rate. This got me thinking... What if there was a “decorating library” in your neighborhood?

Don’t get me wrong; I realize that what I’m about to suggest would be a big undertaking for some poor mom, but I think about how much people spend at the party store on decorations that they just end up throwing away. There must be a way to stop the overspending and trips to the landfill. So what if each neighborhood had a “decor depot,” so to speak?

I’ve heard about this sort of thing in parenting magazines with “toy libraries” that caretakers set up in their garages. Basically, they send out notices to their neighbors asking for donations of good, solid, slightly-used toys that have been abandoned due to age or passing fancy. The toys are cleaned, catalogued, and then displayed for the rest of the neighborhood to borrow on a weekly basis. The toys can range from dollhouses and Barbies to video games and air hockey tables. What the neighbors discovered was that the kids enjoyed the toy exchange program, and looked forward to the Saturday visits to their neighbor’s garage. If I remember correctly, they set it up so that every Saturday morning, from like 10 to noon, the “library” would open. Kids could borrow one toy per week, and must return the toy they’d borrowed the week before in order to get their new toy. Each toy had been catalogued and marked ahead of time, and a notebook was used to keep track of the various items and their borrowers.

As to be expected, there was some breakage, and some tardy returns on toys, but more toys would come in to take the place of the missing toys, and so the inventory always stayed full and fresh. What the article said was that the kids enjoyed the opportunity to play with new toys, but by the end of the week they were happy to give them back in exchange for something new. This worked particularly well for those “of the moment” toys -- the ones that come and go, and are hot for a moment but lose their luster after a few hours of play. The library also became a great outlet for the unused toys that tend to clutter up the playroom!

This got me thinking: if it could work for toys, maybe it could work for decor. What if all of the neighbors brought their reusable decor and party supplies to one location, pooled their resources, and offered a lending library for party supplies? There have got to be hundreds of birthday banners, streamers, and centerpieces stuffed into corners of garages and attics that could live a fun, full life with other children. It would take organization, space, and someone who would be willing to run it, but I bet it could save people a lot of money in the long run, and it could also become a fun bonding experience for the folks that run it and use it.

It’s just a thought for now. But our world is so filled with amazing things that only get used once -- wouldn’t it be great if we could share them?