You think you have too much stuff?!

U of M Surplus
If you like Ax-Man surplus stores, you’ll love this place. Photo by Linda Koutsky

With all the fuss about the Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” I took a critical look around my home office-slash-studio.

The perimeter is lined with storage options. In one corner is a 100-year-old iron pipe printers cart where I keep old Weekend Tourist columns and a box of fabrics. Behind my desk is a Golden Acrylics paint store fixture from a long gone art supply store.

Next to me is a steel cart I got at the Macy’s going-out-of-business sale. It holds my printer, computer supplies and a Western Newspaper Union steel drawer full of more computer supplies.

I’ve got a couple bookshelves, a file drawer and an antique book press. Across the doorway is a counter I had made from floorboards from the apartment where Bob Dylan recorded one of his first reel-to-reel tapes. (For more on that, Google “Something’s missing in Dinkytown.”)

Under that is an old library index card case and a pullout audiovisual cart with an assortment of old wood storage boxes, a wire-o binding machine and a large paper cutter I got from the University of Minnesota’s surplus store.

There’s actually more floor space than furniture, and that must be good, right?

I like the stuff around me. It might sound like a used store fixtures showroom, but everything is organized and has a place.

There are a lot of memories there, interesting collections — and joy. So I decided it was just fine and I don’t need Marie’s help after all.

With that solved, I decided to celebrate and headed to what must be the largest permanent store for an ongoing assortment of items no longer needed: the University of Minnesota ReUse Program Warehouse.

U of M Surplus

Located in an industrial area off Como Avenue and Highway 280, this Home Depot-sized building contains floor-to ceiling shelves of office chairs, desks, overhead projectors, text books, test tubes, gurneys, bikes, picture frames, magazine racks or anything no longer needed at any one of the university’s buildings throughout the state.

They go beyond the “reduce, reuse, and recycle” mantra, adding “redistribute” and “relieve.” Your purchases help relieve the university of extraneous goods and redistribute them right into your very own home. Nice for both of us!

Over the years, I’ve “helped” them by removing the aforementioned paper cutter and AV cart. I’ve also redistributed numerous worn books, 1950s paperboard boxes, vintage 3M tape dispensers, chrome sign holders, wood frames from the former Bell Museum, stadium seat cushions and the occasional T-shirt.

Need a 3-ring binder? Get one here for free! From current conference binders to vintage black binders from the 1940s, they have a huge assortment.

Part of one of the back aisles is a free zone. File folders, labels, desk organizers, window envelopes and other small office items are free. But you have to bring them to the checkout counter to be weighed.

My latest treasures are a beautiful set of geologic survey maps from the early 1900s that were removed from Pillsbury Hall. There are plenty more there for you.

But like most thrift shops, the merchandise changes regularly and what you see one day won’t be there the next. Plus, this store is open to the public only two days a week. The other days are reserved for university shoppers.

So instead of following Marie’s advice, I’m going to practice designer Nate Berkus’s philosophy: “I believe in collecting things that you connect with. We should surround ourselves with things we care about, that have meaning.”

University of Minnesota ReUse Program Warehouse

883 29th Ave. SE

Open to the public 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Thursdays and noon–4 p.m. Saturdays. Follow them on Facebook for updates on incoming items


The Blue Door Pub’s gone one step further than a Juicy Lucy and offers the Blucy: two ground Angus patties surrounding a bleu cheese and garlic center. “Often imitated, never duplicated.” (1514 Como Ave. SE)

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