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Clutter Monkeys Teaches Life Skills

Clutter Monkey

Tired of a cluttered garage, shed, barn, basement or storage unit? We have the solution. Student-operated business. All profits go directly to the Special Education Department at Monroe Central Junior-Senior High School.

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101 N. Main Street, Parker City, Indiana

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Clutter Monkeys teaches life skills

by: Jeff Ward, TheStarPress, Originally Published 11/28/2016

Some people are thinkers. And some people are doers. Kirby Tipple is a doer.

Monroe Central’s assistant principal is the creative force behind Clutter Monkeys, a venture that aims to give learning disabled students access to real-world job and social skills, and help for people who want to declutter their lives.

The idea for the project came in a dream, and a hastily arranged trip to Carmel.

Let’s back up a bit. Here’s how the program works. Anyone who has a garage full of “stuff” can contact Tipple and the Clutter Monkeys. They’ll come out, clean out and haul off your stuff, free of charge. Then, they’ll sort the items and sell what they can, maybe repair and sell some items, and recycle or donate the rest. If this sounds familiar, it is. Clutter Monkeys is loosely based off the DIY Network’s “Garage Gold”  program.

Tipple and his wife have a fondness for children with learning disabilities. They have five children, two sons with learning disabilities, ages 25 and 15. “We kinda have a heart for kids with special needs,” Tipple told me in his office at Monroe Central.

I really think it’s important that we provide those kids with an opportunity to get some skills so when they leave here, that makes them more marketable and helps them get an idea of what they can and can’t do.

As his oldest son was going through school, Tipple was cognizant some life skills were lacking. “I really wish that there were more opportunities to give him real world job skills,” he said. Some LD kids are on track to earn a diploma, but others will not. “I really think it’s important that we provide those kids with an opportunity to get some skills so when they leave here, that makes them more marketable and helps them get an idea of what they can and can’t do.”

Enter Clutter Monkeys, an idea that came to him,Tipple said, in a dream.

Last spring, with that idea and a newly-created Facebook page, came a call from a couple in Carmel who needed to move out of their home, fast, and they needed help getting a garage cleaned out. Tipple borrowed the school band’s trailer, a truck and took his oldest son and future son-in-law to Carmel to clean out the garage. Clutter Monkeys was in business.

The items were unloaded into a storage unit in Parker City owned by a school board member. That became the operation’s “storefront.” The first sale netted $500, with the money returned to the school’s LD program.

About a half dozen students are involved in the project, which helps teach them to handle money, and social skills such as interacting with the customer and haggling over prices. Tipple aims to have students research the market value of the clutter finds.

Word of Clutter Monkeys spread, and now the operation is in need of its own decluttering. It’s outgrown the storage unit space. This past summer and fall, “It kinda just exploded,” Tipple said. “Now we’ve got a storage unit that is packed to the ceiling.”

He hopes someone in the community can offer a storefront or a room, rent free, to allow the Clutter Monkeys to set up shop for the public. “It’s not about making a profit. It’s about providing these kids with an opportunity and doing a service to help people clean out their garages,” Tipple said.

Tipple wants to get more kids involved, and reduce his inventory with a sale in the spring. That might be challenging without space to display the items for sale and open to the public and the kids.

Tipple is still dreaming. He hopes Clutter Monkeys will grow and perhaps involve kids from other school districts, perhaps offering regular store hours.

Seems like a win-win solution. People have clutter, but often the task of getting rid of it is overwhelming. And people like deals so they can add to their clutter. And the kids get to learn job and social skills that will serve them well beyond their school years.

I  have no doubt Tipple, the doer, can do it.

Jeff Ward is a news columnist for The Star Press. Email him at [email protected] with tips, suggestions or story ideas. Follow him on Twitter: @JeffWardTSP.

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