Sunday, August 08, 2010

Shopping on the Curb

By Katy Dotson
Turn your neighbor's trash into a treasure. Katy Dotson shops the curb with her husband in North Louisiana.

Few thrills top the feeling of eyeing a cute little table in your home and knowing it only cost you the price of a can of spray paint. Add to that the righteous feeling of keeping one more piece of trash out of a landfill, and you've got the
triumph of a curbside find. It may sound, well, trashy, but nothing is more economical or environmentally friendly than taking a pre-trash-day drive through your neighborhood.

My first curbside find remains my favorite. On the way to the grocery store, I spied a rusty, gold, three-shelf baker's wrack sitting on the curb. I drove past it, but turned around a few minutes later and mustered up the courage to put it into my trunk. It didn't fit. A bit disappointed, I carried it back to the curb. When I turned to get into my car, an elderly man hurried out of the house.

"It doesn't fit in my trunk," I explained. He said that he was eager to see it leave the curb and offered to help. Together we managed to angle it into the back of my car. One can of primer and a can of copper-colored spray paint later, my patio was graced by what looked like a brand-new plant stand. My mom, an expert at trash-pile treasures who claims to be "green" before "green" was cool, was clearly impressed by my find, and I was on my way to discovering a new, affordable world of home decor. And, I'd met a new neighbor.

Shopping the curb can be daunting, but the following guidelines will help you turn one neighbor's trash into your very own treasure.

1. Use your imagination. An old carport column may look dirty or useless, but with a quick hose-down, it could be your next outdoor lantern post. Brainstorm possible alternate uses for the item, and remember that a coat of spray paint can work
wonders.

2. Set your standards. Upholstered fabrics can be difficult to clean and often contain mystery stains and smells. Because of this, I prefer not to pick up anything with fabric on it. Decide which standards you are comfortable with and stick to
them.

3. Stay home after a rain. Unless you know the water damage is repairable, picking up items after a rain is chancy (and can track muddy water into your car!).

4. Don't keep it if you don't want it. This is important to remember in order to avoid filling your garage with the town's garbage. If you're not going to clean it, paint it, move it or use it, then toss it. Picking up trash is only shabby chic if
you turn it into something cute or practical for your home. Otherwise, it's just shabby. Set a deadline, and if it's still sitting in your garage on that day, put it back where it came from, which is the curb.

5. Don't be afraid to brag. In these frugal times, not only is thriftiness a virtue, but it's also trendy. Feel free to tell guests that footstool is a re-purposed wooden crate from the curb. Who knows? Your success may encourage them to try their
hand at a curbside craft. And just think, we're helping the
environment, too, one rusty plant stand at a time.
_________________

Note from Lucy: I have found some really good treasure on the curb... My sister is an expert at it and somehow makes her treasures look brand new... What kinds of things have you found on the curb?

9 Comments:

At 6:00 AM, Blogger Granny Annie said...

My spouse is the King of Curb shopping. I had never heard of such a thing until I met Ron. He has an excellent eye for the potential of returning something old into something perfect for our home. He can judge the repair-ability of the item at curbside and either load it up or pass it by.

 
At 11:46 AM, Blogger Renie Burghardt said...

We don't have curbs in the boonies, but sounds like fun, not to mention that it's free! I have a ton of stuff I would love to get rid off by putting out on the curb. I'm trying to down size. And I'm all for frugal living.

Have a great week, Lucy.

 
At 8:23 PM, Blogger Jahn said...

I still have a little table I found on the curb over 25 years ago.

 
At 11:32 AM, Blogger LZ Blogger said...

I often see things at the curb and think to myself... "Someone might really enjoy having that!" Next time I pass by it is usually gone and they haven't picked up the trash yet... so I guess I was right? ~ jb///

 
At 4:01 PM, Blogger Oh great One said...

We got an office chair. Perfectly good condition they just didn't have room in their moving truck. :D

 
At 8:24 AM, Blogger Putz said...

i gor a perfetly good sterio from a curb tht i play outdoors >>>cd,s of willie nellson when i garswb>>>that is garen or weed or water or trin or mow etc

 
At 3:48 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Me too, Lucy! Before I met and married Mrs. Jim I was really hurting for furniture.
I found this couch on the side of Red Bluff Genoa Road and took it home. All it needed was an empty paint bucket to hold one corner up.
..

 
At 4:58 PM, Blogger Mountain Mama said...

Thanks for the interesting tips! We learn so much from your blog!

 
At 10:46 PM, Blogger Sofia said...

Now those are great ideas! I'll be able to save a lot of money for making a change in furniture here in the house. I've already gotten a payday loan. Utah has a money lending firm that gives fast cash advances, payday loans, and some other loans. I'd rather go there since it's faster and it's much less of a hassle than the others. Anyway, now that I've read these tips of yours, I'll be able to save a lot more money, or maybe use it for the other important stuff. Thanks for sharing these!

 

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