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
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
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?