Every Sunday night in the summer, my husband and I hook our little dog Neville onto his leash, grab a flashlight, and head outside to take a walk. We get giddy as we make our way down the street, swinging the flashlight from side to side, shining light on the bulky shapes lining the sidewalks. Sunday night is curbside shopping night in our town of Somerville, Massachusetts.
We never know what might come home with us. We’ve found a dining room set, complete with matching chairs. We’ve found not just one, but two couches. I remember sitting on one of them, hugging the cushions and giving the stinkeye to other collectors while my husband ran to get a Ziptruck. We’ve found beautiful bookshelves left behind by people who have upgraded, or moved on to new lives. Our house is almost completely furnished and decorated by things we’ve found curbside.
I can look at each item in my house, and remember the adventure that we had getting it home, or the fun that we had fixing it. Like the time my husband came home with a little tea hutch. We sanded it down and discovered that underneath a cracked and peeling mud-brown finish was a beautiful golden oak. The hutch now sits in our kitchen, holding our canisters of tea. Every time I walk past it, it makes me smile.
I am always surprised by the amazing things that people throw away. But I suppose that our cast-offs might be treasures for other people, too. I like to imagine that the things that we’ve chosen to give up have found homes as good as ours, and make someone just as happy as they made us.
Tips to start shopping curbside:
- Find out the garbage days for your area. We live in an area with a lot of renters, so there is always stuff being left out.
- Even better, if you live in a college town, find out the typical move out date. College kids leave behind gold mines of free stuff.
- Bring a flashlight. That chair you think is a nice green in the dark may turn out to be a (still awesome but not matching) chartreuse with light on it.
- Bring a buddy. You never know how heavy something may be and you’ll need help to carry things home. You may also need someone to guard an item.
- Make friends with Pinesol and Lysol (or a green alternative).
- Rehabbing furniture is not as hard as you’d think. A block of foam and a cute fabric can make the difference between trash and a kitschy treasure.
- Be careful of upholstered furniture. Bed bugs are on the rise.
- A coat of paint can completely change a piece of furniture. Don’t pass something up that has good bones because it’s not exactly right.
- If you can’t quite bring yourself to take something home off the street, start off by checking out some yard sales. You never know what someone will be selling for ten dollars.
Best of luck in your curbside shopping! If you’ve already been, what’s the best curbside or dumpster score you’ve ever found? We’d love to see them in the Offbeat Home Flickr pool.