5 trash-to-treasure stories
Sometimes, unwanted or forgotten objects turn out to be well worth saving. And all that rescuing and recycling means less in landfills.
You’ve probably heard stories about folks who found hidden treasures in their attics or while visiting a local garage sale, but can you really stumble on something special in someone’s else trash? To find out, MainStreet asked some people to share their stories of the best “junk” they ever found. Read on to find out what you could potentially score curbside.
1. House of treasures
An avid trash picker who specializes in refurbishing furniture, Jonathan Steele has filled his Pennsylvania home with all sorts of secondhand treasures.
“A 15-lite door going to my drawing room was in the trash,” he tells MainStreet. “Go into the bathroom and you will find an oak commode made into a sink cabinet base. It was actually in an old trailer in an auto junkyard. The owner said I could have it.”
2. Globe picker
Deb Haupt started Dumpster diving at a very young age when life in a six-story apartment building gave her a good idea of what people were willing to just throw away. As she got older, she cast a wider net, traveling to different cities in Europe to attend “curbside sales.”
“I was enthralled when I found out people would put things out on the curb once a year and it was all free,” she tells MainStreet. A bar is one of her favorite finds from these European excursions; Haupt has also netted an old radio from the 1920s and an antique mirror overseas.
The owner of a vintage clothing and antique shop in Minnesota, Haupt has also gone curbside shopping in the suburbs near her hometown. One of her better finds stateside includes a 1920s upright piano that sold for $250.
“I have picked up old fencing, windows and screens and created amazing tables, chandeliers and pot racks,” Haupt says. “Nothing makes me happier than keeping things out of the landfill.”
3. The accidental collector
JaLeen Deardurff was helping a relative move when her grandmother realized that they should check the house’s crawl space before leaving the premises. Deardurff’s husband bravely ventured below and discovered the remnants of a dismantled antique plow. Intrigued, they carted the pieces to their own nearby home.
“After studying all the pieces for an hour or so, my husband figured it out and put it together, and it now is part of my yardscape,” Deardurff says.
4. Alley art
Denver resident and avid bargain hunter Jim Hurrell was searching through alleyways in his native Denver when he stumbled on an old 5-foot door that he says “was just waiting to be picked.”
More decorative than functional, the door is now on display in Hurrell’s boutique in Denver’s Mile High Marketplace (formerly the Mile High Flea Market), but it’s not exactly for sale.
“It’s such a find that we really don’t want to sell it,” he admits. He has been willing to part with some of his other secondhand steals, though, including “four very unappealing” 1970s-era high-back chairs that he refurbished with a few coats of glossy black paint and an old grandfather clock that was reconditioned with Murphy’s Oil Soap.
5. Down in the dumps
New York resident Robin Wallace has made many great garbage-bin finds over the years, including a 1950s teal brocade swivel armchair and a vintage folk jelly cabinet/bookshelf, but her favorite is a china cabinet she discovered on a curb in Salisbury, Md.
“I was looking for a piece to complete my dining room at that time,” she recalls. “In my mind’s eye, I had a vision for a long but only chair-high cupboard for ‘fancy’ storage. This piece literally was the perfect match for everything I had imagined. Now, it stores my table linens in the drawer, my extra bed linens on the top shelf and my son’s DVDs on the lower shelf.”
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