This weekend is large item pickup here in Mayberry. It is a once-a-year event that rivals Christmas in its participation and scale. Homeowners can set nearly anything they want (as long as it is no bigger than a fridge) on the curb to be picked up by the trash company at no extra charge. It is the ideal time to clean out the basement and garage, and though some things are easy to load up and take to Habitat Restore or Savers it is much more fun to haul it to the curb.
Why? The customers.
Days ahead of the scheduled date, piles start appearing and then the cruising starts. By far the biggest drive-bys are the metal scrappers. Truck beds scraping the ground overflowing with washers and dryers, storm doors and grills. If it has metal in it they are scavenging it, and by Friday night some streets are bumper-to-bumper.
Next are the people looking to outfit their home or apartment with a halfway decent couch, a chair or two and maybe some bookshelves. They are not as hearty as the metal scrappers, just friendly thrifters looking to score some freebies.
Lastly, there are people like me and my vintage neighbors. No longer willing to put the hours or gas into it like the old days, we just hope to find something unusual and old as we take the long way to the grocery store.
A young intern at work asked me once about curb shopping when she overheard me telling someone what I found. It started years ago when I saw some old windows on the curb and couldn't believe they were getting thrown out. With my mortified teenage daughter sinking into her seat, I popped open the back of the van and put some in the back.
Was I embarrassed about being seen? Yes. Was I hooked? Like a senior at the slot machines.
Spring is the perfect time to curb shop and the thing I have found to be true nearly all of the time is this:
Nice neighborhoods with big houses don't have the best stuff.
Older homes are the goldmine of great finds. Cleaning out after a parent or grandparent has moved out, most people seem to want to just get rid of all that stuff. That's what happened when my neighbor popped open a box on the curb and found it full of glass dishes and quilts.
Here then are some of my favorite freebies....
I have been wanting to learn how to upholster and stopped to look at some chairs that were on the curb. I decided to take one of them with me and the homeowner came out to help me put it in the back of my car. "I have a dresser and mirror in the garage I'm getting ready to put out. Do you want to see it?"
Mother of all finds.
A friend saw this wicker piece on her neighbor's curb, pulled it into her driveway and called me, "Come right away. I have something for you." It was hideous but I didn't have the heart to say that and so we loaded it into my car where it sat for two years in my garage. One spring day I decided to tackle this ugly duckling. I ripped all the old fabric off and a thousand tacks. I stained it darker and Mark cut a piece of wood for the seat that I covered in foam and new fabric. It was a labor of not-yet-love-but-getting-there. When I was working on it I found a brass plate on the back that said Heywood-Wakefield. She's all kinds of cute now.
I loved this old little cabinet but it drove me crazy. It had some broken glass on the sides and old glass is ridiculously hard to break and get out. It took me forever and it was filthy dirty so I scrubbed and scrubbed until it was clean enough to spray paint. I filled in where the glass was with chicken wire. Now? Swoon...
This old wood trunk on casters was on my neighbor's curb. The house belonged to his parents and he seems to have no love for anything in it. When I went over to see this he said, "This old thing? Whaddya want this for?" For eternal happiness.
Last year the kids found a pile of old pickets on the curb and we have used every single one to replace the broken pickets on our fence. My neighbor once found an old metal sprinkling can that made me jelly. Years ago I found the sweetest little red wagon.
In a few days when things start piling up on the curbs I'll say what I've been saying for years now. "Not this time. I don't need a thing,"
Then I'll think of something random I need at the grocery store and slowly cruise the streets and terraces of my neighborhood looking, looking, looking.......
Looking for love in all the free places.