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30 August 2014

What, if anything, of your household possessions came from the side of the road? [More:]I'm an inveterate scrounger and despite respectable gainful employment for many years, will not turn down a good side-of-the-road find. Currently in my house these are features found on the side of the road:

-Art Deco dresser, somewhat beat, that holds LT's clothes
-small sideboard/buffet type think that holds board games
-nice white shelving unit that sits in the kitchen and holds cookbooks and rarely used dishware
-Both of our nightstands (different ones)
-a 3-drawer rattan and wrought iron storage unit in the bathroom

What serendipitous finds do you hold onto?
A stainless steel 3-tiered steamer that someone had recently left out.

Leaving stuff at the kerb is not such a big thing here in the UK as it is in the States. For anything other than normal domestic household waste and recycling, usually you have to pay the council to take it away. If you leave it by the kerb, it would be considered 'fly tipping' and leave you liable to prosecution. The official definition of fly-tipping is "is the dumping of rubbish or unwanted items on land that is not licensed to accept it."

So if I have something that's not quite good enough for re-sale through a charity shop, I have to take it myself to the recycling centre. There they have vast skips (dumpsters) labelled for various types of things (wood, metal, plastic, etc) where you have to carry the stuff up the steps and throw it in. Anything that looks salvageable can be left to one side. I've never asked to take anything someone else has left away from a recycling centre, but I have a feeling that there might be a 'donation' to make to staff if you see something you want.

If it's a big item that I wouldn't be able to move myself such as a piece of furniture, I'd have to Freecycle it as 'collection only', or else I'd need to pay the council to take it away. Currently they charge between 28 (about $47) and 58 (about $95), depending on the items.
posted by Senyar 31 August | 04:10
I have a rattan settee that needed new cushions.

Everything else inside except for a set of faux wicker swivel chairs is "early american attic" hand-me-downs.

Except for my best most favorite find: a little red wagon that has some surface rust and one rust hole. I use it all the time outside. (The rust hole is a convenient drain.)

Yes, senyar, trash is an odd thing in USA: people are accustom to the past practice of dumping grounds (using abandoned property for trash) since in rural areas there was no collection place.
posted by mightshould 31 August | 05:15
Ugly couch someone left before my driveway after a horrible ice storm. Trucks stopping to ask if they could have it broke the ice enough so I could finally get in the driveway, coming back from out of town. When people came to help with the driveway, they helped me bring it inside. It's mainly for The Bees. I shamefully raised her with an unhealthy disrespect for ugly upholstered furniture. Her taste and mine differ so she will savage an heirloom quality fabric as readily (if not moreso) as some hideous burlappy thing that strangely has zippered covers over cushions of the same fabric.

I have no idea why or who kept leaving stuff there as it wasn't a corner, but it happened a lot and people would ask if they could have stuff to my standard reply to know nothing of it and care less. Since leaving, they have torn up a lane of the very busy road right in front, keeping it the noisiest, most congested point in a disastrously unplanned city, but a worse not previously possible. This has stemmed the blossoming of random crap on that spot, and also, no one can get into their driveways. The three or so rental properties there should really be knocked down, as they are barely more than shacks. Murder House on the corner is sturdy, its owner much less so.
posted by ethylene 31 August | 05:28
Nothing from the side of the road but I used to have quite a few hand-me-down bits of furniture from random people.

Nowadays I am too paranoid about bedbugs (I don't live terribly far from NYC) to consider taking anything from a stranger's house.
posted by amro 31 August | 06:31
My goodness, is this question ever right up my alley. I've brought home many a found item. I call it "shopping the curb". My father compares me to a dog that brings stuff home in its mouth.

Here's the list:

- A little upholstered rocker. This was my first find, back in 1994, and it came in handy for my first apartment post-college. The upholstery was very worn and ugly so I kept an afghan over it for years. My mother reupholstered it for me back in 2001 and I'll be doing it again in the very near future.
- A headboard. I upholstered it and put it in my guest room.
- A vanity table and chair that proved to be from 1915 - there were date stamps on the back of the mirrors. It was painted mustard yellow. I stripped and refinished it, replaced the mirrors with new ones, added new hardware, and upholstered the chair seat.
- A little telephone stand. I'd been planning on painting this and using it as a nightstand in one of the bedrooms in my house, but now that I'm working on the renovation I think it won't fit in the space, so I might just put it back out on the curb.
- An upholstered wooden chest. I reupholstered it and painted the legs.
- A chest of drawers. It got a paint job, a poster decoupaged on the front (a slice of poster to each drawer), and new hardware.

Then there's all the stuff in my house that came from thrift shops, or that was in the house when I bought it. I don't think I have more than a half dozen pieces of furniture in my house that I bought new. I usually fix things up until you wouldn't recognize them. People sometimes tell me if the original owners could see the pieces now, they'd kick themselves.
posted by Orange Swan 31 August | 07:30
Some pictures (haven't included the telephone stand or upholstered rocker as they aren't done yet):

The headboard before and after.
The vanity table and chair before and after.
The wooden chest before and after.
The chest of drawers before and after.
posted by Orange Swan 31 August | 08:04
Nothing from the side of the road, but a lot of Goodwill items, and almost all of my furniture is hand - me - down.
posted by JanetLand 31 August | 09:27
Very cool, Orange Swan.
posted by amro 31 August | 09:58
Wow, Orange Swan, that vanity table is gorgeous.
posted by Senyar 31 August | 10:11
Someone in my family once picked up two chairs, an ottoman, and a couch from the side of the road in Ft. Belvoir VA sometime in the 30s or 40s, allegedly. They've been recovered 5 times (I think) and are now in my possession. They're damn good furniture.
posted by sperose 31 August | 10:17
I inherited a bunch of antiques from family and I think that some of them were picked up off of the street but I'm not sure which ones.
posted by octothorpe 31 August | 11:44
Used to be almost everything we had was a hand-me-down or thrift store find -- our first couch from Jon's mother's school, our second couch from my mom; Jon's bed from his parents' house; bookshelves from Borders, to name a few -- but less and less now. Jon still has this Star Trek-looking desk chair from Goodwill he doesn't want to relinquish, despite offers to get him something more comfy; he says it has the perfect "ass-groove."

A nice new king-sized bed was my first big purchase a few years ago, then the new sofa and coffee table (I was 46 before I had my first new sofa -- and it reclines). There's not a lot I want after that, furniture-wise. Maybe a dresser for our clothes overflow and a nice area rug for the living room to cover the stains (one of the downsides of renting -- can't just replace it). And more bookcases -- we can always use them (I've gone digital, but Jon's still very much old-school; of course, he does work in a bookstore). I've thought about a kitchen set, but when we had one (a Goodwill find, I think), we never used it (we're couch/TV eaters). Plus, not much room for more furniture in this place. As it is, my treadmill's in the living room. I'm more a techie whore anyway -- I've got my eye on the new iPad air or SurfacePro (very impressive) and, when our current TV dies, an upgrade to the biggest new flat screen that won't blind us (I'm thinking 60").
posted by Pips 31 August | 12:42
We have two pet carriers found in alleys and a painting in our garage.
posted by arse_hat 31 August | 13:30
My nightstand; I can't remember where exactly I found it (somewhere in Astoria, I think). Put a new drawer pull on it, still love it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 31 August | 14:16
Nowadays I am too paranoid about bedbugs (I don't live terribly far from NYC) to consider taking anything from a stranger's house.

I have to admit that this has impacted my eagerness, too.

I've got lotsa stuff from thrift stores, flea markets, antiques stores and hand-me-downs as well. There's something really fun about side-of-the-road finds, though, because you don't go looking for them - they just happen to you.

My current city has an active bunch of 'scrappers'/pickers who cruise the neighborhoods in their pickups on trash night. I appreciate that they are keeping stuff out of the waste stream but at the same time, they grab all the good stuff before anyone else can get it. At this stage of life I'm no longer really looking to accumulate any new things, so I'm fine with it, but I feel a little sad for the 20somethings with first apartments that would otherwise be giving stuff a new home.
posted by Miko 31 August | 16:26
I got a DVD player/recorder from the roadside last year. It had a stuck tray and required a minor repair. As a bonus there was a Phish concert DVD in there. I've used it to transfer a bunch of old camcorder tapes to DVD.
posted by DarkForest 01 September | 07:21
Too many things to list.
posted by Obscure Reference 01 September | 08:16
Man, Orange Swan. Would you and your cat like a roommate?

Lately, I've been seeing couches everywhere, and mattresses, but no more non-upholstered furniture than before. The bedbugs have arrived in Pittsburgh.
posted by serena 01 September | 09:43
A banged-up leather ottoman and a small bookcase. I see lots of good things out on the street around here, but I don't have much space so I resist.
posted by tangerine 01 September | 21:20
My son's drum kit. It's about to go back on the side of the road again, as he now has an electronic kit, which is much kinder on everyone.
posted by dg 02 September | 15:19
Oh this is right up my ally, I'm sorry I didn't see it sooner, Miko. I am a fan of reuse/recycle. I have gotten several items that were unwanted through my boyfriend (he does handyman/landscaping work for some well-off people who change decor frequently). However, my very favorite dresser came to me when I was driving home late one night after leaving the bar. (I was a bad girl back then). I passed a tall dresser while on a one-way street in Red Bank, ended up going around the block and coming back. It has five drawers, but is made to look like six- the second and third are just a deep, divided drawer. It has dove tail joints. It's heavy. I giggled my way into loading it in the back of my pickup truck (I tend to be very giggly after a night at the bar), trying not to disturb the neighbors. I don't know how I got it in the truck - I needed help getting it out the next day! It's a cherished possession, just for that story alone.
posted by redvixen 07 September | 21:41
I love the story. I have had a few laughs at myself wrestling with large, awkward things alone as well.

posted by Miko 07 September | 21:54
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