One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

Yup, that’s right, I did a little bit of “rescuing” some furniture from the trash this weekend. My husband and I were taking a walk Saturday night and I glanced down the alley as we passed and saw what looked like the leg of a coffee table sticking out of a pile of trash.

So of course — being the ADHD person that I am — I immediately detoured to take a closer look. After a quick lug to pull it out of the pile, I determined that the leg was indeed attached to a coffee table — and that the entire coffee table was intact and in great shape. (Except for a scratch across the top and a bunch of water ring stains left from glasses.)

I went back the next day during the daylight (this time in my son’s large truck) and lo and behold, it was still there. So I loaded it up and took it home. Here’s a very bad shot of part of it:

Finding something beautiful

The thing is, while the coffee table is not particularly my style, it IS a very nice piece of furniture. It appears to be solid wood, with dovetail joints, and I’d guess that it was probably made in the 60s. It’s going to be beautiful, with a little bit of elbow grease and a new finish.

I figure my son might want to use it when he eventually moves out, or I can always sell it when it’s done. Meanwhile, I’ve got the chance to take something could have ended up in the dump and give it a new life.

The benefits of repairing items

Many of us throw things away all the time that are perfectly good — or just a little bit messed up. I admit, I’ll sometimes put large items out into the alley myself that were still in great shape, but I set them to the side of the dumpster where they can be picked up easily by The Borrowers who regularly roam the alleys. (So the items never actually make it to the dump.)

There are many benefits to repairing items though: you save money and resources. It also just plain gives you a good feeling to know that you’ve repaired or improved something yourself. It’s easy to forget that we have the skills to make things better (or that we can usually find out how to do so with a bit of Googling.)

Of course, even if you don’t personally feel like fixing something that’s no longer in good shape — or if you’ve got something you’re itching to get rid of — remember that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. There’s probably someone out there who would love to have whatever you’re about to throw away. Craigslist, Goodwill, or even a sign with “Free” written on it are all great alternatives to the trash.


  • I’ve been doing a bit of this lately as well. Looking for furniture to fix up for my new house, going from decorating an apartment to a four bedroom place can be costly. Would love to start being able to sell some pieces though. Maybe in the near future.

    • Hopefully you can find some nice stuff :)

      The good thing about decorating though is that it actually tends to look best if it’s stretched out over a long period of time, so don’t feel like you have to get it all done at once!

  • Our handyman/neighbor/friend had put a small desk out in the alley for trash pick up a few months ago. But it was still in good condition, and so cute! I asked his wife about it, and she said she would have T repair the one drawer that was off and we could have it.

    He did, and I do, and it’s perfect for my home office set-up! Love finds like that! :)

  • This is so true. I rescued a couple of items like this in college and they suited me just fine. I didn’t much care what they looked like but they were in good shape.

  • My husband is actually convinced that our trash furniture should be someone else’s treasure- except that it’s in really, really bad shape. No one is going to take this old furniture home to fix it up as a project. I let him put it out on the side of the road with “free” signs a couple of times. Now, he needs to take it to the dump.

  • LOL! We did our fair share of this in college and it leads to saving some serious cash! My wife loved to refurbish thrown out furniture. It was fun for her and a little insurance for our budget.

  • I love these finds. My husband found a gorgeous dresser at one of his customer’s home – they were moving in and the previous owners had just tossed the dresser in there. He got it out and brought it home and it’s now in my bedroom. My son just moved out a couple of weeks ago and I gave him a dining room table which was a dumpster find, plus I re-covered three chairs to go with it. I don’t understand why people throw away good furniture. I guess they think the new stuff will be better. Not for long though. It’s so flimsy and doesn’t hold up at all. And expensive to boot!