Lesson learned from the free zone

Sometimes there are reasons people are giving stuff away, like a cracked flower pot.  (Provided photo — Diane Chase)

My household furniture is a mishmash of hand-me-downs, tag sales, and the roadside free zone. I’ve been gifted some beautiful things from my mother and in-laws, but my children were well past babysitting age before they realized there were stores dedicated to new items. We’d been shopping for appliances, and they found the furniture display rooms. (We do purchase new appliances because I’ve never developed an interest in rebuilding a fridge or washer. Don’t bother cajoling me. It won’t happen.)

My children asked rounds of questions, circling back to the fact that some people come into a specific store and buy a chair that didn’t need glue, refinishing, or caning? Not everyone crammed free roadside furniture between car seats while on the way to a dance class or soccer game? Dressers didn’t come with swollen squeaky drawers?

It wasn’t that they cared about the origin of our belongings. It was because the concept of a grocery store for furniture was as foreign to them as, let’s say, plates without cracks.

I don’t expect everyone to have my passion for hand-me-downs. I’m not here to recruit or put down someone’s purchasing choices. There are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way when it comes to repurposing furnishings.

I feel sorry for the sad roadside object. I always think the stuff needs a good home and all it will take is a new coat of paint.

My previous mistakes have been not having a specific purpose for my roadside treasure. Now I specifically look to upgrade some of the things I’ve previously repurposed. It seems simplistic, but it’s easy to get caught up in the moment of another antique dresser.

Don’t take on someone else’s problems.

Most of the time, people try to downsize and want their belongings to go to a good home. There are also times when someone has given up on a project. I learned to be realistic and see if the time and investment are worth it or the furniture will sit in the shed until put back out on the road during the next town-wide garage sale.

I write this from a place of experience. When we moved, it was respectfully requested I not bring along my Frankenstein-like chair part collection. (Cue the lightning and maniacal laugh.) I had hoped to create something new from all the bits and pieces.

Check the furniture’s shelves and drawers. Don’t put anything into your car without checking the drawers. There could be a small mammal in there. I’ve never had a wild animal encounter, but I have a friend who won’t take another piece of free furniture because of a raccoon confrontation. You’re welcome for the imagery.

Those are just a few roadside lessons to share for today. Even though I may have neglected my children’s education by not introducing them to furniture stores, they know to rub a soap bar on a squeaky drawer and how to glue the joints. They know how to strip paint, sand, and repaint. They owned masks, of course, chemical grade, before face coverings were even popular. Enjoy your treasure hunts!


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