The first step is admitting you have a problem.

cart before

I admit it. I like to find things in other people’s trash.  Not deep in the trash under banana peels or dirty diapers or anything, mind you (I am still a germaphobe), but trash that’s visible from my car as I drive by.

I like to think of it as high-end dumpster diving. Or re-purposing of perfectly salvageable items on their way to the dump via the neighborhood trash truck. Items for which it causes me physical pain to think about them being hoisted up and over the back of the garbage truck cab and tossed into that teetering back heap in pieces.

These dumpster dive treasures call my name and wave me down as I drive by, shouting out to me “Hey, hey you…  Here I am… Yes, me! Isn’t this a shame?  You can’t let this happen, can you?”  They wait for me to slowly turn my car around to take a closer look and that’s when if they had a tail it would certainly start wagging … and in the car they go.

This is why my kids and MacGyver don’t even flinch when once every few months they see a new piece of very questionable looking furniture in the garage.  They know the drill.

Maybe I’m a hoarder, It may be genetic.  But I like to think of it as being a rescuer.

So, when I was driving through my neighborhood a couple of weeks ago and saw this old tea cart out on the curb by someone’s trash cans, I had to stop and perform a rescue mission. Yes, I was already cutting it close for my appointment, but I could hear the roar of the trash truck getting closer and her demise was imminent.

She had badly chipped veneer (under a perfectly quaint and in-tact wood framed glass tray) and she was missing wheels (which the owner was kind enough to set out for the likely rescuer) and she was was scratched, crooked and unsteady as hell.  In the back of my 4Runner she went.   

cart wheel

MacGyver grinned and shook his head as I later pleaded this poor little tea cart’s case and asked for his help in attaching the wheels and leveling her out.  ‘She can make it,’ I explained.

And so it was.  Here are the steps of this ‘little cart-that-could’s rebirth:

1. MacGyver reattached the little wheels under the cart. cart level

2. She was still unsteady due to the odd wheel configuration, so MacGyver worked to level her by adding spacers above her smaller wheels.  I was the assisting nurse, keeping watch on her vitals by watching for the little bubble in the little window of the metal level.

3. Then came the spray paint.  Oh, the glorious spray paint.  I can change the world with a few cans of spray paint.

cart paint

4. I taped and sanded her tray and on the front lawn where I still had good sunlight (my neighbors think I’m nuts) I gave it a few shots of a brilliant, deep red to test out the color.  She started to smile instantly.

5. Then the next day after the glue dried on the little wheels, this little cart got a thorough sanding and a coat of all-over red, except for her big, center wheels which I spray painted black as if they were the black patent shoes she needed for her new, red dress.cart red

6. Her makeover was complete.  She turned out so beautiful in the end that we decided to let her live with us on a permanent basis.  She has found a home in my dining room.

Despite her questionable background,  this little tea cart has made a lovely addition to our family and she seems to be working through her abandonment issues.

It turns out that you just never know what you might find on someone else’s curb on trash day.  And what it could become.  And that, my friends, is the fun of it.

Have you ever dumpster-dived?

26 thoughts on “The first step is admitting you have a problem.

  1. It amazes me how easily you can pile up some old junk stuff to these unique furniture! How wicked is that! I only wish that I would find an inspiration to start with only a piece of paper and spraycan,wow! :) So you guys dig your neighbours dumpsters,ha?:D Any tips where could I find “shit like old piece of becoming art” ? :)

  2. of course I have dumpster dived…..it’s the best place to find treasure. My kids will come along on the adventure, too. You have knack for making a find into a treasure. Nice work.

  3. I had no idea you were such a visionary when it comes to salvage. Your table looks great. I have never been a dumpster diver, but there have been plenty of times when I’ve noticed items left on the street. The only thing I was ever compelled to take was an excellent reference book called “Blacks in American Film and Television”. It’s been sitting on my book shelf for a few decades now. But a few years back, New York was walloped with an epidemic of bed bugs. That instantly killed any urge I ever had to dumpster dive.

  4. If I had a pickup, I would stop and pick up people’s trash all the time! And make it new again!! So, you’re not alone. :) It looks cute! I think I would use it as a little bar, and have liquor on the bottom, and glasses and an ice bucket on top.

  5. You and my wife must have come from the same ova and been seperated at birth. She’s forever dragging stuff that “we” can fix (translated into Russell can fix). You two could form your own Search & Repair squad.

  6. She looks very elegant! Love that you she saw her potential. My husband does that too. Whenever we take a walk on trash day, I know we’ll be out a long time! And he might come back with his car!

  7. She’s a beauty. I love your rescue story. Maybe her name is Scarlett O’Hara since she clearly believed that tomorrow was another day.

  8. She is a mastepiece. I can picture a smile on her like in the old cartoons. And, don’t you know how proud she is to have the honor of taking care of your coffee cups.

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