Curb to curb

“Orbatarium” — one of my favorite garbage picks of all time

I used to be on the lookout for treasures on the curb. It was fun and full of surprises. One neighbor was an antique dealer with limited storage space, so we were often lucky. We’ve picked up stools, porcelain ewers, frames still in their wrapping, loaf pans and Bundt pans, wicker tables, tins of all kinds, and so much more.

These days, however, I’m much more motivated by putting things on the curb.

I’ve reached the age where getting rid of shit affords a nearly religious pleasure.

It’s not quite what the Swedes call “death cleaning,” though it’s hard to avoid the thought that our efforts will at some point make life simpler for the boys. It’s not quite Kondo-izing either since the house is pleasing and functional already and I don’t feel the kind of virtue that I associate with “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

There are other factors as well. My town switched up the garbage rules such that fewer and fewer items can be scouted in all their random and free glory. The antique dealer moved away. Also, I HAVE ENOUGH GOD-DAMNED FRAMES!

I cleaned out half of a cupboard this weekend. Now my two cuisnarts have room to breathe (Yes, I have one big one and one nut-chopper-sized one and I use both all the time).

Some items went straight to the curb. I’m happy to say, someone snagged the Zoodler (a counter-top device that turns zucchini into “noodles.”) Someone took the wooden bowl, even though it was cracked. A sizable collection of paper bags went first. Whoopee! With each disappearance, I feel a kick of joy.

Other items from the recently cleaned-out cupboard will get listed on Facebook — some on the Everything Free board, others on a sale board.

Note to self: remember the turkey frier.

First let me say, the frier was a garbage pick itself and hence part of the flow we label, curb to curb. If there’s a slight hesitation about giving something up, it can help to shrug and say those words out loud, “Curb to curb.” Clearly, price was not a big factor. I asked $15.

To my surprise, the thing generated a lot of interest. I fielded and juggled messages for days. After one no show, I was careful not to mark the frier sold prematurely. Some people saw that gap as opportunity. They got weirdly ruthless (“I CAN COME OVER THIS SECOND!”)

As badly as I wanted the process to be over, a sense of fairness came into play. I felt I needed to wait and see if the sale closed before offering it to someone else. This went on for days.

In short, it was a lot of work for fifteen bucks.

Maybe free is better?

One stand from Noreen, one from the curb

22 thoughts on “Curb to curb

  1. Jen NyBlom

    Omg, Dee!😂 This post was kinda funny…I come from a long line of “dumpster divers”, or curbs, or …
    One of my earliest memories is standing w my family on the edge of the dump ( I think we lived in Ipswich, MA at the time) a bulldozer growling in the distance, pushing more trash into the flames ( yes! Burning trash, ugh ( it WAS the ’60s)…my folks grabbing old kitchen chairs…
    The Victorian camel backed sofa I grew up w came from a roadside trash heap in Salem! ( I still have the sofa, it’s in the studio)
    Even not so long ago, a friend of mine & I used to drive around town, here, on “trash day”, when everyone put their unwanted at the curb, we loved to plunder & glean…then I got hooked on estate sales…🤦‍♀️
    These days, I think we need a dumpster ( or 2 or 5!) of our own…not Kondo, not Swedish Death Cleaning ( I read that book!) but maybe just a “tad” less clutter!?
    If we didn’t live on a short dead-end road, I’d put free stuff to the curb…..😆

    1. deemallon Post author

      What great memories. Very revealing of time and place, aren’t they? All our kitchen chairs are garbage picks. Once we painted them black, they looked like they belong together! I once went to the dumpsters at Radcliffe at the end of the semester. Kept meaning to go back. Mostly well-to-do students in a hurry to clear out of a dorm and get home makes for good finds!

  2. Nancy

    Dee~ I can so relate to this post!! There is such a Freedom in letting things go! I sold so much on FB back then, back at the old place. J. challenged me that no one would buy a muffin tin (a nothing special one). Someone did, $2 bucks. I was ruthless in getting rid of stuff. Then the move came…and even more went! I’m feeling the urge again! Funny that I dreamt of some of my old antiques last night, only to come here and read this! Ha I’ve only ‘missed’ one or two things, briefly. But, I tell my stuff that it is ‘just stuff’ and I’m fine. It is true what they say…you can’t take it with you! Have fun!

  3. Joanne in Maine

    I started road side picking in Germany. Once a month- Spiermuller (sp) Night. I was in charge of the lottery type table at the women’s club monthly meeting an a friend and i picked up “treasures” by flashlight at night, cleaned them up, waxed items, filled baskets with items- etc. and watched as women fought to get the winning tickets. Leslie and I sat back and enjoyed every moment. I still have my Teddy Bears in an adorable wooden wagon we found one night.

  4. Hazel

    Love your Orbatarium and enjoyed your joy! Hoping that once the guys have permanently moved out, I will have space for deep diving purging. Although, I don’t know if I’ll last that long… Told K that if something ever happens to me, to just light a match and walk away.

  5. Tina

    Our last move we put stuff out everyday .. every now and again I’d see someone stop and take whatever. That always seemed to make my day filling me with memories of pure joy when I’d find a treasure along the road. Before we moved a saw a lady at Salvation Army buying a glass ornament .. she looked so happy I asked if she collected them something I did for probably 40 years. I surprised myself and her by offering to pass on my collection if she would pick them up. I could tell she thought I was crazy and probably against her better judgment she came a few days later. To my delight she dropped off a beautiful Bouquet of flowers from her garden and sweet thank you. Being that she was a very young woman every Christmas I imagine her big tree filled with all those beautiful ornaments that would be living boxed in my basement. I love that I’ve given her a fun story to tell for many years.

    1. deemallon Post author

      Lovely story. Our version of that was a radio-controlled hand built airplane that K made in high school with a wing span of about five feet. It was in beautiful condition and it was gonna be heart breaking to just toss or giveaway. But guess what? A radio airplane enthusiast got ahold of us and took it. That was a good match!

  6. deb

    I used to post Curb Alerts on Craigslist. Then I realized that professional pickers had routes and schedules. All I have to do is haul it up to the street before noon. Poof! Stuff gone.

  7. Liz A

    I vaguely recall a “leave it in the dorm hallway and we’ll take it to Goodwill” kind of service at my last job … not the university, but a student service organization I think … so much better than filling dumpsters with stuff that others could actually use

    back in the day, my kids loved going to the town dump with my mom to find toys, books, and games left in a designated “reuse” area … I’m pretty sure some of the gifts we got over the years were likewise sourced … and yes, I too have childhood memories of taking trash to the dump as seagulls screeched overhead and the fires burned …

    these days, neighbors routinely post “on the curb, first come first served” notices in the local Facebook notices and recycle bins are full to overflowing with Amazon boxes …

    it’s all good … the taking and the leaving … but lordy, there is so much of it all

    1. deemallon Post author

      One of the best Dump Stores I ever went to was in Martha’s Vineyard. Silk shirts for everyone! But I do hear your point, which can’t be said often enough, we need to do more than recycle and reuse. We need to buy less. Consume less. (She said, with her recycle bin full of Amazon boxes…)

  8. Jen

    I’m in the very early stages of clearing out my mom & dad’s 3-story, 11 room house. I began with the quilt room thinking I could get fabric, books, sewing machines, patterns, batting out of there and on to other quilters or Project Linus. What a rabbit hole. I have sold 4 machines and a lot of fabric, but it doesn’t appear to have made a dent.

    There are so many quilts in various stages of completion that I just don’t know what to do with it all. I understand that some quilters hate cutting. I’ve got you covered. Some hate sewing the blocks together. Got you covered too. Some hate batting and backing. Gotcha covered. Hopefully someone likes quilting and binding as there are a few that are oh so close to being finished. I won’t go into the finished beauties that need to be distributed to grand children. I’d just ask that, as Dee mentions, be mindful of your children, or whoever, who will have to deal with it. It sounds fine to just walk away, but someone has to clean up your life. Light a match and walk away is productive (I’ve been through a house fire – it works wonders) but again, let’s just think about projects that are left unfinished and maybe complete one before starting another. Or if you’ve lost interest, pass it on or bin it so no one thinks it’s some precious piece that must be kept. It is sad to toss half an afghan and leftover yarn but it benefits no one in that state.

    I’m not a quilter and it breaks my heart to know that the fine fabrics mom & dad so carefully selected and curated are quilts that won’t come to fruition. I AM going to finish up a small postage stamp top for a wall hanging, so maybe I’ll become a bit of a quilter, against my better judgement. (I already have a paper addiction.) Sorry for the long comment and bit of a rant but I think it helps to see “the stuff” through the eyes of the cleaner-upper. It’s a ton of time-consuming work. That’s just the first room. Wish me luck!

    1. deemallon Post author

      Thanks for taking the time to share your struggle, Jen. My kids would have four machines to sell, tons of fabric, and, like with your parents, many quilts in various stages of finish. I hope the process gets easier for you but I suspect it might not until it’s done. Good luck!

  9. Joanne in Maine

    I remember an ASK years ago for fabric and sewing machines for recent arrivals (African immigrants to this very white state of Maine) The women knew how to sew but had no fabric or machines. So our Quilt chapter set them up……..Giving never felt so good.


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