Faded Bluebird
curbside shopping

Curbside Shopping – 411 For Beginners

January 19, 2017 5 Comments

Curbside shopping is a decorating frugalista’s best friend.  Because nothing beats free furniture & decor! But as with anything worthwhile there’s a skill to it to avoid disasters.  But fear not!  I’m here to give you the 411 on Curbside Shopping!

Curbside Shopping Tips

curbside shopping

First, let’s talk about the stigma of trash picking. There are people out there who find trash picking a weird and disgusting hobby.  My opinion of that is, “AWESOME!  More for me!!”. I don’t concern myself about what others think about my hysterical giggling while I’m loading a FREE French Provincial dresser. Nor am I embarrassed. Why should I be? The homeowner put it out there to be picked up, I’m just performing a public service for the benefit of mankind.  I’m kind of a super hero really.  So shake off your concerns and doubts and join me in saving the world.

Avoid Disasters

My first tip is SAFETY FIRST!!  Avoid the impulse to slam your brakes!  It’s really hard on your vehicle, plus it annoys both your 91 year old grandmother who just happens to be in the car and the people driving behind you. Besides, we want to look casual and cool while we’re digging through someone’s trash.  But, there are other disasters lurking around every curbside pile that you need to be aware of.  Here’s my list of items to avoid;

  • Check for water damage on furniture.  Unless you have the skills or are willing to learn how to repair water damage, you’re looking for mold, mildew, swelling and bubbling.
  • Chipwood & Particle Board. I’m not a fan and choose to leave these uber heavy pieces behind. I want the real deal!
  • Upholstered pieces.  I’m talking about entirely upholstered pieces like mattresses, sofas and lounge chairs. Think bed bugs, lice, mold, mildew, pet odors and hair.  Again, if you have the skills and can reupholster immediately, then I leave the judgement up to you.  But, look these over carefully….. you really don’t need 10,000 more mouths to feed! And mattresses?  Always leave them on the curb.
  • Be especially careful digging through someone’s Mount Everest of Trash.  If you are alone, reconsider trying to remove something from the bottom of a large pile.  Because, that’s a 911 call you don’t ever want to make and explain.

Curbside Gold

Now for the fun stuff!  These are the things I always pick up if they’re in good condition or repairable.  But I still might take them if they have something I want to salvage such as pulls, legs or wooden detail. Keep an open mind while you’re curbside shopping.  Things don’t have to be used for their original purpose, chairs can be bedside tables, old mirrors can become chalkboards or leaky watering cans can become vases with the addition of a glass insert.

Be On The Lookout

These are the items I’m looking for and usually pick up!

  • Small Wooden Furniture – benches, footstools, small tables, book cases, dressers & night stands.  These can be used for what they are or turned into so many other things!  I used a footstool as the base for a Grandfather clock project that you can see on my Projects Page.
  • Books – I’m a reader what can I say?  I hate finding books in the trash.  If I don’t want them myself, I donate them to my local library for their annual book sale fundraiser.  And I use books to decorate.
  • Doors & Windows – Great decor opportunities there!  I have managed to gather enough windows for my garden shed makeover!
  • Scrap Wood & Trim – I can never find enough for my projects!  I haven’t had to buy wood or trim for a long time now!
  • Big Frames – Get them all!  Ok, the ones that appeal to you. So many uses!
  • Tools – I’ve seen it all! Hammers, screwdrivers, grips, and drills, palm sanders……
  • Lamps & Light Fixtures – A 10 minute YouTube video and you too can learn how easy it is to rewire a lamp.
  • Home Decor – vases, candlesticks and knick knacks.
  • Garden Decor – pots, statues, bird baths, furniture and even fountains!
  • Dining Chairs – I love the mismatched look and I find more dining room chairs which often leads me to switch them out!
  • Paint & Paint Supplies– I’m always in the need of brushes, rollers, pans and paint. Crack open the can and make sure that’s it’s not dried out.

    Tools Of The Trade

If you are a spontaneous and occasional curbside shopper then you’re good to go as you are.  If you want to be a serious player then you need some tools of the trade.  You want to keep these in your car; a multi use screwdriver, a small pair of vise grips, a flashlight, packing blankets, some rope or bungee cords and maybe some boxes or tubs.  You never know what you’ll find curbside shopping and in order to get your major score in your vehicle, sometimes you have to disassemble.  And I can’t tell you how often I’ve found china, so I keep a small box of newspaper handy.

Picking With Style

My final tip is this.  Be respectful.  You are essentially picking through someone’s life, and on their curb no less.  Leave the pile as you found it.  Or, if it was a huge mess, maybe leave it a little better than you found it. Don’t scatter things all over their yard. And if the homeowner is outside or comes outside, politely inquire about taking the stuff.  I can’t tell you how often a homeowner has helped me load they’re so happy to get rid of it!

Then take home your treasures and pat yourself on the back for getting something for very little effort on your part. Put it in your house, or strip, paint, sand, buff or dedazzle it, it’s up to you.  Curbside shopping is so much fun, but it takes some skill and sometimes tons of luck, so I’ll leave you with this junk toast;


junk blessing

Happy Curbing!



  1. Reply


    January 19, 2017

    I can’t tell you how many times I have rescued treasures from the garbage man! My last treasure was a Victorian wicker rocking chair! It was in pretty good shape. I have yet to contact my state crafts guild to find out more about it, but it is on my To Do List. I practically decorated my daughter’s entire wedding with roadside finds, including an entire fireplace mantle! It was bee you tee full against a brick wall with candles and some greenery. We placed her wedding photo on the mantle shelf. I love love love to shop the roads!

    • Reply


      January 19, 2017

      That’s wonderful!!! I love that you decorated a wedding with curbside finds!!

  2. Reply


    January 19, 2017

    Tools of the trade: did u mention flashlight? I forget but yes screwdriver ( size two is the most common used screw out there) flat and a cross always keep those on hand in vehicle. Vise grips now those are some handy dandy things. They make several sizes so get the one that fits your hand the eaisest ladies. U can always plastic dip the handles if they are all metal and u want some cushion. Sunglasses the good polarized kind are super handy for sunny days when ur running to grab lunch and ohh whats that on the side of the road moments. Books! For the love of all thats happy get them donate them these should never be left to decompose in a dump. What makes a book valuable? Content…condition…edition…pictures. Yes some books are old that arent worth anything. But some old books have excellent pictures that are fantastic for decor use. Not just atlas maps can be used in modge podge. Blankets have a dual purpose always have one in car during winter for roadside safety in staying warm. Water too always stay hydrated curbing! Now im shy so the homeowner thing bugs me ill never stop at someones house is kids are playing out front or they are still adding to the pile or if they are doing yardwork etc im a horible conversationalist but i do let others know about the pile so share with your crew of Curbers. Now for wood trim and the like look out for prepainted boards ( ones that are sold at the stores prepainted) that are used on house trim and the like those are hefty price in store and can make a good chunk of change if you dont need them to spruce up the house in the spring/fall yearly maintaince. My hubs loves it when i bring them home! Thats a good thing when the other half says ohh i see u got more crap and you say yes look at these boards here baby i picked them just for you ( wink wink see what i did there? Distracted from the rest of the projects coming into the house). if your not sure how to check for bedbugs and roaches etc( learn how) you can always set up a sprayer with the good stuff and spray each peice before storing it. Or a “hotbox” as storage to kill off bugs ( like a shed with no ventilation gets over 120 degrees will kill off bedbugs not sure about roaches). Gloves always have gloves. Latex type for fabric digging and yard work gloves for furniture pulling. Update that tetanus shot!

    • Reply


      January 19, 2017

      Yep, I did mention the flashlight. Totally forgot to mention gloves! Good call!!!

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