There are two things that I do regularly that are not glamorous: pick through the trash for furniture and travel by bus. This past week I did both and you’re about to get the full story on one.
I don’t care what anyone says, you find good things in Manhattan garbage. And because I’m not above poking through the heaps on the Upper East Side or cleaning a decade’s worth of dust off something that I like, I have amassed quite the collection of household items that fall into the category of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
My favorite find was an old hutch that was abandoned on 3rd Avenue five years ago. It weighed more than me and I could barely move it. I was about to leave it there on the street when a couple passing by offered to help me lug it to the corner and stuff it in a minivan cab.
“It smells,” she said. But because she loves me and, quite frankly, because she knew I was going to do it anyway, she helped me drag it in from the hallway. “I was wondering why the elevator alarm kept going off,” she said as we inched it into our apartment. “I should have known it was you.”
When she came home later that week and the entire apartment smelled of spray paint, she didn’t even bother to ask why. The hutch got a facelift.
It was for that reason that I picked this mirror out of the trash on Wednesday. How could I not? When I saw it, I knew that one coat of paint would turn this thing into a living room show stopper. So I put down the matte latte I was drinking, hailed a cab and took it directly to my gymnastics class, where it made quite a nice addition to the gym’s locker room that night. So much so that when I was carrying it out at the end of class, the conversation amongst the ladies turned to how people steal coats and shoes – hint, hint to the girl carrying the mirror. We see you.
“I’m not stealing this,” I said as I maneuvered it out the door. “That would be ridiculous. I found it in the trash.”
If I had access to an SUV and more room in my apartment, there would be no stopping this train. I would be loading up every discarded night stand and broken lamp and taking on Pinterest projects with reckless abandon. I would have one of those awesome DIY blogs – except instead of being a sassy stay-at-home mom who has all her shit together and takes a project from zero to finished in three easy steps, I would still be the mess that I am and each post would have a few footnotes about what not to do when a refinishing a dresser (use a dusty fan to dry your fresh coat of paint) or hanging shelves (attempting to do it by yourself or, evidently, with your even less handy boyfriend).
When I showed the photo of the mirror to a friend the next day, he was mildly impressed. “From the trash, huh? Not bad,” he said as he zoomed in.
“Actually, that chair is from the trash too,” I added. I found that outside the 125th subway stop one night on my way home from happy hour.
“Oh and my friends gave me the table and chairs when they were moving and I painted them gray. And the rug is actually four small rugs that I pieced together and glued to a sheet.”
The look he gave me said it all: he will not be visiting my apartment any time soon. Which is really too bad, because then he can’t see this other amazing mirror I found on the sidewalk last year. It was a dusty gold and covered in an inch of grime. But I kid you not, I gave it a good bath in my tub and then painted it navy blue. It couldn’t look any better.
My friend might not realize it, but my apartment is just like me: a total Monet. Decent enough from a distance, but get too close and you’ll notice all the imperfections. But that’s OK. What I lack in polish, I make up for in style. I love my collection of odds and ends from close out stores, IKEA hacks and dumpsters – and a high-end store or two, just for good measure. It all comes together somehow. It works. Just like me.