Folks have been furnishing their homes with $0 since the beginning of time. And, while my thrifting habits started at a young age (about seven), I didn't start noticing free signs until after buying my first car at 17 in California. Senior year of high school, I was driving myself to class one morning and spotted a falling-apart, Victorian, curved-leg sofa on the side of the road. It needed a new life, and my love, desperately. When I got to the campus parking lot, I called my Mom. She'd already seen it the day before and had hesitated — she didn't need another couch. But, for me? Of course. So, while I was sitting in British Literature she and my dad picked it up. That the apple doesn't fall far from the tree is no joke in our family. (And, for the record, she was the one who re-upholstered it).
Then, two years ago, I moved to New York. While good thrift stores are hard to find in the city, the street game is absolutely A+. Anyone who lives here knows it. The city is unfortunately a place of such extreme economic disparity. The small upside of that is what some toss may be truly valuable to others.
To be clear, as much as I kid about having hoarder tendencies, I do hold my possessions pretty loosely. None of us truly needs anything, besides a place to rest our heads. I still find an undeniable thrill, a DIY-excitement in spotting a rusty, broken item and forming a vision for giving it a second life. How can I fix this chair? Re-hammering the back to this bookshelf would be a cinch! Now, most often, I can't — the majority of things tossed asunder really are trash. But, there are gems to be found: vintage record players, expensive coffee table books, and fixable Eames chairs.
There are some rules to this hobby though — caution being key. You won't see me dragging a rain-drenched sofa back to my apartment. And, bed bugs are real, bad, and ruthless. Fortunately, I've never run across any, but I'm always meticulous about examining pieces. A friend taught me a great trick for making sure books are a-okay to add to your shelves: slip them into plastic bags and pop them in the freezer. Bye-bye bugs. The one time I did have to check myself was when I started to examine a chair that an elderly lady had just set out on the street for a game of outdoor chess. Now, that was embarrassing.
Some of my friends have asked me, "Don't you feel weird, just taking something that's been sitting on the street? You're basically a cute, little vulture." Well, no. Let me wax poetic; I consider it a beautiful, giving-back aspect of this city. Decorating your apartment with a random assortment of finds takes skill. It's a long project and never done. But, it's never just about the finds, and always about the thrill of the hunt. I, for one, have definitely gotten lucky, see some of my favorite finds ahead...