….is another man’s treasure. I’ve heard that saying all my life. I have experienced it myself, being someone who likes to walk through antique malls and flea markets. I’ve found some pretty good deals and found some rustic benches and crates and various other items to decorate my house. I like things that look old and have dings and scratches and even a little rust on them. Enamelware coffee pots, bluebirds and irises and yellow roses, tin and glass, window frames, and I like them looking used and worn. in the past, my dad would often offer to paint something for me or suggest it be painted, but I like things rustic. My house feels warmer when it’s filled with “things” that have a story, relationships, history, and aren’t brand new and perfect.
A few years ago, I was hauling off the remains of an old desk that was in pieces, no longer usable at all, and I also took a lava lamp – well not a real one but an imitation that was pretty and colorful but a little noisy, and I just didn’t need or want it around, plus a little water fountain that had one chip up on the corner, and a swan-neck floor lamp.
I pulled up to the dump/recycling center and proceeded to haul the pieces of the desk into the appropriate bin, then I set the 2 lamps down in a different place, kind of a “swap shop” where you put things that still work and are still decent that someone might want. That day there was a young guy working there, his girlfriend, and a couple of other men. They were all just sitting there laughing and talking and watching me dump those pieces of broken desk, but when I set the lava lamp down and was walking back to my car, I heard the girl say, “There’s a lava lamp,” and before I could get the next piece of trash out, her boyfriend had the lava lamp in his hands and was walking towards the office with it, going to try it out, I guess. Then finally finished with the trash, I set out the water fountain. I asked them if I should leave it there for someone to pick up or just dump it in the trash since it was chipped on the corner, but the young woman came up and was asking me about it. She seemed fascinated by it and I told her it still worked. Her boyfriend asked her, “Do you want it?” and she clearly did and took it in her hands and they walked off to the office again. I heard him tell her to come check out the lava lamp, that the colors were pretty. I thought he was kind of sweet to her, like he was giving her a very special and expensive gift. She seemed as happy as if it really was.
I was smiling because this time my trash was their treasure. They seemed as pleased as they could be with the lamp and the fountain, and I’m reasonably sure the other lamp (which also worked, as I had checked it out before I took it) didn’t stay there long either. I’ve had that happen several times in the past, too, with some lawn chairs once that I didn’t even get set down on the ground. A lady took them out of my hands and put them straight into her car because they were in good shape, I just didn’t need them anymore, and also with a coffeepot and a printer. Once, a couple of people almost got over an argument over a couple of pieces of Fiesta ware I was leaving. I should also add that I’ve been on the other side of the swap, too. I drove up one time just as someone set out two checkered-fabric-covered rocking chairs, and they were exactly what I was looking for, right color, style, everything. Somehow I managed to get them both in my car. The friend I was with looked a bit embarrassed, but I didn’t feel bad about it at all.
I have so much stuff that I don’t use (some of it is my mom’s from when she lived here with me), stashed away in closets and cabinets and drawers, and periodically I make a real effort to clean some of it out and if it’s anything I think someone else might like or want then I take it to the “swap shop” or the hospital auxiliary or donate to my parents’ church for their flea markets. I think it’s good to circulate “stuff” around and recycle it and make new uses for things. I like the idea of old things and sometimes try to imagine who used it before, what kind of people they were, or what kind of house they lived in, and now I also try to get rid of some old items before I buy new ones to bring into my house so I don’t get overtaken with too much clutter and too many “things.” After all, you just never know what will strike someone’s fancy, and I was glad that day I had made that young couple pretty happy with an old lava lamp and a broken water fountain. I hope they enjoyed it. I told a couple of people about that experience and one of them asked me if it made me happy to see their excitement about those things, and I said yes, it really did. I was smiling when I drove off that afternoon. The other one asked me if they had thanked me. I said No, they didn’t. I didn’t really expect it. After all, I wasn’t really giving them anything; I was dumping it, and they just picked it up. It kind of made me think, though, about how someone can be so excited by or satisfied with something that I thought was too broken to use or too noisy. One woman’s trash truly is another woman’s treasure.
The original version of this post was written back on June 22, 2006, and posted in a different blog I had back then. But in light of a recent discussion about recycling, it seems just as relevant now as it did those years ago, maybe even more so, because I think more and more people are latching onto the idea of recycling and re-purposing and decluttering. Living a more simple life can be liberating, I’ve found, and makes me feel good to be living a little lighter on the planet