Trash to Treasure

upcycling project collage

By Andree’ Walker

My husband chuckled and rolled his eyes as I said to him, “There is a piece of trash I saw on the side of the road that I can’t stop thinking about!”.  I admit, I have a problem.  I see the piles of garbage people put on the side of the road, junk scrap piles, free signs on items on lawns, and in my mind I see them repurposed into beautiful, useful items.  Part of this may be that I love the creativity, but another part may be that I am cheap!

I have a strong up-bringing in the “fix-it” lifestyle as my parents were skilled in bringing both machines and furniture back to life through restoration and repair.  My first washer and dryer set when I moved out from college were fixed by my father after a neighbor had put them out for scrap.  I have seen countless chairs and bedroom sets restored as well as beautiful antiques given a new chance by my mother.  As I have progressed in my life, I have found my niche to be creative repurposing.  I’d like to share a few of my recent projects to hopefully inspire you to look at discarded or unwanted items in a different light.

My youngest daughter has wanted her “own business” for a while now and decided she would manage a self-serve produce stand selling our excess garden produce at the end of our driveway.  We knew we needed a farmstand for this effort.  Rather than make a trip to the local hardware store to purchase lumber and supplies, I remembered a table I had seen for free on the side of the road.  With a few embellishments from our scrap wood pile for a shelf and an old candle holder donated by my mother, we were able to create a fun and attractive centerpiece of her farmstand.  Bonus points that my 7 year old was able to help with the work!

farmstand in progress
completed farmstand

Another recent project has been building a she-shed, or as I like to call it, a free-shed-she-shed.  I needed a place to keep my beekeeping, gardening and animal equipment, but I didn’t have the funding to purchase a shed or the lumber for a traditional building.  However, I have been able to piece things together with found or donated materials, plus things I already had around the house.  Starting with an old carport frame and utilizing old fence boards, my husband and I have been able to get through most of this project with a cost of less than $100.   We will need to purchase a few roof panels and hardware, but other than that, we have been able to save money, reduce product demand and repurpose items that may have otherwise ended up in the landfill.

Free-Shed She-Shed

A word of caution –  It is best to ask people if you can have their discarded items rather than just taking them.  Most people are more than happy to see their items going to good use.   Please don’t assume things are free or take things that weren’t meant to be discarded.  

My challenge to you today is to look around and imagine the possibilities for items before they go to the landfill.  Old pallets could become a goat feeder, a kitchen cabinet from a thrift store can become a native bee hotel, a security window can become a gate, filing cabinets can be planter boxes, and so much more both inside and outside of your home.  The possibilities are endless! 

Happy repurposing.