To de-clutter or re-purpose: that is the question

Joan Fieldstone

March 5, 2015

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Interior DesignGeneral Remodeling

It all started with a square, wood picnic table, abandoned one night and left upside down in the road in front of my house.

BFF found it on her morning rounds to feed the feral cat colony across the street. We dragged it over to my house. I had been reading (and writing) about repurposing items otherwise headed for the trash heap and was convinced this particular table was an unexpected gift to me from the universe, destined to become my first serious foray into upcycling. I did not have a clue what I would do with it, but I was certain it would make an excellent project and that in time, an idea would come to me.

As with most castoff things I think have great potential for repurposing -- empty toilet paper rolls, wine bottle corks, and yogurt cups, to name a few -- I put it aside until I could imagine a plan of how to transform it into something both beautiful and functional. In the meantime, I pulled it into the backyard, which is itself still very much a blank slate for my dreams of a small garden of visual delights, and there it has sat for two winters exposed to the elements. My dog, however, had no difficulty repurposing the little table. He turned it into a fire hydrant in no time at all. Maybe my problem is "over-thinking."

Should it stay or should it go?

Fast forward 18 months, and I now have a passion to declutter. As I watched my dog sniffing the base of the picnic table the other day, I suddenly wanted to be rid of that table -- a peeling-yet-unappealing, warped (quite literally) eyesore with which I've done nothing.

The table was one of the four unpleasant focal points in an otherwise desolate, fenced yard of dirt: an empty trash can I'd happily part with if I knew how to throw it out now that it's been replaced by the trash company's new regulation containers; an A/C compressor, totally functional but in no way decorative; and an unused roll of weed barrier fabric for the paver patio BFF suggested we install before she broke her toe putting in her own pavers. There are also a few precocious spring weeds waiting to be plucked out before they bloom into wildflowers. They might be considered an asset if they weren't invasive.

Rather than the table providing relief from the depressing sight of a bare yard -- and the obvious "relief" it offered the dog -- seeing it daily ratcheted up my urgency to get rid of whatever I don't use and don't need and to move forward with the larger agenda of increasing my home's functionality and visual appeal. Out with unrepurposed garbage! "Declutter!" is my new battle cry.

Can't pass up a rockin' deal?

I convinced BFF to help me haul away the table, and she suggested that our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore might take it as a donation that some other deluded DIY-repurposer could purchase. Unfortunately, Habitat told us where to go with it -- the dump down the street -- but since we were already at the ReStore, we decided to take a quick look around, just in case there was something there either of us could use.

I bought a darling rocking chair in amazingly good shape for $20, and BFF snagged a large kitchen lighting fixture, also $20, to replace the hideous builder's fixture she'd torn down three years ago and never replaced. We returned home with two more projects -- and the busted wooden table. After all, why pay the dump to take someone else's garbage we had adopted. I'm not sure what we accomplished, other than the table is out of my yard and in BFF's garage instead, which she's been trying to clear out all winter.

midcentury rocker

My plan was to paint the rocker with some weather-resistant coating and put it on my front porch to create curb appeal, until BFF more or less dashed my hopes by informing me the summer sun will destroy it in no time, even with weatherproofing measures. As for the light fixture, she now knows it needs two new ballasts before she can use it. Meanwhile, the dog is minus his backyard rest area. However, score one for Habitat for Humanity. A worthy cause made $40 yesterday and wisely rejected the donation of a useless table. As for any future repurposing adventures on my part, I'm probably off my rocker until further notice.


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