How to Prepare for Curbside Treasure Hunting

Inside: Tips for how to prepare for curbside hunting , from furniture to repurposed goods and how to spot a good piece ‘of trash’ that you can fix up and call your own. What to pack in your car to have a successful road side treasure hunting trip!

You all know I love a good curbside find, right? But did you know that I also live in a city that hosts an official curbside giveaway? That’s right. Twice a year Halifax Regional Municipality hosts Curbside Giveaway Weekend where residents are encouraged to place their unwanted, still useable, items on the curb for other people to pick up, repurpose and rehome.

Join me on October 13th, when I’ll be live streaming my curbside treasure hunt on the Halifax Recycles Facebook Page! Make sure you follow and like them and/or RSVP to the Curbside Giveaway event to get the notification of the show.

Today, in anticipation of  October 13th, I’m sharing my best tips for How to Prepare for Curb Side Treasure Hunting. 

In case you’re new here – I’m no stranger to hunting for diamonds in the rough and repurposing. I mean, that’s basically how this blog was born more than six years ago. You might want to check out these amazing mint and fabric reclaimed side tables, this unreal vintage buffet rescue and my best tips for cleaning and ‘destinking’ second hand furniture. I’ve got a load more posts on this subject and I’ll link to a few more throughout this post too.

Gathering Supplies in Advance of Curbside Treasure Hunting

What is it they say? Fail to plan, plan to fail? I think that’s how it goes. In the case of curbside treasure hunting, I’m of two minds. Some of my best finds have been entirely spontaneous, others have been more planned in that I intended to go to a neighbourhood yard sale or to partake in Curbside Give Away weekend. No matter what, there are a few rules of thumb.

Have a destination in mind and/or a map

I like a good Saturday morning drive through the city, but if you’re participating in the curbside giveaway, you really want to narrow your focus and troll every street. The longer you spend going from neighbourhood to neighbourhood on major roads, the less chance you have of finding that one house with great stuff. Pick a zone, exhaust it and then move on if you’re still feeling it. HRM has an interactive map you can use to help you plan your route and to see where people have left curbside items. You can also follow #hfxcurbside on Twitter or IG Stories to help you decide where to focus your efforts.

Bring a blanket and some rope

Before you head out treasure hunting you’ll want to empty out your trunk as best you can and then bring an old blanket or towel and some twine or rope. I use blankets in the car to stop large items from scratching my upholstery and sometimes to protect breakables. You’ll have the the rope in case you end up with an amazing and large find and you need to tie down your trunk! If you’ve got a red flag or bandana, toss that in as well, just in case.

A small tool kit

Some ladies never leave the house without lipstick, I never leave the house without a screwdriver LOL. In all seriousness, a small tool kit and a measuring tape will go a long way if you find something that needs to be taken apart to fit in your car. I have this adorable little tool box I found while thrifting in Windsor, Nova Scotia a few years ago. I pack

  • a multi-bit screwdriver – to either tighten things or take things apart
  • a small measuring tape – to make sure we can get it in the car before we try
  • some sand paper – sometimes things that look nasty are really just dirty! A super light sand will tell you almost immediately if you can refinish a wood piece or if it’s too far gone.
  • a small hammer – in case you see some awesome lumber and you need to hammer down random nails or screw heads to be safe.

A good coffee and breakfast

Treat yourself! Even if your hunt doesn’t yield any treasures, a good breakfast is always the best way to start the day, don’t you think? I don’t often buy myself coffee (if you follow me, you know I’m a four cups a day from my home brew pot kinda girl), but I will get a special tea, and a muffin to set the tone. Guys – it’s all about intention. If you decide your curbside treasure hunt is going to be a good couple of hours, no matter what, it will be 🙂

How to spot a good curbside find

I’ve racked my brain to come up with the common features of all the things I’ve ‘freecycled’ over the years and while I believe there is an art to seeing a shabby piece and just knowing you can shine it up – there are some key questions to ask yourself:

Is all the hardware there?

This applies if it’s a cabinet or shelving unit. You want to make sure all the hardware is at least there, if not, that it can be replaced. On my vintage buffet for example, I was missing two entire panes of plexiglass and a couple of the handles. I knew I could get more glass cut and the knobs were easily replaced. Just make sure you’re going to be able to do those things before schlepping the piece home.

If it’s veneer, is it chipped, faded, or warped?

Warped veneer? It’ll need to be stripped entirely. Here’s an EPIC post I did about how to get veneer off furniture. 

Chipped or faded? You might be able to salvage it with some good putty, sanding and paint. I love using chalk style paint on chipped veneer to hide blemishes. I had amazing success with this old bedroom dresser turned media console. The veneer was torn and ripped in places, but the paint covered it right up. You’d never know.

Does it smell?

Don’t laugh. This is a thing. I once picked a dresser off the curbside and it smelled so bad, I had to spend WEEKS destinking it. So, this may sound weird – but get ALL UP IN THAT piece before you put it in your trunk. Because if it has a funk? It’ll be Super FUNKY and that funk will fill your world faster than you can say ‘what is that smell?!’ Thankfully, I’ve done my fair share of furniture de-stinking. You can see more in this post here all about how to clean smells from second hand furniture. 

How to be a good curbside treasure hunter

While there’s an art to spotting a great find, there are some very easily understood rules for how to be a good and fair curbside treasure hunting enthusiast. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but over the years, I’ve developed a code that I truly try to abide.

I make every effort to not block driveways, hydrants or the road

I mean, duh. That’s not allowed on any day of the week. So pull over safely, put your hazards on and make sure you’re not in anyone’s way. And even though you might see the most perfect set of lamps or bookshelf or something – don’t jam on the brakes if there’s another driver behind you! No one wants a curbside give away weekend fender bender!

Don’t be all up in the garden

I mean, I don’t think Clint Eastwood is going to be sitting on the porch saying “get off my lawn, punk!”, but you know, try not to trample on people’s property and gardens. Just be courteous. This is supposed to be fun. So don’t invoke anyone’s inner Clint.

What things to avoid leaving and taking from a curb side

It’s Curbside Giveaway weekend, not ‘leave all my extra useless garbage on the curb so I don’t have to properly dispose of it’ weekend. Let’s just get that straight and clear, m’k?

Items should be clearly marked FREE

So if you’re leaving items at the curb, mark them. If you’re taking them from the curb? Make sure they are marked! I’d even go one further and label items. For example, we plan to place our ceiling fan out on the curb. It’s been disassembled and we’ll put it all in a box and mark it as ‘free ceiling fan – all parts included – still works’. Make it easy for someone who needs your stuff to take it and for you to know if you want to pick something up!

Be aware of hazardous waste and how to properly dispose of it

So here’s where I’ll issue a word of warning – you want to avoid picking up anything that can contain bed bugs. Upholstery and mattresses are definite no-nos and they should be properly disposed of as per city guidelines. There are also some rules about electronics, so maybe avoid those too. If you need to get rid of electronics, you can bring them to any one of the municipality’s recycling centres for proper disposal.

Most of all, have fun! Take this as an opportunity to get to know your neighbourhood, explore a new area of the city and maybe meet new people. Huge thank you to HRM’s Solid Waste Division for asking me to share my enthusiasm for curbside finds with you!! Happy hunting friends!

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