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Starts: Friday April 22, 2022


We have a challenge for you, America! We’ve been inspired by our good friend Aimee @ Finished 4 Good, who rehabs unwanted furniture and passes it along to her local Habitat ReStore. Will you pledge to rescue a piece of furniture and either keep it or pass it along like Aimee does? Our goal is to have at least one person from all 50 states pledge to rescue and rehabilitate a piece of furniture. Will you help us turn the map yellow? Simply comment, dm, or email us (offthecurb.org@gmail.com) with the name of your state and how many pieces of furniture you pledge to rescue/rehab between Earth Day 2022 and Earth Day 2023, and we’ll turn your state yellow and add your pledge(s) to the tally. That’s it! There’s no fine print. Small projects and first-time furniture rehabbers are encouraged. We would love to see pictures of your projects, too. Tag us on Instagram @offthecurb_inc and #otcearthdaychallenge!



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Refinishing is a fantastic hobby, but unless you turn it into a business, you end up with a house crammed full of furniture. Or so I thought.


My father taught me how to refinish furniture years ago, but work, travel, marriage and kids left me little time. In an effort to restart this sorely missed hobby, I came up with an idea: what if I chose unwanted pieces (good for the environment), refinished them (good for me) and then donated the finished products to charity (good for the nonprofit)? It seemed like a true win-win-win situation, but I wasn’t sure if or exactly how it would work. So I turned it into an experiment.


Focusing first on budget, I told myself that I would not buy any furniture—I already had a habit of snagging items left on the curb and was confident that trash day would provide plenty of projects. I also knew I could scour my hardware store for “oops” paint (usually $2) and grab supplies from those cleaning out their garage. For my beneficiary, I decided on the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Leesburg, Virginia, knowing that if my pieces sold, they would benefit.

In October of 2019, I named my initiative Finished for Good, put up a Facebook page and began transforming and donating furniture.


As word about my little project spread, I soon developed a core group of spotters who would text me when they found furniture left on the curb. Friends started tagging me in free Facebook listings. Even my family has gotten into it with both of my girls screaming, “Stop the car!” one day as we passed some discarded chairs.


My garage workshop quickly filled, and I began receiving furniture from a variety of sources. A landlord gave me three pieces which had been trashed by her tenants. A professional organizer offered pieces she needed to purge. A couple contacted me after they sanded half of their dining table but were unable to finish.


I surprisingly received several antiques in need of care. Their owners knew they could not be donated as-is, but they couldn’t bear to throw them out either. Reviving those pieces has been very fulfilling for me.


So, after two years, did my experiment work? In a way, yes, it did.

  • So far, I have finished and donated 50 pieces, totaling 509 cubic feet. Two more are in process and eleven more are awaiting transformation.

  • Saving big and bulky items from the trash is immensely satisfying, the physical work and creativity are welcome outlets from a day job where I mainly sit at a desk.

  • To date, everything donated to my local ReStore has sold which enables them to continue their mission in our area.


But for my experiment to truly be a success, the concept needs to grow. Off the Curb is doing a fantastic job in Pittsburgh working to spread awareness. I’m trying my best in Loudoun County Virginia. But it takes more than just us.


Furniture is the least recycled household item, but we, meaning all of us can change that. Off the Curb’s Four Stages of Furniture Waste Reduction is a great place to start. Here are a few other ideas:


  • Spread the word. Non-profits like Off the Curb always need donations, but they also need awareness. Could you share their mission in addition to donating?

  • Think about how you buy. Cheap, modern furniture is rarely solid wood, and it rarely lasts. One bump with the vacuum, and it’s dented and usually unfixable.

  • Try it, I dare you. I challenge you to take ONE unwanted piece and transform it into something new again. Keep it, sell it, or donate it. There are tons of online resources and inspiration, and it doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. You just might like the process.

Rediscovering my love for refinishing furniture has been a true gift to me, especially during the stressful events of the last few years. The fact that it can also benefit the environment AND a local charity make it even more rewarding.


***


Read on for a look at Aimee's past projects ...


A friend spotted “Hope” on the curb on trash day. She had lots of scratches and some missing veneer, but with filling and paint, she is now looking a bit happier.



I named this donation Jackson. I kept it as a children’s table but stained the legs and topped it with chalkboard paint.



George was a beautiful antique washstand but missing his marble top. While my budget couldn’t provide an exact replacement, I did cut the top from an old dresser which had been damaged by water and was otherwise unsalvageable.


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With new years come new resolutions, and many people look to declutter or get rid of extra furniture. The tempting thing to do, is to stick it on the curb, but this post aims to provide alternatives. Here is a quick tiered guide to help you navigate excess furniture.


It’s Like New. Now What?

This first tier gives you space to work with. The furniture in this tier has little to no damage or use. Selling “like new” furniture is a great way to keep it off the curb and make a quick buck. You can also donate “like new” furniture. (You will find more information about donations in the next section.) When selling, you can use whatever platform you prefer, but if you are new to this and would like a place to start, try Facebook marketplace or Nextdoor marketplace.


Facebook Marketplace can be found here. You will need to make an account or already have one to sell items. Don’t worry, making an account for these websites takes about five minutes. Nextdoor can be found here. Again, you will need to make or have an existing account to offer your furniture. If you prefer another site, use what you are comfortable with.

A quick word about safety when selling items online: Buyers will likely need to come to your home to pick up the furniture. Proceed with caution whenever and wherever personal information is involved, giving out only what is absolutely necessary. It is also a good idea to have someone you trust with you when the buyer comes to your house. For more information on selling your furniture online, including safety tips, click here.


It's Pretty Good Shape. Now What?

With a little more wear and tear on your furniture, this tier focuses on donating furniture, giving it away to family or friends, or using a helpful site like FreeCycle. Donation is a wonderful way to rehome unwanted furniture. After all, “another person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”

Here are a few places to donate in Pittsburgh:

  • Construction Junction is a great spot. You’ll find more information about their accepted items and other donation information here.

  • City Mission is in Washington, Pa. They have a wonderful set up, and you’ll find more information about donating here.

  • Habitat for Humanity Greater Pittsburgh Restore is in Swissvale. This is another great option, and you’ll find more information about HFH here.

If you’re looking for more options, click here for a complete list of over twenty places accepting donations in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area.


It's Kinda Rough. Now What?


Ask yourself two questions: One, can you repair the piece so you can boost it to the next tier, “pretty good shape”? Two, can you repurpose it and use it for something else?

Let’s explore the first question. Repairing furniture can lead to more options. With it repaired, you can now try avenues like donations or giving it away on places like FreeCycle. You may even be able to sell it, depending on how well you’ve done on the repair job.

It’s important to remember that the goal is to prevent items from ending up in the landfill. However you are able to do that is a win. If you can’t repair the furniture, that’s okay. You can still break it down and recycle the parts, or you can try and repurpose it and continue using it in another form around the house. If you’d like help with ideas for repurposed furniture, Pinterest is a great place for inspiration.


It's Unusable. Now What?

Here, you’ll most likely have furniture that has been repaired before and is no longer able to support further repairs, or furniture that has been exposed to something like mold or hazardous chemicals. These pieces of furniture can’t be sold or donated, but there are still parts that can be reused or recycled. Reusing sturdy parts of furniture for creative projects you’ve found on Pinterest (see above) can extend the life of whole pieces. Recycling parts, though, is another option. While parts like upholstered fabrics and foams may not be recycled easily, metal can be quick and easy to recycle. Some towns have individuals who drive up and down the streets on garbage day, looking for scrap metal treasures. It may be possible to ask around and even get a name and contact info for these individuals to arrange a pickup. If not, here are three options for metal recycling in Pittsburgh:

Untreated wood (that hasn’t been painted or stained) is often found in furniture, and that can be recycled, too. Here is a helpful website giving more information about wood recycling in Pittsburgh. You can also find wood recycling here.


Furniture rehoming, recycling, and disposal can be confusing and overwhelming. Hopefully, this post has given you enough information to at least get started.

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