I will preface this commentary by admitting that I’ve never myself encountered a gleaming gem of discarded furniture on a curb and taken it home to complete my rustic chic aesthetic. The best thing I’ve found on the sidewalk is a $20 bill.

And to be honest, I’ve always found it unsettling that we can just put old furniture out on the sidewalk and wash our hands of it. Shouldn’t consumers take responsibility for the entire lifetimes of the items we choose to purchase? Anyway, that topic is for another day. I take genuine delight in observing what people leave out for the Department of Sanitation to whisk away. There’s something about seeing a lone armchair, its upholstery torn and yellowed, basking in the light of day after decades of gathering dust, that makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Each piece of “junk” tells a little story — or at least gives me an opportunity to make one up.

Consider this particular baby pink armchair I spotted in Ridgewood a few weeks ago. That color is far too trendy for a boring millennial to have tossed the poor thing out. Plus, a millennial would’ve dropped it off at Housing Works anyway (I’m allowed to say these things because I am one).

Having spent my childhood watching (taking naps) during Antiques Roadshow on PBS, I have some credibility, so I’m going to assume it’s legit vintage. Perhaps it’s a relic of old New York money and its dark and haunted past? Or maybe it played a role in a devious mob-related crime committed in the ‘60s? Possibly a disgruntled spouse worked up the courage to put it on the curb after silently hating it for decades? Okay, okay, fine. I guess it could just be that it was time to redecorate.

My point is, whether or not you’d ever furnish your shiny new apartment with items from the sidewalk, and even if you’re offended by the presence of other people’s junk out in the street for all to see — there is a bit of beauty in this practice and it’s worth just slowing your stride for a moment and taking a look.

Maybe we should change the phrase from stop and smell the roses to stop and ponder the sidewalk junk.

Written by

Tired in Los Angeles. (Previously: Berkeley, NYC and Mainz, Germany)

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