How many ways can you think of to have what the actor-comedian, Mike Myers, calls “No Money Fun”? CURBING with kids is a sure-fire adventure, full of creativity, teachable moments and outdoor fun!

Here are 7 of our TOP Reasons to GO CURBING with KIDS:

  1. They turn into EXPLORERS!

Under your supervision and with your blessing, your kids get to explore places they thought were forbidden: industrial parks; alleys; neighborhood streets (and sometimes in the DARK)! They get a new adventure and you get to appreciate their excitement and wonder.


  1. They get to be wildly CREATIVE!

A chair without legs can become a porch swing, an old porcelain sink morphs into a bird bath and who knows what they’ll think up for those bicycle tires. Encourage them, dream with them…


  1. They learn to interact with adults in a whole new way.

Sometimes I’ve had to ask a shopkeeper or a homeowner if they wouldn’t mind us taking something from their curb. Many times really amiable conversations would ensue. When you interact with strangers, your children watch you and learn how to do it, too. (And having a cute kid in tow usually makes for a positive exchange)!


  1. They begin to learn about their role in the USE – RECYCLE – WASTE – USE process.

When we simply recycled plastic bottles at home and put them out for the truck to pick up, it was just another household chore. But when we CURBED for colored wine bottles, then cut them up to make a hanging lamp, well, that got the boys thinking about what they were throwing away and what they should be salvaging to turn into something new!


  1. They start to think like designers, builders and architects.

Creativity is not learned, it is unleashed. It is what we are born to be. If you are fortunate enough to have garden space, your kids might want to design and build a house (don’t they all want to do that?) Or if you don’t have that kind of space, what’s wrong with building a dream house that can sit on a table? What materials will they use? Where will they get them? This is what childhood was meant to be!


  1. You get to learn about their interests.

You know your kids, right? But do you really? I knew about my son’s interest in ancient Egypt, hieroglyphs and codes, but it wasn’t until he started carving on pieces of “found” wood to create wall sculptures did I know just how deep his interest really was. Parents are supposed to grow, too.


  1. You get to have conversations about surprising subjects.

When my two nieces and nephew piled into the car to scout for something on the curb one evening at dusk, everyone was silent, eyes peeled on the streets, intently searching for some glint of an idea until my 7-year old niece spied a man crossing the street with a cigarette in his hand. It air was growing murky and the red glow of the cigarette caught her eye. “Oh no!” she said, shaking her head, “He’s drunk!” Of course I explained that while smoking cigarettes is horrible for your health, it doesn’t mean that you are drunk. “Oh, no, Aunt Karen. One thing leads to another. First cigarettes, then beer. He’s DRUNK.” She was adamant. You just never know what they’re thinking…


CURBING with kids can be a regular routine or just a special occasion. Maybe just once is enough to make a memory. See how many of the 7 CURBING Reasons you can accomplish this week!


  1. It’s another teachable moment.
  2. They learn about their role in the usage-recycle-waste-reuse funnel.
  3. You learn about their interests.
  4. They get to be wildly creative.
  5. They start to think like designers, builders & architects.
  6. They learn to interact with adults in a results-oriented way.
  7. Conversations relax and surprising things happen!





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The Hunt: Flotsam, Jetsam, Lagan and Derelict

A gathering of the clan. Gathered and found flotsam and jetsam from China Sea Marine Trading Co. in Gray, Maine

A gathering of the clan. Gathered and found flotsam and jetsam from China Sea Marine Trading Co. in Gray, Maine

I tried the laptop outside. Lasted less than 20 minutes. Sizzle, zing, SNAP and off it did go. I tried to make it “trot” when I should have put it down humanely. Now, it is part of that field of possibly useful debris, its value the converse of the famous quote about the whole being more valuable than the sum of its individual parts.

Fortunately for me and the writing, I hadn’t gotten very far. Rather a coinky-dink: writing about how the flotsam and jetsam in one’s worldly life (not the emotional debris that is left over after life’s shipwrecks: job firings; love affairs ending badly; just-missed important flights) seem to be an ever-present piling up. You know the stuff I mean: caned seats without the chairs; random telescopic tent poles with that elastic inside; fried laptops. The pieces you unload to keep afloat as long as you can as you traverse the treacherous waters of the world.

When creative upcyclers troll, hunt and gather for pieces and parts with a past, their landscape perspective is similar to that of a rescue worker on the ocean. The rescuer with keen eyes, spies out the flotsam – the lost and floating detritus of what was perhaps once a joyous or romantic or wildly raucous afternoon at sea – that has collected on the waves, bobbing at the whim of the currents – and the jetsam – the stuff consciously unloaded which, I’m sure at the time, felt like the weight of the world.

When Rodney Allen Trice, this intense and bouncy energy storehouse, who creates galaxies of newness from his workshop T.O.M.T. in Bushwick, sees a busted garden hose in the trash, the existential difference between coincidence (flotsam) and deliberateness(jetsam) on the road to trash day may have never occurred to him to ponder. He trains his artist’s eye on the future creation, or as Edward De Bono coined in tracing the elusive creative path to the answer: Po.

Original Hose Hassock by Rodney Allen Trice

Original Hose Hassock by Rodney Allen Trice

Imagine if you will. Today a grimy chartreuse and gold (once) garden hose, tomorrow (well, it actually took Rodney a few weeks to scour and scrub and revitalize) a bright and inviting ottoman, squishy and bouncy and best of all, SAVED. Walk through the T.O.M.T. workshop or his occasional booth at The Brooklyn Flea and just try to avoid hitting your head on must-have chandeliers made of unwanted auto parts and soup cans.

The sea of streets and alleys all over the earth yields flotsam and jetsam continually so maybe the allusion to romantic stories and harrowing shipwrecks eclipse the reality. But like Rodney or any other creative who squints over the ocean out here, I know that conservation and preservation are inextricably yoked. I scan and diligently search for the signal, the SOS that flashes from these overboard items. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the lagan and derelict at the bottom of the sea.

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Profile of NY Vintage Curber & Antique Lover: Albert Williams

It’s not just a club, it’s a way of life. I’ve met so many folks who eschew the spirit of knee-jerk consumerism and promote the embracing of the old, the forgotten, the seemingly undiscovered past. I even married one. Here’s a short profile of Albert Williams, husband, father, vintage hunter, artistic stylist and… CURBER! Continue reading

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How to Make a Soda Bottle Bulb in 8 Simple Steps (and light up the world)

Imagine! A $2 solar bottle bulb will last up to 5 years!

Imagine! A $2 solar bottle bulb will last 5 years!

For us, CURBING is an essential element in green, simple, sustainable living. But sometimes the revitalization of other folks trash and castoffs into art or practical and usable items gets ratcheted up to “Let’s Start a Movement” status.

Have you heard of a Liter of Light?

It is an extremely simple concept devised by some Massachusetts Institute of Technology students that brings indoor lighting to homes in areas of high poverty all over the world. The simplicity is amazing. A soda bottle is filled with filtered water and chlorine bleach, sealed and inserted through an opening in a galvanized roof. These “bottle bulbs” refract the sunlight and provide a 360° illuminating source of interior light!

Paying It Forward

A nonprofit organization called  MyShelter Foundation Inc launched Liter of Light projects in the Philippines and in Brazil, where people either cannot afford electrical light or rig up dangerous alternatives. The project has mushroomed and is in other parts of Asia and South America as well as Africa and the Middle East.

Light shines in a home in Peru.

Light shines in a home in Peru.

The organization fully expects to create these innovative “bottle bulbs” for over one million homes throughout the world by the end of 2015. For approximately $2 and an hour’s time, people learn the 8-step process and are able to the light the interior of their houses where previously only darkness ruled.

How It Works

The chlorine bleach prevents bacteria from tainting the water, and the water, because it is filtered and clear, allows the light to bend and reflect unimpeded throughout the container giving off about 55-60 watts of light.

Of course the downside is that the sun needs to be shining and the “bottle bulbs” do not work at night since there is no attached apparatus to collect and store the solar energy. But I’m sure that part of the project is in the works.

How Can We Use This Idea?

So, now how could we create something worthwhile right where we are with this simple technology? Building a house? Want an innovative light source? I’m attempting to come up with some ideas and “what-ifs” to share in future blogs. If you have any ideas, I’m all ears!

So, without further delay, here’s an 8-step video that shows anyone how to create a “bottle bulb” for a minimal amount of money. Have fun and donate to the cause!

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7 Must-Read Tips Before You Start CURBING

If you haven’t read the very first CURBING post, you should. That really gives you the essence of this whole adventure of hunting and gathering and recycling. Now you’re ready to find your own treasures!

Before you do, here are 7 Must-Read tips so that your CURBING experience is healthy, comfortable and safe.

Dumpster Diving: Leave it to the "professionals"

Dumpster Diving: Leave it to the “professionals”

  1. DO Wear Gloves. If you are poking through the trash, this should go without saying. I have a pair of Gorilla Gloves that fit snugly so I can grip items easily. I also have a have a pair of thick workman’s gloves that I keep in the car in case I need extra protection when lifting glass or sharp objects.
  1. DON’T Wear Sandals. Or open-toed shoes. Anything can fall on your feet and anything else can be on the ground. I once stepped on a shard of metal that I didn’t see and it sliced into my toe. (Ouch!)
  1. DO turn on your car’s hazard lights. So much of CURBING is done after dusk. That means you need to keep yourself safe and seen by passing cars on dark streets (even if you are only there for less than a minute).
  1. DO Mind Your Back. Sometimes it is difficult to judge the weight of an object. For example, when picking up a dresser, take the drawers out first to lighten your load. Check the heaviness of an item and if it is too heavy for you, try tip #5.
  1. DO Travel in Pairs. When you can! This is hard because you might see a discarded piece of corroded metal (real scenario here) that would make the perfect room divider but you are by yourself. Go grab a partner and come back for it. Traveling in pairs is safer than alone, especially at night.
  1. DON’T Be Shy. If you are poking through items that someone has set out for trash and you find a pair of chairs, it’s not a half-bad idea to ring the homeowner’s bell and ask if there are more chairs that match. Chances are, the homeowner will be pleased that someone wants their old stuff and it won’t just end up in the dump.
  1. DON’T “Dumpster Dive”. Ok, gang. This is not something that you want to do. Leave it to the “professionals”. Really, people will throw anything in a dumpster, broken glass being the least offensive item I can think to include here.

Now you are REALLY ready! Those are my 7 essential tips for starting your CURBING adventure. Leave me a comment on your own adventures below and sign up to get more posts from http://www.otherfolkstrash.com.

Thanks for reading!

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7 Reasons to Include “Curbed” Vintage Objects in your Home Office

Recycled furniture and trashed bits bring memorable character to this office space.

Recycled furniture and trashed bits bring memorable character to this office space.


The modern day hunt in the furniture department of a large store, a browse around an antique shop or even a blindfolded buying spree on the internet may be the only stops along the way for folks setting up a home office. But there’s another alternative: Recycled castoffs and pre-loved items! And that’s what CURBING is all about.

Here are 7 reasons to include “curbed” objects as you set up your home office:

  1. CURBED Items are free!

Self-evident surely, but you can browse and hunt the streets to your heart’s content with no price pressure.

  1. CURBED objects can inspire you.

Have you been agonizing over a “theme” or a look for your new office? Let your imagination be your guide. An old carved frame that you happen upon might be the start of a collection of cork boards on that (now) blank wall.

  1. CURBED furniture is usually of decent “vintage” quality.

Contemporary mass produced furniture is often made of what we call “show wood.” Hunting and finding a discarded vintage desk or bookcase ensures you of better workmanship and durability. Vintage furniture is pre loved…it is used. There may be a nick in an otherwise fantastic desk veneer, a scratch on a sofa leg, a chip in a glass. When you start CURBING, you may have to make a few minor repairs and use a little elbow grease to bring the furniture or decorative item back to life.

  1. CURBED objects inspire your creativity.

An old rattan picnic basket may become the tickler file holder that you need. A discarded umbrella becomes the shade for a lamp. CURBING demands that we look at everyday items in a whole new way! What can this item become? What can I turn it into? When you go CURBING for specific items, you begin to see shapes and textures that you may have previously overlooked.

  1. CURBED objects are versatile.

Because you are breathing new life into a used item, you can paint it, stain it, or decoupage it, without angst! A banquette that was originally in a kitchen nook made its way into my home office as a loveseat! Think of these pieces as a part of a rescue mission and if they don’t work for you a year from now, you can donate them to someone else.

  1. CURBING allows you to collaborate with others.

Starting a home office is fraught with its own list of anxieties, some of which has to do with it being an office IN YOUR HOME, where other folks live, too. Sometimes, involving your family in helping you in your new venture is just the ticket to get them on track to respect and accept your commitment! Think of ways to share the hunt for objects, or the transformation of those objects when you get them home.

  1. CURBING is the “ultimate” recycling.

What better way to show that you are committed to reduce your carbon footprint and do your part to reduce the planet’s waste?

As a writer, I’ve always looked at CURBING like I approach a writing prompt. It is not mine originally, but hmmm… what wonderful piece can I turn it into?

Why don’t you try it? The streets of the world are calling you…


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Hunting in the Atlas Mountains

Atlas Curbing

It’s all about small business in the mountains!


Winding through the Atlas Mountains in the heat of a Moroccan summer finally gave me a nosebleed. The air was awfully dry and the altitude high and I was unused to both. My dream of some miraculous and atavistic adaptation to the region was unraveling. Quickly. Berber ancestors notwithstanding, I was a New Yorker through and through and as open as I was to my new surroundings, I wanted my tea, my air-conditioned room and I wanted it now.

Thank God I was sleepy and fairly comfortable in an SUV with a wonderful and adventurous driver named Ali. I needed to get from Ifrane to Ouarzazate by nightfall, a little over 300 miles of mountainous driving. We knew the mad heat of the bright day would melt away soon and a cold film of night would be upon us in a few hours. But when by the side of the road, with his back to the open and terraced chasm that defined the beauty of this mountain range, sat a vendor with a blanket of found, upcycled objects and polished fossils neatly spread and organized amid a display of touristy statues , daggers and beads,  I had to stop.

My friend Ali, who drove through the Atlas Mountains hopping to reconnect me with my Amazigh (Berber) roots.

Not much of it was different than your usual merchant fare that local folks pass off as relics to tourists. But there was also the detritus from the curbs of Rabat, or smaller cities like it along the way to Ouarzazate, my ultimate destination. I was finally to meet a journalist from Syracuse who was on a Fulbright here, organizing and “ginning up” local writers into teams of reporters and creating newspapers in the region. I knew that night would fall before I got there, but the meticulous effect of the display aroused my attention.

His name was Mustafa, and how these men are all named from the same small pool of first names is still beyond me. (Of course, I learned later that one’s whole name is extremely long and everyone is known by an individual moniker).

After I had combed through found metal he had bent into curls and painted Mustafa invited me to take tea. Of course I said yes. Well, why not? The view, the altitude, the heat. This was exactly where I wanted to be.


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