Where’s the best place to go in New England? 

Ask around and you might hear the Cape Cod National Seashore, Mystic Seaport, Tanglewood, Acadia National Park. 

But real New Englander’s know the real best place to visit —  their own town dump.

Vintage pine table and typewriter

  My own fascination with the dump started when I read the Boxcar Children series as a child — Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny were homeless (well, they made their home in a boxcar) and furnished it from their local dump.  Who knew that years later, I would be designing and furnishing my own homes from our own town dump.

I have to admit, there were a few years in between reading the Boxcar Children and reveling in the treasures of the town dump that I held a more upper crust notion of purchasing goods new from stores.  I remember when we moved back to New England after living in California. On closing day, I asked the real estate agent about trash pick-up.  He casually replied that trash was just taken to the town dump by homeowners. 

I don’t think so, I thought to myself. 

On the day we moved in, our neighbor came and introduced himself — he was older and quite proper.  Surely he didn’t handle his own trash. I asked him who picked up his trash. His reply?

“We bring it to the dump.  It’s really quite the social hub of the town.”

Okay.  So I guess, we’d have to check out this dump.

My awesome breakfast bar — dropleaf table, Keurig, coffeemaker, toaster, metal tin and vintage gameboard all from the dump. (I purchased the Vitamix)

What a place of wonder!  From that day on, my life was changed.  Our particular town dump plays classical music (for the seagulls) and the things that people discard are insane.  I estimate that over the years, I’ve been there over 7,000 times now.  I’ve furnished five homes (reselling from the dump is a no-no.  If I decide that I don’t want something from the dump, I most often bring things back to the dump for the next person or pass them on via Freecycle — good karma and all).

I can’t even think of a complete list of things I’ve gotten from the dump.  And I wonder the stories that are behind some of the discards — why do people leave perfectly good (and in many cases..BRAND NEW) items behind?


Over the years, just a sampling of what I’ve found:

    • A Brand New Sofa and Matching Chair (I did meet the gentleman who was leaving them — he said they had been purchased on sale and non-refundable, were delivered and his wife didn’t like them, so off they went to the dump).


    • Three Kitchen-aid stand mixers


    • New in box Ugg Boots


    • Bags and Bags of clothes (mall-quality) – new with tags, (not-sold discards from a clothing store)


    • Ironstone and yellow ware bowls


    • Antique iron bed frames


    • Numerous vintage croquet and bocci sets


    • A ship’s figurehead (we named her “Jenny”)


    • Antique dressers


    • Kayaks


    • A pedal boat


    • Too many vacuum cleaners to count (my husband has a ‘thing’ for vacuums)


    • Coffee makers, toasters, etc.


“Polywood” Adirondack chairs and ottomans in perfect condition — probably worth about $400
Besides the big ticket items, I estimate that we’ve saved thousands over the years on the little things that aren’t brag-worthy finds, but altogether, represent a huge savings — waste paper baskets, office supplies – notebooks, three ring binders, file folders, tape, staplers with staples, etc., dish drainers, laundry baskets, small kitchen items.  We’re even working our way down a 20 year supply of hotel sample-size shampoo and soaps that were left in full cases.
So that’s it, that’s my big secret.  Some people knit, some people stargaze.  I go to the dump.  A lot.
One man’s trash is another woman’s kitsch — a pair of fisherman lamps.

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