woman restoring old wooden side table with intricate carving

My aunt in Italy still uses some of the furniture that her mother (my nonna) owned when she was a young bride. She loves nonna’s sturdy all-wood bedroom set and keeps it in good shape. Similarly, Mom’s friend Louise had an old chair of her father’s that she kept as a remembrance of him. Of course, she used it, too; she reupholstered it and enjoyed that old chair for years.

When my mom passed away, I kept some of her furniture, including a nightstand, some ottomans, a lamp, and a beautiful room divider. These items remind me of Mom, I use them every day, and they did not cost me a cent.

I appreciate the craftsmanship and quality of furniture that was built to last for generations. Old, quality pieces can always be updated by refinishing or reupholstering. Sometimes, even furniture salvaged from the garbage can be cleaned and refurbished — or even repurposed.

Over the years, I’ve salvaged old furniture that was left out on the street. Once I found two sweet little wicker pieces — a laundry hamper and a small set of shelves — that were perfect for my tiny bathroom. I washed them with mild soap and let them dry in the sunshine. The hamper was fine after a wash but the shelves needed some paint to freshen them up. I also salvaged a wooden stool that I cleaned and painted the same color as my wicker shelves. I use these pieces every day; they were great finds for me!

Although these pieces don’t hold memories like Mom’s old furniture, I’m glad I found them. They suit my needs and are attractive and useful. And I’m happy to use these pieces and keep them out of the landfill.

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.