One of my favorite activities I did with my grandfather when I was a child was to go junking. We used to walk up and down the alleys in our neighborhood in Chicago, IL. I still have one of the bowls we found on one of our walks over 43 years ago. Every time I use that bowl I think about that wonderful time and the love my grandfather had for me. My grandfather taught me on those walks that free is always good.

From my junking walks with my grandfather I learned how he took old televisions apart and made money from the copper inside of them. Then he would take the tubes out and my father would use them in fixing televisions for other people. My grandfather filled a need with what he did. He found many things that either helped us or our neighbors in some way.

As I grew I loved getting something for free. But my favorite way to get something free was to go junking on days when people put bigger trash out with their weekly trash pick up. I would get up early in the morning and be out before the garbage trucks came around. I found some pretty interesting things. One piece that I found was a little chair that had a seat with a lid. It was called a sewing chair, it was ugly and brown. But I took it apart and painted it a bright red, and reupholstered in a bright vegetable fabric. I never took photos of it, I can still see it in my mind’s eye, but I sold it at a flea market to a woman who fell in love with it.

Free is always good especially when you can take what you get for free and make it into something special that becomes a treasure for others.

My Tin Can Art

I have many items in my home that were made from the free things I found along the street. It’s interesting that these free items are the ones that are complimented the most.  One such piece of art work came about because I was looking through an old Metropolitan Home magazine that had a unique piece of art that I loved. That is, I loved it until I saw the price tag. I found out that the artwork was made from recycled tin can lids that were coated in silver leaf and attached to a piece of wood. The piece cost $5,000. I looked at long enough to figure out how to make it myself. So I collected tin can lids and I asked my friends to do the same thing. Instead of coating it with silver leaf. I coated it with a rusting medium and let it sit out in the elements for a couple of months. This didn’t even cost me $5 to make.  But it is the one piece of art work that people keep asking me to duplicate.

Doing and gathering free things liberates us to not just saving money but also shows us what’s important. While my grandfather may have taught me to recycle things that wasn’t his intention. He just wanted to share what he loved to do with me. I’m so thankful that he spent his time with me instead of him spending his money on me.


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