Lament of the Free Potting Bench

by Katy on July 5, 2012 · 19 comments

I don’t know how it is for the rest of the country, (or the world for that matter) but when Portlanders want to get rid of their unwanted household stuff, they put in front of their house with a free sign. Frequently it’s a saggy moist couch or an outdated (and also moist) TV set, but often enough it’s something wonderful. Not wonderful like piles of diamonds or Rolex watches, but wonderful like terra cotta flowerpots and still useful household goods and furniture.

However, you have to strike when the iron is hot because that great item will not be there two hours or even two minutes later.

Just last week I was over in the Sellwood neighborhood helping my mother clean out one of her rental cottages, when a somewhat weathered cedar potting bench caught my eye. I walked over and gave it a shake, and found it to be very sturdy and only in need of a light sanding to bring it back to its former glory. I immediately knew where I would put the bench and how I would use it, (in a corner of my backyard where I currently stack unrelated items) and decided I would load it into the back of my mini-van when I finished cleaning my mother’s house.

I think you know where this story is going, but bear with me.

The cleaning job was a bit rushed, as there was a four hour turnaround between tenants that day, but between the two of us, my mother and I are a well oiled cleaning machine.

With a sense of accomplishment, I stepped out of house house to find, well . . . nothing. No potting bench, no free sign, no nothing.


I kicked myself, as I should have known better than to let that great free potting bench just sit there available to Portlanders who are not too proud to scoop up other people’s garbage.

Again, dagnabbit.

And don’t you know that I’ve been thinking about that potting bench ever since. It hadn’t occurred to me that I could use a potting bench before, and now it’s all I can think about. (Slight exaggeration, as I actually also think about HGTV: Design Star and how many fresh local cherries I can eat before becoming overwhelmingly gassy.)

Luckily, there are lots of great free piles this time of year. Leftovers from garage sales and relocating hipsters provide more than a gal can use.

Just no potting bench.


Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Barb @ 1SentenceDiary July 5, 2012 at 11:45 am

Ooooh, that must have been sooooo frustrating! But now you have something to add to your “keep an eye out” list. 🙂

I haven’t had much luck with curbside finds, but I have turned into a Craig’s List officianado — both listing and buying. Why buy new when you can find it on Craig’s List?!


Katy July 5, 2012 at 3:14 pm

It was a sad day. 🙁



Su Mama July 5, 2012 at 5:55 pm

And we ALL know when diving into Craigslist — whether divesting or acquiring — the first place to go is the FREE section, right? List something even remotely usable, and the horrid thing can be off your porch and out of your life within an hour! (But have people reply to your ad with their own phone#, don’t put your own phone# or address in, or you’ll have cranky company all night long!)


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land July 5, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Maybe next time you put a sign on it that says “SOLD!” then come to pick it up later. I wonder if that would work, or if it would violate some sort of free pile etiquette.


Katy July 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm

In retrospect I should have knocked on the door and told them I would be back for it later and moved it into their driveway.



Linda in Indiana July 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Been there, done that! Really sucks doesn’t it!


jen July 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I LOVE Design Star, though we’re too cheap for TV so I watch it online but not until after the season is over. Sigh…


Renee CA July 5, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I lost out on a great deal on Craigslist a few weeks ago just because I didn’t want to be late for dinner at my sister-in-law’s. When I called to go by to see after dinner……gone. Well, at least I put people first.


Linda from Mass July 5, 2012 at 3:44 pm

That has happened to me with gas grills. One day there was a stainless gas grill sitting out in front of our neighbor’s house. I called my husband to pick it up. He went by about 1 hour later and it was gone. I have since seen other stainless grills but not as nice as my neighbor’s grill. So, I still have my black grill, working just fine but it would be nice to have a stainless one. One day, I will find the right one for free on the side of the road. Most of the grills just need a new burner or two and they are good as new.


Lili@creativesavv July 5, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Don’t give up all hope yet! There’s a good chance someone else (the someone who nabbed it) had the very same idea, that all it needed was some love and a good sanding. However, there’s also a good chance that this someone has too many other projects lined up. In a month or two of this potting bench sitting in their side yard, this someone will put it out to the curb again, with a new free sign.
Something else to consider, you were hurrying to help your mother with a large cleaning task. You chose to help your mother over the prospect of a free potting bench. Instead of lamenting the lost bench, have pride in knowing you did the right thing. Sometimes we can have both options available to us, and sometimes not — we have to make a choice. I think you made the right choice.


Megyn @MinimalistMommi July 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm

On the positive side…

You now have one less thing to deal with. You don’t have to fix it. You don’t have to clean it. You don’t have to replace it. You are one item freer 🙂


Katy July 5, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Spoilsport! 😉



Elaine in Ark July 9, 2012 at 6:57 am

Yeah. Let the girl enjoy her sulk!


Jo H. July 5, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Dagnabbit is right. I’m not sure which is worse, buyer’s remorse or great free item lost due to unavoidable delay. Hugs 🙂


EcoCatLady July 5, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Major bummer! But what’s a potting bench?


Lili@creativesavv July 6, 2012 at 8:19 am

Hi EcotCatLady!
Sounds like something you’d use with toddlers for training, eh? Actually, its just any sort of outdoor table/shelf unit for potting up plants and storing pots, bags of soil, small tools.


Katy July 6, 2012 at 9:28 am

A wooden shelving unit with a counter for potting up plants. Google it!



Cindy July 6, 2012 at 4:54 am

Just last night I came upon the mother lode of free piles and I was the first one there! I got a bag of sand toys, a child’s outdoor chair, 2 pogo sticks, a foldable scooter, a vintage croquet set in a wooden box, a sled, and a metal garage cabinet in the box. I have 14 grandchildren so all will be well used!!


Katy July 6, 2012 at 9:27 am

Ooh . . . I’m jealous. Mostly for the vintage croquet set.



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