Trash to Treasure

aka Re-purposing

Years ago, I was on a tour of The House of Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts, the site that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book. Beautiful house, right on the water, but very nearby to the Salem Harbor Power Station. I mentioned to the tour guide that it was unfortunate that the power station marred the view of the historical site. “Well, isn’t that the point?” she said in crisp annoyance. “Life is filled with layers upon layers of progress and change.”

I am sure there is a metaphor in that.

I guess there will always be a tension of new and old, trying to co-exist. I’ve felt it in my own home. I come from parents who kept everything (and I do mean everything!). At times, I have been overwhelmed by family heirlooms, especially things of which I have no memory or sentiment. Worse still, I have no idea what some things even are! And yet…I’m reluctant to give them up. When I do, I feel badly, as if I’ve parted with something special that is forever gone.

I can’t keep storing stuff in the attic and garage. But I don’t have the kind of lifestyle that would celebrate my grandmother’s antique glass collection, either.

Happily, something is stirring in the decorating world that can help someone like me cope with the tension of old and new. It’s called…re-purposing.

Officially, it means to use or convert to in another form or product. Take something old and make it new or, at least, useful. Trash to treasure. 

In my own home, I have turned cranberry scoopers from my dad’s farm on Cape Cod into magazine racks. Black iron snowbirds—used to keep heaps of snow from falling off roofs and killing unsuspecting bystanders—are bookends. Old cast irons double as doorstops. Wooden bobbins became candleholders. I put a copper top over an old pine doughbox and turned it into another horizontal surface in my home (can’t have enough horizontal surfaces!). A coffee grinder is the base of a lamp. A wagon seat, outfitted with legs, now sits in my front entry. A butter churn is a coffee table. A heavy copper weight and scale, used for produce in an old grocery store, holds kindling by the fireplace.

There are all kinds of ways to re-use old things. Pinterest is a great source for re-purposing furniture or knick knacks. Once you start thinking of things in a new way, your wheels will really start spinning. It ignites a spark of creativity.

So now it’s your turn! 

Tell us all about everything that you recycle, reuse and repurpose in your home. We can’t wait to hear how you make haste and not waste.

About Suzanne

Suzanne Woods Fisher writes bestselling, award winning fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Her interest in the Plain People began with her Old Order German Baptist grandfather, raised in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne's app, Amish Wisdom, delivers a daily Amish proverb to your phone or iPad. She writes a bi-monthly column for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazine. She lives with her family in California and raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you can't take life too seriously when a puppy is running through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth.


  1. Gina says:

    LOVE how you have used family heirlooms into other items around your home. LOVE antiques!!!

  2. Tea says:

    I enjoyed reading and looking at your trash to treasures. This idea would make a wonderful book. No?????