I turn trash into treasure

Marilyn Boe, 65, runs a Habitat for Humanity shop and loves upcycling the goods into something even more fabulous.

“They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but I love turning that treasure into something even more fabulous!

Every morning when I arrive at ReStore, the Habitat for Humanity shop I manage, I’m always excited to see the drivers pull up, the vans chock full of donated goods. I can instantly see the potential in recycling every single thing – even if no-one else can!

But our store is a little bit different from your normal charity shop. Most sell the goods in the condition they arrive in, but we’re all about up-cycling.

I have the most wonderful volunteer painter named Ciano, who had gone through life without learning many decorating skills, but the day that he and I did our first furniture makeover together, he was hooked.

Now he comes every day with his dog, looks at the various pieces and decides on the colour and finish, which is usually a distressed look because we’re all about shabby chic here.

Then he gets to work. It’s amazing when he takes some ugly, dated sideboard or wall unit from the 1970s and turns it into something spectacular. Then we can sell for significantly more than we might have done.

It would be even better if a retired upholsterer were to volunteer here too. That’s my dream because then we could revive old lounge suites and chairs as well.

I’m an interior designer by trade, I had my own stores, always with that shabby chic theme too – but when I’m not at work, I go home to a house that is absolutely minimalist with no colour and not even any paintings on the walls. The only things I’ll hang are mirrors. I get all the shabbiness and country style I need at work, and I find it easier to relax in simple surroundings.

Having said that, I do help friends and family enhance their living spaces. My mother recently moved from a big place to a smaller one and I helped her to pick out the things she’d like to keep, then I styled the living room in her new home.

I think she’d forgotten how lovely some of her treasures are because they’d been hidden in the clutter at her old place.

I put in very long hours at ReStore and so does Graham, my husband, who is 76, and still going strong. Coming to the shop gives him something to do and he’s always tinkering around, testing electrical items, fixing things and helping Ciano with the furniture makeovers.

I was 21 when I met Graham. I had three small children –Theresa, Angela and Carolyn – while he had five: Ricky, Craig, Sonya, Kirk and Todd. So at that early age, I was suddenly a mother and stepmother of eight. Don’t ask me how I did it, looking back it’s unbelievable, really, but somehow we got through and now we have 15 grandchildren between us and two great-grandchildren – the youngest, Marko, is just a few weeks old.

When Graham and I find time to unwind and do something else, we’re both passionate about boats and fishing. We recently sold our big catamaran and we’re pondering the possibility of something smaller. It’s so refreshing, getting out on the water and Auckland’s the ideal place for that.

The interior designer has a great eye for colour.

Of course, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren keep us busy too and, at 65, I feel blessed having all these wonderful people in my work and home lives. It helps keep me young!

We try to think of innovative ways to enhance our engagement with the community, so we’re planning to do op-shop tours where I take a group of people on a bus to our other stores and help them re-imagine the things that they see. I think that’s going to be loads of fun.

The money we make goes to Habitat for Humanity projects, building houses for people in need both here and overseas, so it’s a very worthwhile community service.

I love working here – our volunteers absolutely blow me away, some of them do 50 or 60-hour weeks. They make me feel very proud and humble!”

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