Decorating a Trash Can & Lessons in Grace

I live in the city on a street sided with twins and row homes.  The picture below is the alley between my home and the house next door.  It is not pretty.  I have some plans to beautify this little place, but those plans are at the very, very bottom of a long list of home improvements.  This alley is the only place we have to keep our trash. Do you notice anything missing?  Yep.  The trash can is missing.  It was stolen last week after trash collection day.  However, they forgot to take the lid.  The arrow below is showing you the lonely lid sitting on the concrete.

I am not going to lie to you.  This ridiculous thievery really pissed me off.  Who in the world steals a trash can?  Well, we actually know who.  In fact, they live right around the corner from us and we can see our trash can sitting in their alley currently filled with their trash.  I had my hubby stop the car on the way to church this morning and hop out to inspect our can.  We are 95% sure that it is ours.  I am also 98% sure that these are the same people that stole all five pumpkins off of my porch back in October.

So what do you do?  Call the police?  Steal the can back?  Knock on the door and confront the trashy thieves?  All of these options occurred to me, but remember I was on my way to church…with my kiddos in the car…who were carefully listening to me vent about our sticky-fingered neighbors.  I prayed to God about how we should handle this situation and what kept coming to mind was this powerful scene from Les Miserables.  It’s a bit long, but if you’ve never watched it before I encourage you to do so.

It is one of the most powerful examples of grace that I have ever seen.  Grace means getting blessed when you don’t deserve it. I have been a recipient of grace more times than I can count and its power has changed my life.  Granted, it is up to the recipient to recieve the gift of grace, and sadly so many miss out.  But the gift is there to recognize and receive.  We are loved by God right where we’re at, trash and all.

So after church I talked to hubby and said, “So what do you think we should do about the trashcan? Steal it back?  Just forget about it?”  And he confirmed my Les Miserables feeling by suggesting we do the following:

In the same way that the priest gave Jean Valjean the candlesticks when he stole the silver, we will give our neighbors the lid since they stole our trash can.  I have no idea if they will care.  I have no idea that they will be ransomed from their wicked ways by the “gift” of a trash can.  But I do know this.  I know that my children will learn an important lesson today about grace.  And hopefully they will receive the gift of this lesson and be better people because of it.

So….we were in the market for another trash can.  And since I am really hoping not to repeat this lesson in grace, I am smart enough this time around to make the trash can our own.

Here is what our boring trashcan looked like before:

And here it is personalized with French flair after:

I used some fleur-de-lis and number stencils that I had in my craft closet, and then made an H stencil from cardstock.  I painted over the red Rubbermaid logo and added some stamped butterflies above our house number.  I like it ;).

Now go ahead, neighbors, and steal our can now; I don’t think there will be any question as to whom it belongs!

Did you ever think an outdoor trash can could look so cute?
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  1. Lisa@Pickles and Cheese says

    Love, love, love the garbage can!! Too cute and clever. Those are some rotten neighbors you have there. I guess you are going to have to put vin numbers on all of your outdoor belongings including the flower pots!! And that is just not right!

  2. [email protected] says

    hi beth!
    i am sorry about your garbage can … but this one is MUCH better and the guilt that they will see if they try to steal this one will be enough punishment!
    you are so creative
    many blessings

  3. Sarah says

    I love your blog! And I love your trash can! If mine didn't belong to the city, I would stencil it with our house number, too! :) Thanks for all your clever ideas.

  4. this blessed nest says

    i swear you are the cutest kid on the block & now your trash is as well.

    rotten – mean people stink! now you will be the envy of the entire block for sure. you may have just started a trend. (but i know it wouldn't be the first time. πŸ˜‰

  5. Anonymous says

    Take the high road I always say, tough to do sometimes !!!

    Les Mis…my daughter had to watch the movie for a report, we loved it so much I got tickets to the theatre for the whole family we had the best time….if you have never been it is so worth it !!!

    Have a great Sunday,
    Kathy :)

    ps how about getting a little video camera….keep an EYE on those pumpkins next year :)

  6. Nancy @ Live love laugh says

    So, this is why I love this blogging world!! I wouldn't have seen this. I LOVE how you handled this (and enjoyed seeing the clip again)and also think your new trash can looks wonderful! We had to do this with our reycling cans-they kept disappearing…but ours wasn't as good looking as yours!

  7. Nancy @ Live love laugh says

    So, this is why I love this blogging world!! I wouldn't have seen this. I LOVE how you handled this (and enjoyed seeing the clip again)and also think your new trash can looks wonderful! We had to do this with our reycling cans-they kept disappearing…but ours wasn't as good looking as yours!

  8. Grace @ Ruby Moon Designs says

    I really like your cute trash can…and I love that you showed grace in a situation that was a bit tricky…that scene from Les Miserables is a great one, and I love the love, grace and compassion that is shown in it. We just have the city owned waste bins in our neighborhood, or else I would want to beautify my trash can too!

    Blessings, Grace

  9. Annesphamily says

    My neighbors, the drug dealers, stole our trash can one time. We were desperate and had no extra money to replace it. We told the landlord. She took their can! What is weird is they had spray painted the house number on it as well as our house number because the landlord owned both properties. The guy who took it never came back! Creepy…But your story is one of true grace. You are a good role model for the kiddos. I now live in an area where you have to pay $60 for the stupid recycle can as they call it! It has a upc code on it so the city knows who owns what! What trash can is very pretty!

  10. One Cheap B*tch says

    It's so pretty – how on earth will you be able to put trash it in now? Can't say anyone ever stole our's but we had a kid in the neighborhood who went around stealing little American flags off people's lawns. His father went with him as he came back and returned each one. Good dad!

  11. Candace@craftysisters-nc says

    Your last two posts have made me laugh out loud!

    What a brilliant idea with the garbage can…..your craftiness can be oh so useful!

  12. Heather@PixieDust says

    wow – i love how you handled it! If those people don't have a huge lump in their throat when they see the lid….
    and your new can is so cute!

  13. Designs on 47th Street says

    This is a wonderful story! You should now go into business selling decorative trash cans. Yours is wonderful!!


  14. Pink Princess says

    LOVE the new can way better than the old one lol. But WHY does someone steal a trashcan of all things…is beyond me :(
    I have my BIG trash container decorated with cow stickers, and tulips, and wooden shoes etc. Looking cuter than the boring grey and green big containers we have lol
    Love the idea of the lid and the letter hehe πŸ˜‰

  15. Kristi says

    Way to go! Take the high road and hope it makes an impact.

    And what a pretty new trashcan you got out of the deal! :)

  16. Sonja @ Craft-Werk says

    As sad as it is, your story also made me smile. Not only is it ridiculous to steal a RUBBISH BIN, you also came up with such a great answer to it. I'd love to know how the thieves react when they receive the lid…
    As regards the new trash can – delicious, if that word could ever be applied to rubbish. Cool idea, great execution. Hope this one stays with you!

  17. Jenglamgirl says

    Oh My' I can't believe someone would be so "TRASHY" to steal someones garbage can… and seriously, how much do they cost? I don't imagine much. I LOVE WHAT YOU DID TO PERSONALIZE IT WAY TO GO! is your home number on the lid? I would put it on the lid too! It looks cute and YES' I would love to see them try to take it now. SO YOU PUT THAT SIGN on the old lid and gave it to them like that? TO FUNNY! I would of been ticked too about the five pumpkins… especially since you have children. Have a good day! JGG

  18. Taija says

    You handled it perfectly! I feel your frustration and moral conflict. I love the way you dealt with it!! On the bright side would you have had such an adorable trash can otherwise? If only all people fealt a moral conflict in them once in a while. You are a good example to your neighbors. Hopefully they are paying attention. Kill em with kindness.

  19. Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions says

    Ha! Love that sign! What a bunch of creeps. Who steals a friggin trash can?!? Your new one looks fab! I love the fleurs. : )

  20. The Domestic Chick says

    1. the grace is what is awesome about this story. where love is grace abounds…man those neighbors will really think twice about messing with the you next time. hit 'em with a double shot of grace:)

    2. that trash can could be the cutest out door curb accessory i have seen in a long time. waiting to see what you have up you sleeve tomorrow!

  21. Janean says

    two of the smartest (and most gracious) things i've read in ages. the lid thing is just classy to the core — and God. "If someone takes your shirt, give him your coat also."

    The decor makes it a lot less desirable to thieves. SMART.

    hugs for your love!

  22. Cheryl says

    Horrible, nervy neighbors. Did they think you wouldn't notice your can had walked itself down the street to their house? Good for you on both the lid note & personalizing the new can. Satisfying ending to an irritating situation and a great way to teach the kids a valuable lesson (and hopefully the jerks down the street!).

  23. pk @ Room Remix says

    What a great idea! I've NEVER seen a decorated garbage can before and why not? Very creative and it turned out so cute.

  24. Vivian says

    What a great idea! I have never seen a plain old black trash can look so good. You should be safe now–unless there is someone else who lives at 2011 and has the initials "H". I would love to see your neighbor's face when they see the lid.

  25. Nancy says

    hahaha love what you did and love that you gave them the lid! I giggled out loud. When I was young and just married, we had to use a laundromat. While outside getting more clothes, a woman inside took out the jeans and put them in her machine. I didn't realize it until I unloaded the washer. By then, she was gone. We rode by her home and there they were. On her line :/ After being told by the police that unless they had our name in them, we had no proof :( we prayed that this family actually needed clothes.
    Yeah, let 'em try stealing this trashcan heehee

  26. Nancy says

    Great story! I think you did a wonderful thing and it was a brave choice under the circumstances! I love the new trash can!

  27. momstheword says

    Amen. There are those "neighborly" times when it is so hard to find the grace, thank the Lord He has an unlimited supply.

    I remember being extremely annoyed when our neighbors couldn't tell the difference between our house and theirs and painted our gate an ugly blue. You would think they'd notice that it was attached to our house and went into our backyard.

    Not only that, but the overspray got on our fence and also our car which was parked in our driveway.

    It was no big deal, but somehow the "principle" of the thing got to me. Like when someone kept pulling up the flowers in my garden, or stole my son's jacket. Funny how I held so tightly to "mine, mine!"

    Did you take the lid down to their house? If they stole it and you did that, that's hysterical.

    They did you a favor, I love your garbage can now!

    ~ Nan

  28. Miss Mustard Seed says

    Your new trash can is great and would definitely be hard for someone to steal and conceal it. I also love that scene from Les Mis. Very powerful and so unnatural for us to do. We want revenge and "justice." Thanks goodness for the times in our lives when we've been shown mercy and grace. This is a great story.

  29. Heidi@TheCraftMonkey says

    how frustrating to KNOW that someone took something of yours. I LOVE though, that you sent them the lid, though I think you should have stenciled & spray painted your message on it..hehehe…love your pretty new trashcan!

  30. Blondie's Journal says

    My husband likes to say, "Be the better person". In this case you truly were. And it is awfully funny how you did it. Love the can. Can I steal(borrow) your idea? πŸ˜‰


  31. Carmen says

    You make me laugh!! I love your resolution to the garbage can napper, and I hope they blush…even if only behind their curtains. The nerve! Plus..who decorates a garbage can? You do!! Another reason I love to check in on you. You're NEVER boring! LOL!

  32. Ceekay- Thinkin of Home says

    Your new can is so cute…but I got to tell you I love the lid part!!! Just a little kick….not tooo painful..honestly, they probably won't get it!

  33. Cat says

    Great job on the new trash can. I love that scene in Les Mis and can sing all the words from the musical. I agree at what a powerful lesson in Grace it is. I hope no one steals this one!

  34. Kristen says

    When I first saw that decorated trash can of yours I about started to cry! I can admit to not using burlap for anything around here and the last time I made anything cute or crafty was over a year ago before we started construction on our house. And now the blog world has moved on to trash cans!? I GIVE UP!

    And then I read the rest of the post and oh my word I was crying from laughing instead now. I love that you put the note on the lid and have claimed your new can as your own. I love your attitude on this!

    But if you even *think* about putting burlap on that can…

  35. Melanie S says

    Wow. I was thinking, call the police! But that was a much better solution. An incredible, awesome, perfect solution in fact.

    Also, that trash can is so cute that it is cracking me up. Seriously hilarious. The trash can design award goes to…

    For real, though. What else can a girl do if a NEIGHBOR is going to steal your trash can. Have you thought recently about moving to Texas???
    LOVE this post.

  36. -Meleah- says

    Love how your garbage can turned out. Before I even read what you did I thought of almost the same thing… knocking on their door and saying that you noticed they didn't have a lid and that since your can was missing that they were welcome to it. If they take this one you should set a bag of dog poo on fire on their front steps then ring the bell, just kidding. lol.

  37. Rebekah says

    So enjoyed this post!
    We recently had our address stolen right off the front of our house. It was a white wooden boat paddle with our house numbers on it. It was secured to the house with large hook and eye fasteners. What the heck???I was steaming mad! I even called 911 explaining that it was NOT an emergency but could they send someone over to take the report. The sheriff showed up within 15 minutes and was very kind and took the report. Why wouldn't this theif take our two beautiful white adirondack chairs or the Longaberger mail basket just sitting on the porch? HELLO??? After much prayer and finally finding a new paddle at a junk store I'm on the road to healing. I think your approach is the "right" way to handle it although certainly not the easiest! The Lord will bless this in some way, I know! Your new trash can looks great. I thought of installing a lo-jack in my next address sign maybe you could do the same with your trash can. :)

  38. My name is PJ. says

    You served as a reminder for all of us today. I thank you for that.

    You were a great role model for young and old alike.

    And your new trashcan is tres chic, baby!!!

  39. Maggie B says

    I think you handled your trashy neighbours beautifully,it's enough that they know you know they stole it.
    The new trash can is amazingand is very covetable, let's hope that none of your other neighbours have the same initial!!
    Have a great week,

  40. Marianne@Songbird says

    the trash can is great of course. But that little note is timeless! You are one classy lady, even when you are dealing with trash(cans).

  41. Lauren says

    Wow! You definitely handled the situation with more grace than I would have. I wish I could be a fly on your neighbor's wall when they see the lid. There will be no question it's your trashcan in the future! Love the idea.

  42. Kathleen Frances says

    We live just outside the city and I had my car broken into 3 times. Once in broad daylight in front of my home where I plainly saw the culprit breaking in. I've had my ipod, 2 xm radios and my wallet stolen. I know how you feel.

    I like the way you handled it. If they're the kind of people who would steal your trash can who knows what kind of people they would be if you tried to confront them.

    I think I'll be there at Thursday's meeting with Eloise. How did last meeting go? Are we at the same table?

  43. Amanda says

    wow! what a great opportunity to practice the opposite spirit. AND love the new can-just think you would have never had the opportunity to "glam" up your trash if they hadnt stolen the old one. They need a thank you note! LOL!! Also just read your post about painting your kitchen! I have the SW Ivoire in my living room and LOVE IT!! I painted my kitchen the next darker shade Blonde and painted my cabinets black-it is soooo rich looking. I did a post about it here if your interested.

    love you blog!!!

  44. Lovely Scribbles says

    Beth, this is such an awesome post!! You totally make me laugh and smile, and to be honest, I feel a little inspired today. :) You're a woman with class, and I won't forget this little lesson, and Les Mis is one of my all time favorite plays. Be sure to stop over to L.S. today – I left you a little something. πŸ˜‰

  45. Anonymous says

    Funny and very clever. The thief now knows that YOU know that he/she stole your garbage can. He or she may not care that you know but I bet you feel better now that they know YOU know. You could have just let it go but sometimes doesn't it feels better to make sure the person that has done you wrong knows that their infraction did not go unnoticed?

  46. Craftify It! says

    I LOVE how you handled the situation! That would be tough, especially knowing who took it. I'd be upset. You handled it great & I love your new can a TON!

  47. Debbie says

    Beth that is the best story I have heard in a long time!!~ You are a much better person than I…I would have knocked on their door ( I think) it is hard to say until you are in the situation. Regardless you have one awesome can now, TAKE THAT!!~ thieves and there will be no second can theft going on there!!~ Thanks for sharing it was great!

  48. kim says

    What a great story! I'm not sure I could have done what you did, but good for you. Maybe they will turn from their wicked ways. Your trash can is marvelous!

  49. Amanda @ Serenity Now says

    You are BRILLIANT!!! Kudos to you for going all Victor Hugo on them. πŸ˜‰ I can't imagine that they'd steal your new (and much lovelier) one. :)

  50. Dayka (Life +Style) says

    I'm sad that I'm so late that I have to be number 58. I loved this post, and the video you shared! Can you believe I haven't seen Les Mis? I talk about Grace all of the time–I believe that the beauty of God is that people receive it whether they believe or not, because that's how God is. Last night someone here in Atlanta was shot in the back while sitting in the car at a stoplight in front of an outdoor shopping center that I frequent OFTEN (Target, Kroger, Ross, Barnes n' Noble, BEst Buy, Lowes, etc.). My bf reads at the BNN several times a week, and I'm always in that Lowes. My bf & I went out to Houston's last night, but I really wanted to go to an Italian place that's RIGHT ON THE CORNER AT THE STOPLIGHT, but decided not to change plans since we were already in the car. The shooting was actually between 2 other cars, and the guy that got shot in the back wasn't even apart of it . . . just sitting at the light, minding his business with his gf. When I heard about it later I thought, "there but for the Grace of God go I." That could've easily been us.

    Hopefully they needed the can more, and if not, karma will come back around. I love what you did with the can.

  51. arkie says

    If a person has to have a trash can, it should be as cute as yours! Maybe next year you could put your house number on your pumpkins? It is sad that your own neighbors could have done such a thing.

  52. Mandi @ Finding Home says

    I actually have had my garbage can stolen…twice. Once with trash still in it…from in front of my garage. But then this past summer, as my husband was heading outdoors to take the garbage to the road, we saw who we think the culprit was. A bear. There he was running with our garbage can in his mouth at 6 am. He devoured all of the garbage and left the can in my neighbors yard. I have often wanted to personalize my cans – but I don't think the bear would really care all that much. I still think I will though.

    I love your lesson in grace. Truly inspiring.

  53. Stephanie Lynn says

    Agh! Every post I read makes me add a couple more things to my already filled to-do list! I love this idea! I have three cans like this that we use to recycle and need to mark them – this would be perfect! Do you mind sharing what paint you used and if it's holding up well on the plastic? Thanks Beth for this great inspiration!

  54. Smith says

    Nice..I sure hope that they did take that older trash can..or else they may not get it.

    I like the new one.In my town it would blow down the road and get crushed by cars..I have to chase mine down.'ve given me an idea.

    I had not seen the video you posted that was good.

  55. GlendaJ says

    This happened to us once too only I caught the guy throwing the can into the back of their truck. As he jumped into the drivers seat I grabbed the lid, held it in the air and yelled "You forgot the lid" LOL. I then propped it up against a shrub with a note saying "You might as well steal the lid too". I was never picked up.
    I also was confused. It was after that I began making them personal. I guess with that address it will keep happening until January, ha ha. Maybe you should add the street name under the numbers.

  56. Jan says

    That has to be the prettiest trash can I've ever seen. I loved the story of the stolen one. What you did made me think of the movie "The Sound of Music" when the kids had played those dirty tricks on the nanny and instead of telling on them or yelling at them she thanked them all for the gifts they gave her and they all started crying from feeling bad. Unfortunately, I doubt if your neighbors are crying, but it was a good example for the kids.

  57. says

    Love this!!!
    You inspired this:

    BTW: LOVE … LOVE! Les Miz. I watch that concert (royal albert hall) on VHS ALL THE TIME! I love Michael Ball and at the end all the Jean ValJeans come from all around the world to sing Do you Hear The People Sing! It’s… AMAZING!!!

    Your design and artwork is way better than mine..

    As I’m pulling into the driveway on trashday it makes my heart leap up to see my little birds…

  58. says

    Great look – only suggestion – the one thing that I would have added is smack dab in the middle of the top of the lid, I would have put the house numbers on there also! Otherwise Brava!!!

  59. says

    Hey – did you hear about the talking garbage cans???? You could always attach the mechanism so that when the lid comes off you could have it singing or saying something! : )

    It’s the latest fashion over in Europe…

  60. Purple Hayes says

    Thank yip for such a lovely post. I live in Decatur. My two cans were stolen today and yes, they forgot the lids. I was furious. But I like your idea much better. We have two new neighbors on our street (renters) and I will be looking for a chance to give someone the lids along with a note.
    It might not be as nice as yours.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  61. Nancy says

    Love this! We have our address written on one side of the trash can, but alas it still made its way up to the neighbor’s doorstep. Theirs is sitting in the driveway. I think I will decorate ours nicely instead of writing ‘not your garbage can’ on the lid. Thank you for teaching me to live with grace.

  62. Kerry Hubbard says

    This is the first time I have ever commented on anyone’s blog but I couldn’t pass up the chance to say “Good Job, Beth!” That is the best “taking the high road” story I have ever read… and stinking funny too! I finally caught my breath from laughing so hard. Your garbage can is awesome but your response to the thieving neighbor is beautiful. My go to verse for difficult people is Proverbs 25:21-22. You nailed it!

  63. Cassandra says

    I never post on blogs or sites…..however we have had our bin stolen in the past as well…….people are terrible……..I as well have spotted my bin in its “new ” home. Keep smiling and craft on. :-) :-) :-) :-)

  64. Jenni says

    Looks great! Can you tell me what kind of paint you used? And has it held up outside over time, or did the paint come off easily?

    • Beth says

      Hi Jenni, This was so long ago that I don’t remember what paint I used. It doesn’t look this vibrant any more but the paint is still there. I would recommend using an adhesion primer like Zinnser Bullseye followed by outdoor paint.

  65. Joni says

    Ours don’t get stolen, they blow away in the wind. So I always paint our address on our cans. People are more likely to bring them back to us if they know where it belongs.

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