Build your own damn bed

Build your own damn bed


Building anything from scratch or from re-purposed materials is not easy, but it can be done. And sometimes it is the best option. Better than buying retail, better than ordering on-line. This involves problem solving and working with the resources you have. It’s McGyver, DUI, green, and sustainable. According to Guilietta Carelli, founder of Trouble Coffee Company of Oakland, California, who had to overcome homelessness and mental illness to start a business, and survive,  ‘Build your own damn house’ — which I take to mean that you have to shelter yourself, take care of your own business, build your own life, and don’t settle for homelessness, discomfort, or the cold.


With this in mind, and like Guiletta, with a firm commitment to simplicity of space, and to the ethics of repurposing, I again attempted to furnish my new living quarters with items recovered from the alley. Luckily for me, the alley system in Tempe and Scottsale is replete with cast-offs, and over the five years I have lived in Arizona, I have always been able to find couches, beds, tables, chairs, and other heavy furnishings that I have dragged home cleaned up, painted, restored and/or repaired. Not only has this saved me a lot of money on retail furniture, but it also has made the land fill that much less full.

This time I found an Advisor Pillow Top I-Series Mattress by Serta, with the amazing wrapped coil system. According to their website, it costs about $1799.00.

thakgfopbx   img_43391

I used this as my base after I swept if off. I also found a Sultan mattress which is an IKEA brand. I unzipped the cover and cleaned it off.  img_43381img_43371 I placed this smaller, lighter weight mattress on top, and then added my thin futon,  a slip cover, and other bedding. I have no headboard or frame, but the bed stands about 2 feet above the floor — which is reasonable, and comfortable.

However, you are probably wondering about why I am not afraid of bed bugs or other pests that might be lurking in the mattress foam. . . Yes, I am concerned, and I do take precautions and do not just pick up anything. It has to be free of dog/cat or people urine smell or stains. It has to be simply dirty with the normal dirt that comes from being in an always dusty, wind-blown desert. This is cleanable. I also use bleach or other strong cleaners to disinfect the fabrics and soft surfaces. Also, the extreme heat of over 100 degrees daily essentially cauterizes the material, sanitizing it and killing anything living upon or in it.


It’s not for everybody, but for me, it works. It’s also a feeling of accomplishment and adventure and DIY that you just don’t get from shopping for a new bed at a big box mattress retailer. BTW, the bed is also very smooshy and soft — luxurious even! And the best other thing is that when I move again for the millionth time, I can simply discard the pieces of the bed in the trash or recycling bins of my own alley. Maybe another re-purposer will carry on?

UPDATE: (May 2018) I am moving after about two years at my apartment in Tempe near-ish ASU. I am planning to buy a house, although after 4 signed offers either fell through or were not accepted, due to cash offer that came in after mine, ( I merely have a mortgage pre-qualification), I am not sure that this will ever happen. But I am moving nonetheless because my landlord is actually selling the entire apartment complex because my neighborhood is going through the throes of re-gentrification, and she can get like $11 million for the property. Here again are the innards of the very heavy, very formerly expensive Serta mattress. It has some sort of coiled structure inside that is both supportive and giving. Thank you mattress, for being so comfy!

Update January 2019: Well, I didn’t buy a house after all, but I did move into a nicer, bigger apartment closer to work. Here are pictures of 2/3 ‘found’ bedding: a twin-sized box spring and twin mattress, over which I placed a third twin sized mattress (purchased from Walmart for $99 in store). As before, I thoroughly swept, sprayed, and cleaned the components before dragging indoors and assembling. I also used the clear plastic sheeting from the new (in-a-box) twin mattress as a base and a layer (for ease of movement and for extra sanitary protection from the old to the new).

bed_1    bed_2

Now, that brings me to this mess: A dumpster at the ASU campus, behind some dorms that each have a cafeteria (Hassayampa and Barrett ‘The Honors College’), overflowing with organic material — but was any of it gleaned for food bank or shelter use? Was any of it composted?







  1. have to admire your adaptability… and there’s always the chance of finding that mattress where someone has been stuffing cash using it instead of a bank.

    Good to hear from you!


    On Sun, Sep 11, 2016 at 8:13 PM, Detroit Reality wrote:

    > elizabethferszt posted: ” According to Guilietta Carelli, founder of > Trouble Coffee Company of Oakland, California, ‘Build your own damn house’ > — which I take to mean that you have to shelter yourself, take care of > your own business, build your own life, don’t settle for home” >

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