When people see my nutty house and my out-there deck (in process), there are several standard responses. Laughter is probably top of the list, followed by polite noncommittal-ness. But one question almost always gets posed: How do you think of this stuff?
I have no good answer, but after deep self-reflection and meditation on the issue, here's a quick how-to for seeing junk and imagining it into something else.
The first point is for you to stop thinking. As a female of the species, I feel qualified to say this. Women really like to over-analyze. Do I need more dishes? Is this the perfect shade of green? Where would I put another chair? When would I ever use this antique tablecloth? This thought process will limit you to the traditional. So stop thinking. It's dangerous. Be a guy for a while. If you see something that speaks to you — an old piece of pottery, metal, glass, a stack of tile, or upholstery fabric — and it's a good price and you can afford it, pick it up. Take it home.
Point two: If you would like to use your find for a non-traditional purpose — for "something else" — consider what that really means. Answer: It means your find can turn into anything. Anything! No limits.
Infinite possibility can be a little daunting. So don't think about it. Try this instead. Take home your junk and put it in spot where you can see it every day. After a week, move it to a different spot. Don't put it in a closet, and don't make a decision about it right away. Just notice your junk. (That sounds weird, but you know what I mean.) One day you will hopefully find a random thought popping into your head. That old tablecloth would be a great canopy or bed skirt. I happen to have many tablecloth curtains.
In pictures 1 and 2 above, I found incredibly heavy metal discs at Clackamas Steel. Love at first sight ensued, and I bought 1,000 pounds or so. (FYI: This volume of purchase is NOT necessary. Start small. One item — an old bucket or colander — can be used about 1,001 ways.) The guys were worried, thinking: What the heck will we do with these discs? We have considered them for flooring, for pathway pavers. But given my "anything, anywhere" motto, they are currently being inserted as impressionistic bubbles (or piano notes?) in portions of deck railing (picture 3 below). So cool. Plus they are coasters built into cement "stumps" (picture 4). And if I have discs left over. No worries, they'll be inventory. And, of course, I can always sell them.
And that's point three: What's the risk? With Craigslist and eBay, you can get rid of most things if you find yourself feeling the horror also known as buyer's remorse. So stop thinking, start wandering, and see what develops.