Let’s Go Dumpster Diving!

life list
Haha…  or not ;) But seriously, I have found a LOT in other people’s trashcans – no joke. It’s been a few years since I’ve last gone dumpster diving, but a quick scan around my bedroom this morning reminded me of the sexy FREE items I’ve picked up over the years. In no particular order:

  • New York City Skyline painting! Measuring a good 5 ft by 3 ft too.  Apparently the previous owners were too lazy to replace the broken glass frame it was in – and it’s been hanging smack dab in the middle of our room ever since!
  • Black book shelf. I don’t know why but this one really excites me. And I’m pretty sure it only costs like $15 from Ikea or something too – but it just fits so PERFECTLY next to our bed!  And holds a lot of personal finance books & magazines to help get me in “the mood”…I mean…
  • Big white book shelf. This guy sits in the Blogger Lair and holds a ton of books too.  Some of which I actually still need to give away at some point!  Might have to create a gmail reminder for that one, keep forgetting. But lovely book shelf none the less ;)
  • Antique Bible. This one was a pretty interesting find, actually. It looks like it’s at least 200 years old!  And fits will w/ my gothic motif.  Or what’s left of it, anyways (much harder to keep up a look like that when you go from a studio to a 3 level townhouse! so much more room to fill up unfortunately.)
  • Wicker chairs. A very sturdy and fun set we ended up using on our deck!  Beat paying $50+ for something that was just gonna wear down over the years from being outside the whole time.
  • Dozen or so old picture frames. Everything from gold and gaudy looking, to sleek and moderny. Some of which just hang on the wall bare boned w/ no picture or anything in the middle ;)  That’s how cool they are! Haha…

There’s probably a handful of other things I can’t recall picking up over the years, but the point is it never hurts to keep your eyes open!  You don’t literally have to dive into the dumpster to find the goodies (although it certainly can help!), but just take a quick gander or two the next time you walk or drive by on trash day.  Especially if you happen to find yourself in a very fancy pants neighborhood at that very same time.  Mysteriously every single week ;) You have no idea how much  “rich” people throw out!!!

And I’ve been known to dump some of my own stuff actually. Mainly due to time constraints and laziness back in the day.  My all-time favorite donation to the street corner was my old (working!) standing arcade :)  I had moved it everywhere over the years but it was time to finally let it go. And let me tell you something – that game was gone within 30 minutes of leaving it be! Haha… You ever see that Seinfeld episode where they try and walk Frogger across the streets as if they were IN Frogger?  It was exactly like that :) Only it was two 16 year old kids trying to waddle it down the streets of New York City, I’ll never forget it.

So don’t discount free merchandise.  Sometimes another person’s trash really IS another’s treasure!

PS: It seems I really like bullet points lately.  I think it’s the only way my brain can piece things together right now – yikes!

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  1. Philip October 20, 2010 at 8:51 AM

    So different in different places. I have lived in a city where you have the dumpster in the alley and you can throw out trash whenever you feel like it. Now I live in a city where I have to put it out on the curb on certain days. I have put some stuff that I think might have some value or interest to others outside the trashcan on the curb. I know people drive around looking for stuff and I know even I can not resist looking at what people are putting out there.

    I know I have picked up some stuff but nothing is coming to mind at the moment.

  2. Kevin @ Thousandaire.com October 20, 2010 at 8:54 AM

    You would love living next to me. I’m extremely anti-clutter and throw stuff away all the time. There’s nothing worse than a bunch of junky crap I don’t need.

  3. Everyday Tips October 20, 2010 at 10:15 AM

    I think my neighbor is a true hoarder, and she can’t wait to get to my trash on Monday nights. It makes me so sad. However, you obviously do not fall into that category, you are just getting some good stuff. Please don’t go all freegan though and start dining on garbage-food. :)

    As a kid, we got our basketball hoop from the curb, along with some other goodies.

  4. Michael Senchuk October 20, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    My wife and I have also been known to put stuff by the back lane that’s still pretty decent, we’ve just gotten something better and don’t need it anymore. We’ve also found some awesome deals – maybe not from trash, but the best example I have is our hot air popper. We bought it at a garage sale for $1 about ten years ago, and it’s been going hard ever since. Makes great popcorn in fact.

  5. MoneyMan October 20, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    Dumpster diving where I live isn’t such a great idea. Several houses share a dumpster that is in the alley behind our houses. Those things are pretty nasty so you wouldn’t want the stuff you picked out of there.

  6. K @ Out Smart Debt October 20, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    I found a bunch of old records on a street corner. Sometimes you can get some pretty decent stuff.

  7. aj October 20, 2010 at 2:44 PM

    In our small town we have a spring cleanup week where the everyone sets out their stuff they no longer want & the city hauls it away for you. That is a great time to go hunting for treasures. But you have to be careful to not set out anything you don’t want taken! A neighbor that lives very close to the street had set out her bed frame that she was repainting, and someone took it! OOPS! She is more careful now.

    One of our $ stores in town is rumored (I have never checked out their dumpster, but maybe I will sometime soon) to throw all their clearance stuff in their dumpster if it doesn’t sell. They don’t send it back or store it…just dump it in the trash per corporate orders.
    The sad thing is that there is a Salvation Army just across the parking lot that they could donate it to…one of my coworkers got all kinds of little Christmas trinkets & such last year after the holidays were over. She took them to her church to use for their sunday school classes the next year.

    The most free treasures I have ever gotten was when we cleaned out some abandoned storage units. A local business has storage units they rent out & continually there are units that are abandoned. The owners just need them cleaned out so they can rent… It would take me all day to list the cool stuff we got for free – including a washer & dryer, about 20 Longaberger baskets, cute shelves & furniture. Amazingly enough there was not really much “trash”…we picked through the stuff then passed on all the rest to other families & friends, or donated it to the thrift store. So if you have a truck, and are of the “Dumpster Diving” spirit you might want to talk to the owners of any storage rental units and see if they need anyone to clean out their units for them…otherwise they have to pay someone to do it, or rent a dumpster to dump it all in…it is a win/win situation!

    Friends have also scored some awesome stuff while working for a real estate biz that hired them to clean up/out houses that were foreclosed on…although that is kind of sad.

    Happy Hunting!

  8. Kelsey October 20, 2010 at 2:46 PM

    I’ve gotten pictures from the trash too! It was just like yours, someone was too lazy to replace the glass. It’s a picture of oak trees in autumn. Very pretty.

  9. LB October 20, 2010 at 3:22 PM

    I had a second job at a bakery for awhile and we shared the same dumpster with lots of other warehouse businesses in the area. One business right across from me was 1-800-got-junk and always had lots of stuff to throw away. Every Friday night the same guy would come by to dumpster dive and tell me what he found. Besides the tons of furniture always left there, the guy found a desktop computer, an iPhone, an iPod, (all working), bicycle parts and medical marijuana. It was always fun to talk with the guy and see his finds for the week.

  10. Nunzio Bruno October 20, 2010 at 7:28 PM

    That is awesome! I haven’t actually ever done any “diving” of my own but I have picked up some awesome stuff at the end of garage/tag sales – when people are just throwing stuff out. I’ll offer a few bucks (literally) and walk out with computer desks, cool vintage briefcases, and even paintings and prints too :) You never know where you are going to find something you can derive utility (sorry being a new prof vocab slips out sometimes lol) out of and for absolutely no cost!! Talk about allocating some resources haha!

  11. J. Money October 21, 2010 at 1:16 AM

    @Philip – Yeah, I feel like curb stuff always
    has better stuff than actual dumpsters. Although
    maybe that’s the lazy man inside of me thinking… I
    like to be able to just walk by and see stuff :) So
    if you can’t in a dumpster, maybe the goodies are
    @Kevin @ Thousandaire.com – How do you know I don’t live next to you? ;)
    @Everyday Tips – Oh man hoarding is no joke. That is a sad one :( I’m def. far from that thank goodness and I owe it all the the minimalist blogs out there!
    @Michael Senchuk – Sweet! Never played around with one before.
    @MoneyMan – Alleys = no good. Esp if you’re a woman.
    @K @ Out Smart Debt – AWESOME!!! I once bought 200+ for like $20 once off Craigslist :) But FREE is even better!
    @aj – That is sad about being so wasteful right across from a Salvation Army :( Cool you got so much good stuff from that office though! Never really thought about that abandoning thing… wonder if that happens at all places?
    @Kelsey – Wonderful :)
    @LB – Haha… how did he know it was “medical” marijuana?? Haha…
    @Nunzio Bruno – Ooooooh vintage briefcases! Would love to get my hands on one of those… Your vocab is always welcomed here good sir ;) Reminds me that there are other words out there besides “Actually” and “awesome!” haha…

  12. Donna Freedman October 21, 2010 at 1:56 AM

    J$: Don’t you realize you could give these kinds of “finds” as wedding gifts and save the Benjis???
    I’ve gotten a fair number of things from the Dumpster behind the building I used to manage, and also items that were left behind by tenants. Works for me.
    My most recent find was a wheeled shopping cart, which I discovered by a neighboring Dumpster shortly after I’d given away my car and was thinking, “I need to get one of those carts for days when I buy things like 20-pound bags of potatoes.”
    Sometimes, the universe listens.
    Still, it disturbs me how many perfectly usable things get bought and then tossed. I wrote a piece about this subject for Smart Spending called “Why is it so easy to throw things away?”

  13. Stacy October 21, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    Oh my gosh, J Money, how I love your posts! This is great! I need to do more diving. I’ve found a few things but a friend of mine drives through rich neighborhoods on their large item trash days and has furnished her whole house with really nice furniture.
    Love the tips from previous posters! We’re in a small townhouse now but hope to be in a house soon. When we do that I’m going to try not to pay retail for any furniture. I also ran across a site recently where a lady picks up “junk” and paints or re-finishes it and sells it on craigslist!
    Keep up the interesting posts!

  14. J. Money October 22, 2010 at 1:23 PM

    @Donna Freedman – HAH! No way, I like giving away my $100 wedding presents ;) No shopping, easy to carry, and not to mention the smiles it puts on the couple’s faces! Love it. (will check out your post in a few, woohoo!)

    @Stacy – Ooh i like that idea! Thanks so much for the kind words :) I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog so far! holler anytime my friend.

  15. Kate Kashman October 23, 2010 at 5:05 AM

    I have done some serious dumpster diving in my time, but not recently. I think the idea of making a business out of it is brilliant and a great way to keep stuff out of the trash.

  16. J. Money October 24, 2010 at 8:54 PM

    Dumpster Divers Inc. ;)

  17. Heather Dykeman October 26, 2010 at 12:23 AM

    Yep, I can look around my tastefully decorated condo right now and see at least 90 percent of what I know own was either passed on to me by someone who no longer wanted it, or was dumpster-dived. I cannot even fathom going someplace and actually “buying” a piece of furniture or pots, pans, dishes, curtains, etc. for my house. My last dive resulted in a really cool coffee table, and tons of art supplies for my kids.
    Sooner or later, our king-sized mattress is going to have to be replaced, and that is definitely something we will purchase new and look for the best quality at the best price. I can’t skimp on a good nights sleep…… Might even splurge on new pillows too!

  18. J. Money October 26, 2010 at 11:17 PM

    haha… now you’re talking crazy!!

  19. Andy Mikesell November 2, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    If you haven’t discovered already, Craigslist has a “Free” section. Get the stuff before it hits the curb or dumpster! I have picked up a nice refrigerator, love seat, and dressing this way. .

  20. Sherri Obermark November 2, 2010 at 8:35 PM

    Found a terra cotta pumpkin on a curb years ago with a little chip on the top. Took it home sprayed it with orange paint, and I take it out and enjoy it every year!

  21. J. Money November 7, 2010 at 2:22 AM

    @Andy Mikesell – Oh yeah, CL is awesome for free stuff. Def. a good place to keep your eyes on.
    @Sherri Obermark – Haha nice! Love it.

  22. don March 21, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    My best dives resulted in many used books. These were being
    thrown out by a famous used-book store. They do it all the time. Don’t know
    why they didn’t donate them to charity, but they’re mine now. The ones I
    didn’t want went to thrift stores.