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One man’s trash

This morning I overheard a conversation between Jensen and his dad that went something like this:

Jensen:  “Dad, did someone pick up the old shelves that mommy threw out by the road?”

(In my defense, they were old rickety rusted shelves that I had just paid $2 for at a garage sale, but Fiddledaddy put his size 10 foot down for safety reasons.)

Fiddledaddy:  “Yep.”

Jensen:  “Who took it?  A junker?”

Fiddledaddy:  “Yep.”

Jensen:  “Maybe we could be junkers.”

Fiddledaddy:  “We already are.”


Personally, I prefer the term “repurposed treasures” over “junker.”  But it’s true, I hail from a long line of dumpster divers.  My grandparents and my mother were both dealers.  I announced this to a group of wide-eyed women recently and had to quickly back-peddle, “um, ANTIQUE dealers…”

Therefore I was raised on a steady diet of auctions, yard sales, and thrift stores.  I carried this love of ALL THINGS USED over into my adult life, and spent a number of years buying/finding discarded furniture, painting it, and then re-selling at a tremendous mark-up to hoopty ploopty stores in Los Angeles.

Funnest job EVER.

I still haunt thrift stores and yard sales for household items and children’s clothing.

And I’m still a notorious dumpster diver.  In fact, while we were camping at Fort Wilderness recently, I emerged from my tent ready to make a bee-line for the Keurig Coffee Maker (a must-have for roughing it while camping).  I was distracted, however, by what caught my eye at the nearby trash receptacle.  It seemed that someone had packed up and left their campsite in the wee hours of the morning (I knew this because I HEARD THEM, and they had mentioned to Fiddledaddy that they were going to be catching an early flight.  They also shared that they had to go to Wal-Mart to purchase supplies for the camping trip.)

They left some of those supplies in the trash.  Therefore, I netted FOUR SETS of newish twin sized sheets (hot pink and black/white polka dots), 4 new pillows (still in their bags and YES, I washed them), a set of white icicle lights, an extension cord, a canvas folding drawer, a brand new pair of Mickey Mouse flip flops, and a pair of fairly used but still wearable white—ish flip flops (which fit Cailey).

Cailey was lamenting that she was having trouble cleaning up her new used flip flops, so she showed me what she decided to do with them:


Before and after.  She is going through a duct tape craft phase.  Which just goes to show that duct tape is not just for emergency home repairs!

I think my family legacy will live on thanks to this particular child.

Any other dumpster divers out there?  What was your favorite find?


7 Responses to One man’s trash

  • We live surrounded mostly by college students. It’s almost criminal what they throw away in/beside the dumpster. We’ve gotten lots of furniture items, lamps, working computers, tv’s, vacuum cleaners, books, school/office supplies, decor items (including a huge, nice floor rug) huge amounts of clothes, and even a diamond ring! Okay, it was one of those diamond “chip” rings, about a 5 point, but still. It was in a gym bag that also contained pictures and momentos that included some guy, so I assume they were engaged (or at least “promised”), it got broken off, and the girl dumped everything including the ring in the garbage. We also got a super nice digital camera, optical zoom, etc. that someone tossed. The only thing wrong with it was the rubber eye piece was slightly torn (but still in place), and it would not stay on if you had the digital screen turned on while trying to take pictures.

    It’s really quite ridiculous how much these kids throw away!

    (Oh, and there’s been at least twice that a cooler full of unopened beer cans has been thrown away. Those don’t get touched.)

    • Wow! You seriously make me want to haunt the local colleges for dumpster diving opportunities! Score!

      • About a month more, and kids will be letting out for the summer. Summer let-out is the best, because so many are leaving permanently, and are finally getting rid of all the stuff they don’t want to haul back home. But the end of every semester is good.

        Beginning of semester is halfway decent, as kids get settled in and either realize they don’t have room for something, or have bought replacements for old stuff. And occasionally we’ll see a good haul right at the cut-off date for dropping classes – somebody couldn’t hack it and moved out.

  • That was a SERIOUS SCORE!!! 🙂

    My favorite find was a gorgeous mink stole at Goodwill….at the time I didn’t have the $75 to buy it….still regret it.

  • I LOVE finding items set out for garbage day! As per my husband, I am “not allowed” to take items from the trash pile of our neighbors. We were taking our dog for a walk last Sunday and one of our neighbors was apparently redecorating. They had framed pictures and a huge vase of fake flowers laying by the trash can. I eyed it as we passed, noticed the chip on the frame, but wanting desperately to tell my husband to stop and look at the vase with me. I refrained. Later that night, my husband returns from work and brings that giant vase in the house! I told him how I secretly REALLY wanted it but was following the “rule”. He said, “I don’t have a problem grabbing something this cool in the dark!”

    My best find: Again, out with the dog…Noticed a doll house sitting alone by the curb. Not a normal place for a child to play, so I meandered down the street to look. I asked the woman in the garage if she by chance was getting rid of it, and she said yes! Her daughter doesn’t use it any more and it just takes up room. It was a Melissa & Doug mint condition wooden house $179 online! She even helped me carry it home!

  • We live near a college, and we make a beeline for the “rich kids’ dorms” as soon as it lets out for the summer. They bring in a special dumpster just for the end of the year. We haul brand new stuff and like- new stuff out every year. Exercise machine, fans, amp, etc. etc. LOVE IT!

  • Wow! Thanks for the tips everyone. We have a “rich kids” college in our town. I will have to note when they are moving out and head over there.
    My dad had a cousin that made a living like your mother and grandmother. He used to take a trailer and drive down to the rich part of Florida on the weekends (i.e. Fort Lauderdale, West Palm etc) He would get like new furniture that would be set out at the curb. I guess a lot of rich people just redecorate whenever they feel like it and they would just put it out to the street. We recently put two couches out to the street and believe me nobody wanted them Lol! When I get rid of furniture it is literally breaking down!
    My best find was a nice dresser for my daughter for $75 and 3 like new jackets, one an expensive brand, that cost a total of $9 for all three. My kids wore them for several years!