Wednesday, July 9, 2008

OK, so I realize the majority of young, female professionals balk at the idea of digging through...trash. I understand that, no really I do! But do you even know how much stuff you can find? With a quick coat of paint, or a tweak here and there and you can find amazing useful things for your abode.

A few months ago I was walking out to go to work and I noticed a box of great stuff sitting outside the dumpster. One simple look yieled glass candlestick holders and a cute picture frame that held many photos (still in it's original Target box). I took the frame for my desk at work and promised to come back later that day. So I did, and lo and behold the box had vanished. Lesson number one of dumpster diving was learned that day: get to know your neighborhood trash pick-up schedule. Other lessons learned are as follows:

Hunt around the dorm trash bins around the same time finals are happening (and especially immediately after) and you're bound to pick up some useful things. When I was in college my best friend managed to pick up a stereo and entertainment center from a back alley. The nicer the school, the better the stuff. But then, that's just common knowledge.

Scope Then Scoop
Scope out places of interest (apartment buildings, notable neighborhoods) and learn the trash pick up schedule. Also, often times apartments have an unofficial dumping area for free stuff. You can typically spot this because someone puts furniture in that area and the place quickly becomes populated with other orphaned odds and ends.

Stay Within the Law
So I've been known to bend a few rules here and there. However, in some states dumpster diving is illegal. I highly suggest you learn the law before you venture out; at least then you know to keep a low profile. Also, avoid mail at all costs. Be respectful of other's trash and avoid potentionally personal information.

Broken Doesn't Eliminate Use

You may find something that needs more than just a coat of paint. Don't disregard the item simply because the previous owner lacked the imagination or motivation to envision the piece as it should be rather than as it is. A great way to read up on fix-it how to's is online at Home Depot. With a simple tutorial and the right tools, you're only limited to what you can't concieve (well ok and the number of injuries you may incur before throwing in the towel....) If it doesn't work out, just put it right back in the dumpster.

Use Dumpsters to Make Money

Just becaus eyou may not necessarily need another coffee table doesn't mean you can't take it in, give it a little love and resell if on Craigslist. Even if you sell it for 15 bucks: it cost you nothing to acquire.

Recommended Tools

  • Flashlight
  • Gloves
  • Baby or Anti-Bacterial Wipes
  • Long Stick (to use in probing stuff you don't really want to touch)
  • Bags (grocery or otherwise to collect your items)
  • Step Stool (so you can peer over the rim of the dumpster)
  • Razor Blade (to rip open boxes or bags)
  • Pepper Spray
Use Common Sense

Evaluate the safety of the situation you're in. Is the dumpster attached to a trash compactor? Is the dumpster locked up? Use common sense and if the object of desire is soaked in mystery liquid...just don't. Make sure to go with a buddy should you choose to embark on your treasure hunting during the night and just remember to be safe.

Stores to Check Out

I would look at craft stores, discount retailers (like TJ Maxx), party supply stores, drugstores, discount or used bookstores and maybe even grocery stores. Strip malls are better bets. Malls? Probably not. You're more likely to find furniture and appliances at apartments and in neighborhoods but stores offer great chances to score greeting cards, books, decorations and odds and ends.


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