A few weeks ago I wrote about how to give away stuff you don’t want anymore. The other side of that is finding free stuff. It can be fun and rewarding to go scavenging for treasure. You never know what you may come across. Currently, I stick to non-bagged residential “garbage.” Foraging for stuff behind stores, known as dumpster diving or skipping, is more involved.
Below are some reasons, tips and suggestions, as well as photos of recent finds.
Why pick up garbage? You can …
- find free stuff that you need.
- discover treasure.
- prevent useful things from being trucked to landfill or incinerators.
- find gifts for family, friends or strangers.
- give new life to an item that needs some simple fixing.
- rescue cans, bottles and papers that belong in recycling.
There is an excellent photo series at Instructibles called Dumpster Dipping (for a small planet or just for fun). The author describes it as:
“… an enjoyable activity involving a pleasant bike ride, a hunt, the thrill of discovery, the mystery of recent archeology, forensic storytelling, good Karma recycling, and a form of shopping with green environmental impact. It helps me get in touch with my early human hunter gathering roots. It is similar to gold panning, … It is also possible to undo your entire carbon footprint through the recycling of other people’s former stuff.”
- Go around your immediate neighbourhood. Nearby finds are easier to carry back.
- Garbage day offers the best selection, and the last chance to save stuff from landfill.
- Look for houses that are throwing away a large amount of stuff – after a Spring cleaning or someone moving out. The first of a month is a good time to find stuff left behind by former tenants.
- I don’t bother opening up bags, unless they are located beside a lot of nice unbagged items, and look like they may contain useful stuff. Continue reading
I am always amazed at how easy it is to give away stuff in front of our house. Even things that I consider to be complete junk get snapped up, and I am no stranger to scavenging. Many of the items in our house were found in the trash. This is a great way to cut down on the “garbage” that gets sent to landfills or incinerators, while at the same time helping people in need.
Meagan moved out this month and left behind an old bed (see photo above), wobbly shelf and a bunch of stuff that she intended to throw away. Joe claimed an old chair for his room, then helped me move the rest of the discarded furniture to the curb. The wobbly shelf made of white particle board was grabbed by the time we got back to the front door!
I knew the old stained bed would be a harder “sell”. So I attached a note that read: “Good Bed. No bed bugs, no cats, non-smoking house.” The bed was gone after two days! I was amazed. All the smaller items have also been picked up. Only the old pillows remain.
Tips on how best to give away junk:
- Arrange items as neatly and attractively as possible.
- Put items out well ahead of garbage day. Or if garbage day arrives, remove the items for give-away from the curb, then put them back after the garbage truck has passed.
- If a plug-in item such as a toaster, stereo or tool works, attach a note saying: “It works.” If it is broken, leave a note explaining this. Someone may know how to fix it or may want it for parts.
- When giving away old couches, bedding or carpets, leave a note explaining if the home was free from smoking, bed bugs, cockroaches, cats or dogs. Recently bed bugs have become a problem in Toronto. Some people are discarding infested items, but if the temperature outside is below freezing this will kill them. During warmer weather, if you see a nice item without a note, the only way to tell if it is safe would be to knock on the door of the house.
- If rain if forecast, cover items with plastic or move them to a sheltered place until the rain stops.
- If you have the time and energy, hold a garage sale first. If people have to pay something, they are more likely to value and make use of it. At the end of the day, leave the unsold stuff by the curb.
- Online, you can make use of Craigslist or FreeCycle to get rid of stuff.