Dumpster diving?

cnvhFebruary 9, 2006

I just witnessed something which has had me in a mix of amusement and revulsion at the same time. I really have no other idea as to where to post this, so I'll put it here and you can all tell me if I'm crazy or not...

I posted in this forum a few months ago, re: our former landlord who hadn't returned our security deposit. The short version of that story was that we were tenants for almost 5 years in a little apartment attached to our landlord's townhome; we were great tenants, always paid rent on time, were social friends with the landlord and his family, etc., etc. Last year we ended up purchasing the house right next door, and our landlord (who's also a real estate agent) acted as our buyer agent. He's a nice guy, but a notorious cheapskate-- and when we moved out, he stiffed us on returning our security deposit. So, we haven't really spoken since, and for all I know, he doesn't even realize we're pissed. But that's a whole different story...

Anyway, fast-forward to last weekend... he got new tenants in one of the units, and when the family moved in, they erected a HUGE pile of trash on the corner of the property, where all the tenants usually put out their garbage for weekly pick-up. And this pile is HUGE-- I think they must have decided to toss half of their crap when they moved in; it's WAY more than what you'd expect from moving, and the stuff is CRAP-- broken chairs, old ratty toys, bagged garbage, so on and so forth. I know it wasn't stuff left behind by the former tenants; we knew them and they didn't have kids-- a lot of this stuff looks like kids stuff.

As I said, we live right next door and are often outside on our porch, so we see the comings and goings at our former apartment pretty regularly. The funny thing is, our former landlord is a bit of an obsessive neat freak, and I'm absolutely certain this mountain of trash is driving him up a wall. (So at least he's getting a bit of his just rewards for stiffing us, haha)

So this stuff has been sitting around for over a week now... trash day came and went, and the trash guys didn't take a BIT of it. Either the people haven't set up trash service yet, or the trash guys are just refusing to take it-- it's way over any reasonable quantity limits, and very little of it is actually in bags or cans-- it looks like a dump!

So here's where I am amused/repulsed... this afternoon I was sitting outside, and I see a strange car pull up to the "dump." A woman gets out, starts RIFLING THROUGH THE TRASH HEAP LIKE IT WAS A BOOTH AT A FLEA MARKET, packed at least 3 trash cans' worth into her (already junk-laden) car and pulled off!!

Okay okay, I can totally accept is someone is legitimately poor and NEEDS the stuff, but judging by the looks of this woman, I really don't think that was the case... I think she was just one of those types who can't stand to see "good stuff" thrown away-- you know, a hoarder.

But the thing is, I know a LOT of people who see nothing wrong with this! I work in a professional setting, and in the town where I work, there are spring clean-up days where everyone puts out their old junk for the township to haul away. There are a lot of people in my office who think that's like an annual flea-market festival, and they'll go out over lunch to see what great finds they can get.

This completely freaks me out!!! There's just something about rooting through another person's designante garbage which just seems inherently WEIRD and WRONG to me. I am certainly not an elitist by any means; I wear clothes from Target, we have loads of "furniture" from Wal-Mart, and my DH and I are certainly mot materialistic in our lifestyle. But this dumpster-diving thing is just STRANGE to me.

Am I nuts, or what?

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You are NUTS! See the "garden junk" forum on gardenweb.

I found a 1927 Singer Featherweight (sold for $450 on eBay) sitting on the curb on bulk trash day. I've "rescued" entire bedroom sets (gave them to a charity) from the alley.
I've seen appliances I discarded (with a note about what was wrong) vanishing down the alley in a junk dealer's truck.

When bulk trash day comes around, this neighborhood sorts the stuff into reusable, recyclable and just plain trash. Duroing the week before the bulk trash pickup, most of the piles shrink by 50% or more.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 9:30PM
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The same often happens with large stuff that we put out to the curb-- but it's stuff that is quite clearly broken, and certainly not of any antique or vintage value. That's what I don't get!

Last summer we had set out a cheapie desk chair that was utterly beyond repair-- the seat was visibly at a huge angle; it would have been dangerous, if not impossible, to sit in. DH, who is quite handy, had tried to fix the thing but to no avail... not that we cared, the thing cost maybe $30 to buy brand new anyway. And THAT vanished by dark of night before trash day.

I can understand the urge to take something that looks useable, or possibly antique-- but stuff that is clearly garbage? Ick!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 11:30PM
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I would a lot rather a good old chair with a broken leg than a brand new cheapie anything from Wally World. I also have done a lot of props and sets for a local theater.....and you would be surprised how hard it is to find junk when you need it! I mean you just can't fake a sofa with the stuffing coming out and the seat sagging....it's got to be the real thing....preferably found at curb side!
Linda C

    Bookmark   February 9, 2006 at 11:45PM
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The town I grew up in had the same "spring clean up" days that you described, and I furnished my first apartment with 2 couches (one which was way too big), tables, coffee table, lamps, all kinds of goodies. It's really not all that different from garage sales, except your not paying for it.

Of course, I only wanted stuff that was in good shape. Some people will take anything. The house I grew up in had blue sculptured carpet. And I don't mean like light blue, or slate blue....no, ROYAL blue. Well, royal blue in the corners anyway, where it hadn't been walked on for 20 years. Finally my parents got tired of it and decided to replace it with some nice neutral beige. Rather than pay the carpet company to remove the old stuff, dad removed it and the old tack strips himself. As he rolled the carpet up from the floor, the backing cracked because it was so old and in such bad shape. He managed to get it out to the curb, along with a trash can full of old tack strips, a couple days before trash day. It wasn't more than 3 or 4 hours later that he was in the living room and looked out the front window to see someone checking out the carpet. About half an hour later that same person returned in a bigger vehicle and took it. 20 year old, beat down, royal blue sculptured carpet that was so bad the backing was cracking. Some people will take anything.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 8:01AM
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I think I have pride issues related to going through someone else's garbage. That, coupled with the fact that the times I witness people doing this, they're going at it in the dead of night, like thieves... it just doesn't feel right to me somehow.

Last night (after midnight!), DH saw an SUV pull up, three people hopped out and were rifling though the heap with flashlights. If it's such an OK thing to do, why do people do it in the middle of the night like that?! It gives me the creeps!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 9:35AM
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Yes, I absolutely think you're nuts! :)
FTR, I do not Target or Wal Mart clothing. I'm admittedly a clothing snob and I do not find the things I like at those stores.

But we have a swap shop in town that I frequent, and I've found a number of wonderful items there! Old chairs, sewing machines, tables, and couches. I've fixed up several broken machines, sold them, and made several hundred dollars. I've found antiuqe couches and chairs, re-upholstered them, and made country- style slip covers for them and I've got a beautiful living room for next to nothing.

With the materialistic theme of this country today, I'm very pleased that so many people want to recycle, trade, or swap.

I'm guessing you also think that antique shopping is gross? Antiques are used too, yanno. If you're wandering through an antique shop, you're wandering through someone else's 'garbage.'

(I'm just giving you a hard time, I couldn't resist!)

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 10:45AM
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I think it's a great public service. I'd rather that stuff find a use in someone's home than filling up landfill. Skulking around in the dark with flashlights is pretty creepy, though.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 10:49AM
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It's not the fact that this stuff has been used that bothers me. I do go to antique malls from time to time (though I admit, 90% of the stuff SHOULD be trash in my opinion), mainly to see "vintage" Americana and also to check out old furniture. I haven't bought any pieces yet, but I would if I found something that catches my eye just right.

It's the "going through the garbage on someone's curb" part that weirds me out. It just feels so, so very WRONG to me! I can picture being out on a walk and maybe stumbling across some perfect, awesome item sitting on someone's curb for trash, MAYBE I'd get a "gotta have it" feeling, but I just don't think I could bring myself to take it. I'd probably knock on the door and ask first, and probably get VERY strange looks from the homeowners.

I know I know, I'm weird... But hey, congrats to all of you on your great finds; I guess it's pretty amazing, what some people consider garbage, huh?

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 11:50AM
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Once I had a couple old bikes a tenant left behind. The next summer I put them at the curb with a free sign. They sat there for 2 weeks. Finally a storm came by and blew my sign away. The next day with no sign someone came and picked them up.

I see nothing freaky or wrong with this. Many people do it at night because they are embarrassed. A home where the people moved, on their last day put everything at the curb that didn't fit in the truck. You drove by and saw a something that you liked. Would you stop then and grab it to save it from the garbage, or stop by latter when its dark to pick it up.

I have never grabbed anything out of the garbage BUT I remeber being in a college town during spring clean up. It was crazy! Students were racing the crew around town to beat them to the goods.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 2:09PM
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One man's trash....and all that.
There is a difference between "Garbage" and "Junk".
Junk is what can be reused/fixed/made into something else.
Garbage is the total opposite of that.
I curb shop and have dumpster dived fairly often, and have always come home with a nice little treasure. I even found a $50 bill once. I wouldn't consider that garbage.
If you don't feel comfortable with someone going through your trash, but you have something to get rid of that may have a 2nd life, then I would suggest that you join your local FreeCycle group and offer it up to someone that may really want/need it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Freecycle

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 7:38PM
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This is a sad story--to me at least. My sister and brother-in-law live on the beach south of here. They decided to get new living room, dining room and bedroom furniture. They called around the usual places where you donate goods and the resell them, but it seems none in that area want to bother with it anymore (at least according to her). They put a couch, end tables, lamps, coffee table, dining table w/4 chairs, china cabinet, serving cart, king bed, dresser and dresser w/mirror out at their curb, at my suggestion (thinking someone would surely come by and knock on their door and ask about it. In the afternoon, my sister called a company and PAID to have it taken away and 1/2 hour later a couple stopped by. They were from up north and had just bought a condo and had driven by and happened to see the furniture but were too shy to stop. After talking about it, they got up the nerve--just a little too late. Sob!!! What you describe doesn't sound so hot, but this was solid wood furniture.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2006 at 10:33PM
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I agree with lazygardens..I have found SO many neat things thrown out in my building and on curbs that still have many years of use left. Why allow something to be hauled away if it's still good? I see nothing wrong with someone "curb shopping" for used goods. Makes a lot of sense, rather than buying the same thing new. I have had people who throw stuff on their curbs thank me profusely for taking stuff away.

As someone else mentioned, with the materialistic, must have everything new, throw away mentality of our society, I'm glad there are people left who see the value in 2 hand items.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2006 at 10:21AM
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We put out an old barbecue grill. afew minutes later, a man on a bicycle rode by and picked it up with one hand and pedaled on down the street. If you want to get rid of something, put it on the curb, and give it a day or two.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2006 at 12:10AM
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I try not to throw out anything someone else could want. Clean clothes and shoes in good shape goes to my housekeeper, who requested them. I also gave her a couple of slightly warped Calphalon pans I can't use anymore on my smooth cooktop, but are perfectly fine for a regular range. Last time DH and I moved, we gave our old furniture away to the building manager assistant, who gave the stuff to her sister in need.

I was at a party last week where we were talking about eBay businesses, and one of the folks there has a friend who dumpster dives (in a very upscale town) for odds and ends that she sells online.

You never know!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2006 at 7:58PM
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Another one who thinks you're missing out on a lot of good cheap fun! LOL (You notice I didn't say CLEAN, didn't you!? LOL)

Hey, if we all thought just alike it would be a mighty dull world. ((cnvh))

    Bookmark   February 23, 2006 at 6:38PM
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When I was cleaning out my mother's apartment after her death, we put a lot of stuff out at the curb the night before trash pickup. Actually, I had a friend and my cousin standing over me saying "out it goes!" and that was the only way I could do this. But we'd put the stuff out on Monday night and in between "deposits", the stuff would already be picked up! Somehow I felt sort of violated by this. Hard to explain, but because I was there when the stuff was picked up, I almost felt like I was robbed. Yet I couldn't have used the stuff anyhow -- it was just hard to part with anything from my mother's house. That is probably why I am still paying to store a lot of her stuff!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2006 at 7:37PM
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MIL passed away, leaving a small home furnished. Her three children wanted to sell the hpouse quickly. The two dtrs went thru all her clothing and personal belongings, gave away some, kept photos and other things of sentimental value. All that was left was furniture. One dtr agreed to take the bedroom set, it was 50 years old but recently professionally re-finished all solid-maple. So there was a house with nothing but furniture. We called many charities. Most were not interesrted, "we don't do that anymore..." We also phoned Salvation Army, described what was available, they said they would send a truck on such-and-such a day. No set time. DH and I arrived early. Truck came, but all the driver took was two tables, a dining room table and an end table. The driver refused to take lamps or anything electrical or anything with fabric, hence no upholstered furniture. So we (DH and I) picked up everything still left in the house, hauled it to the curb. We sat there,outside,the weather was quite good. A couple of cars stopped, people took a few things. One lady came by and tried to get a coffee table into her car, but it wouldn't fit. She said she would return with a truck in a day or two. So we left, with a small mountain of furniture piled at the curb. We called the town, they said it was a crime to leave it. So what would they do, leave a ticket on the pile? We finally found a garbage hauler who would take the stuff away, for a fee. We gave them a check. Returned to the house two days later, everything was gone. We could only hope that other pasasers-by had taken something, anything useful. Did I mention MIL was a clean-freak, and always bought "the best of everything?" It was sad to see all her furniture piled in a heap. But I wish the local charities hadn't been so picky.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 9:29AM
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Yeah...your nuts. But, you said it first!
Check out user groups. Keeping stuff out of the landfills helps our ecosystem. One mans trash is another mans treasure. I have found for example, a $1200 welder that needed a $35 part. Appliances etc. I Freecycle them usually. If this weirdness bothers you this much, don't look, it'll all be over in a couple minutes. Counceling? Medication maybe...

    Bookmark   May 28, 2006 at 8:37PM
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bracketracer2000, I'm loving your posts already! Hope you continue to browse and post!

I went to the county dump/ recycle center last week. The guy in front of me was dropping of a fiberglass boat. We were right behind and before I got out of the vehicle 5 people were all over the boat! IT was roten from the inside out and was incenerated for energy. Lots of intrest, which I think is great!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2006 at 10:15PM
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Here in New York City dumpster diving and curb shopping are hallowed traditions. I've found and recycled two perfectly good bookcases, a nice small oriental rug that needed only cleaning, and a few other such items. A number of years ago I had a friend who picked up an antique desk and, after cleaning it up, installed it in his apartment. Several weeks later a visiting friend, who was an antiques dealer, spotted the desk. It turned out to be a Louis XV ecritoire and was worth several thousand dollars!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2006 at 11:44AM
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it isn't the collecting of the stuff that bothers me..but how it's done okay?? it's one thing to collect stuff from the curb or maybe off the sidewalk, even from in front of the dumpster.etc..but i see people literally dumpster diving..getting INTO the dumpster sifting through the crap in there like homeless people...this goes on in my complex from time to time in the dumpster right outside my apartment across the parking lot. now THAT is real dumpster diving and it makes me kinda sick!!! it's like taking off what the raccoon and the rats didn't take the previous night. searching is okay..but..outside of the dumpster..okay????

    Bookmark   September 1, 2008 at 5:17AM
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I recall the big flack when Walmart gave out booklets to laid off employees suggesting dumpster diving as a way to get by till they got another job.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 2:54PM
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You know what they say... one man's trash is another man's treasure!

I've gotten some great items, in really great shape, from day-before-trash-pick-up excursions! It's like a free flea market! I can't see filling up a landfill with items that still have plenty of life left in them... it seems so wasteful to me. I'll happily pick through someones unwanted items if I know I can find treasures to take home, clean up, and get good use from them!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 7:24PM
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I can't think of a better way to get bedbugs. . .from someone else's furniture that they put in the trash. I realize most of this thread is 2 years old and it's only really in the past two years that the bedbug situation has spiraled out of control. . .but I'm just wondering if the dumpster divers have changed their habit due to this newly revived scourge?

And no, they are not just in NYC. They are in small towns, dorm rooms at colleges, single family homes... you name it.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 10:25PM
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Bedding and upholstered furniture are not items I'd "dumpster dive" for, but anything solid, such as wooden furnishings or lamps... the sort of things that can be adequately cleaned or refinished, are fair game and worth the effort, I feel.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 7:21AM
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Unfortunately, it's due to mis-information like this that they are spreading so fast. The truth is that bedbugs LOVE wood furniture and don't restrict themselves to mattresses. Tables, lamps, picture frames, etc are just as likely to harbor them as upholstered furniture. Google "bedbugs" and read about it.

If you are going to dumpster dive for wood furniture, at least take adequate precautions and understand that bedbugs eggs are tiny and very difficult to see, and the eggs might not hatch until 2 weeks after you already have the furniture sitting in your house. I personally don't feel it's worth the risk, as getting rid of an infestation is extremely difficult and costly.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 10:40AM
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I've read all about bedbugs... I'm aware of the risks involved, and the precautions I take are more than adequate.

Some of us would rather not keep throwing perfectly good things into landfills, when they have years of excellent service left in them... some of us don't have endless bank accounts to keep spending on new items.

I don't recall giving any mis-information... if people can't ascertain the risks and precautions for themselves, perhaps they should read "Common Sense for Dummies". Too bad a book such as that doesn't exist.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 10:01AM
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Wow, Jokik, I wasn't aware that personal attacks were allowed on this forum. I'm sure you thought you were being so subtle with your Common Sense for Dummies comment. Aren't you clever!

So what are the "more than adequate" precautions are you taking with this dumpter-diving wood furniture retrieval? If you are so well-informed, I guess you know that bedbug eggs take 2 weeks to hatch?

I'm shocked that you are being so rude about something that's turning into a public health crisis in every major city, every college campus and many single family homes in the middle of nowhere. I feel sorry for your neighbors.

If you were so nice and so smart, then you would give a little tutorial about the details about how "more than adequate"ly you clean your dumpster finds so that other people on this forum will learn how not to get bedbugs if they should choose to continue to dumpster dive.

But I suspect you are not so nice and so smart. "Common Sense for Dummies" back at you!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 9:18PM
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I see where you're coming from wvmmrh -- I've done a lot of "curb shopping", "alley browsing", even taken things from around the dumspters or off the top of the giant barrels we have here -- but I've never actually gotten into residential bins with coffee ground and banana peels. While I wouldn't blanch at someone else diving for something they thought was gold, it might skeeve me out get that into it myself!

I've always been a bit concerned about bringing in fleas or cockroaches. So I've always limited myself to wood or glass or metal objects, something I can hose down or disinfect, and leave covered in the backyard for a few weeks before I bring it in.

I hadn't realized that bedbugs could live on such surfaces, seneca; thanks for the info.

Perhaps there are other precautions I should take -- jokik? Care to share your strategies?

    Bookmark   September 16, 2008 at 2:26PM
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