Thursday, February 3, 2011

How to Score Great Finds Part 1

(Stay tuned for part 2 Thrifting and part 3 Craigslist and Freecycle)

I am an unapologetic trash picker....junker. I like the word junker so much better. It sounds less dirty. See how I put it with a little birdy up there and it even seems cute? But I was doing it back in the day before someone stuck the junker label on it, so I still think of it as trash picking.

Some of the best things I have found came from someones trash. I like to think I am kind of a professional at trash picking. Seriously! I know what days the different neighborhoods have pick up on. What neighborhood has at least one great condition rug set out at the curb every Thursday night. What house knows us trash pickers are coming and labels all of their boxes and bags so we know where the good stuff is.Which neighborhoods produce no trash at all. (And really though...what do the people in that neighborhood do with their trash?? I've never ever seen a single trash can. With 10,000 sq ft homes surely to goodness they must have some trash!!)

It does help that I am lucky enough to live in a town surrounded by multi million dollar homes (ours isn't one of them, trust me! These McMansions dwarf our little farmhouse) where people have disposable income and live in a disposable world. They compete with the Joneses and throw everything out to the curb as soon as it has a chance for dust to settle on it.

Most hot summer nights I can be found driving around town in my beat up 1985 pick up truck with bungee cords and a flashlight, peering at peoples trash cans.

Now this isn't for everyone. Some people would even be embarrassed to do something like this. But not me, I figure if they threw it out and I want it, why not save it from the landfill? My ex husband is a garbage man. He says he hates hates watching some of the really nice things go into the truck and get crushed. (Totally off topic here, but a nice thing to do for your garbage man would be to keep a cooler by your trash cans on trash day, labeled with some fresh goodies or drinks for your trash man. They deal with an awful lot!!)

Help save the trash!!! (I'm doing my part....are you doing yours?)

Anyways so if you are brave enough.....

Start by getting to know your area and when trash pick up is for the areas around you.

Then take a buddy. It's always good to have back up in case you will need to lift something heavy. (I gave myself a mammogram trying to lift a lawnmower in the truck once and smooshed one of the girls pretty good)
My trash buddy...this is what happens when you spend too much time with me! Hee hee (truthfully it was for the zombiefest.....raising food for gleaners food bank.) But she is a great pal who goes "picking" with me!

Also it's good to have a truck. I know this isn't practical for everyone. I bought my truck off of Craigslist last year for $1,500 with plans to use it mainly for trash picking. But we have been known to see large things in the trash and find ways to strap them to the car. (we got furniture once that we strapped to the hood with Christmas tree lights. I don't recommend it though. Always carry bungees!)

Which brings me to the bungees. Walmart carries a case full of different sizes for around $12. Best investment EVER. Also a good flashlight to see once it gets dark.

Now there is a such thing as "trash etiquette" 

Don't tear open trash bags. It's an annoyance for the home owner and the trash men. Not to mention if the bags are all tied up and you can't clearly see what is in it...the odds of getting your hand stuck in something really nasty are pretty good! (also just in case...carry hand sanitizer)

Only take it if it is clearly set out at the curb with the trash. If it is questionable, don't be afraid to knock on the door and ask the home owner (if it isn't too late at night). If it is questionable and there is no one to ask, LEAVE IT. It's not worth the possibility of accidentally stealing something.

Don't take bikes or childrens toys without asking first. Odds are good that it was mistakenly left there by a child who will miss it the following day.

Ok, hope I covered on to a list of some of the great things I found recently in the trash (just the things I can remember off the top of my head. Wish I had pictures of it all, but I do have a few)

My kitchen cabinet I used for an island (kept)

A porch swing (kept)
A yellow glider for the back porch (kept)

SEVERAL fire pits (kept 2, freecycled the rest)

Several end tables (sold)

A 1930's Berkey and Gay Full size bed (sold)

All of the bricks I used to do the edging around my garden (kept)
 2 wicker chairs (sold)

8 rugs (sold)

A white Christmas tree (kept)

3 lawn mowers (sold)

A kitchen table and chairs (sold)

Old Doors (kept)
Concrete planters (kept)

Shepards Hook (kept)

Fiberglass planters with price tags still on them for $39.99 each (kept)

A stainless steel ice caddy on wheels (kept)
imagine taken from the web because mine is buried in the garage

Arbor (kept)

A garden cart (kept)
Two wooden bench's~ adult size and child size (kept)

Garden hoses (kept and connected all, poked holes and made dripper hoses for the garden)

Tomato Cages (kept)

A tall cabinet (kept and use to hide the trash can in the kitchen)

Media cabinet (gave to ex husband)

A Victorian sofa

An antique kidney shaped vanity and stool (sold)

Vintage wrought iron patio furniture (sold)

A box of ground beef and bananas....just kidding!! Checking to see if you were still reading!!


  1. ok... cement planters? Really? You obviously live in a fabulous junkin town! Nobody around here throws out good stuff like that, although there is occasionally the "free" signed stuff at the curb.

    Lucky you and thanks for the tips.

  2. @Red Gate Farm
    Yes! Cement planters. I've found a total of 3. One was chipped, but still worked just fine! People get bored here and buy new and just toss the old to the curb. It's great! Thanks for reading!!!

  3. I only "thought" I wanted to live next door before!!!!! We don't have such luck with trash here, the trash really is trash. I did tell my husband the perfect job for me would be the local landfill though!!! ha ha!! I'm in awe of all your wonderful finds....keep sharing!

  4. @Crystal
    I know it used to be that some towns would let you go to the landfill and for a small fee do all of the "picking" you wanted. I don't know if anyplace still does that or not, but if they don't they should!

  5. Allright that does it. I'm grabbin' my friend and headin' to your town to go trash picking! It's not that far. I've been a picker for years...way before recycling was cool. My husband and I used to walk the alley's on Sunday nights to see what we could find. I'm sitting here thinking of all the good stuff I've picked up over the years. Never a box of ground beef or bananas! funny....

    Cindy Bee

  6. @Bee Lady
    Cindy did you get my email? I've emailed you through the link on your profile, don't know if it went through! I have some info I am wanting to share about an upcoming local "trash event"

  7. My kids and I went out junkin the other night while dad was at work late. We had a blast! ?Found two great old doors..

    Love what you wrote!

  8. I'm a confessed junker too! There is some great finds out there! You go girl I totally get it! Great post. Traci

  9. amazing finds! love those green doors and the headboard...trash picking er junking is the best!!

  10. Hi Nicki! I want to go junkin' with you girl! You sure are a talented junker ( despite the fact that you passed on the ground beef and bananas). Our friend Brenda sent me over to welcome you. I am following you now because I do not want to miss out on any of your great junkin' tips!!

    Susan and Bentley

  11. Whoa! Quite the haul! I love trash night too! When the weather is warmer I scout out the curb from my bike then go back in my truck to pick up the good stuff!

  12. My husband and I used to be "junkers", before children, and when we lived in a city suburb. I do prefer the word "junker", now if we happen to see a clean up going on, we will swing through and see what is to be had :) You have made quite the haul, over the years. Thanks for sharing and I am now a follower.

  13. Oh my gosh, you are hysterically funny. I just found your blog and am thrilled. I love "junking" too. Always have my eye open, but I live in a small town and have a somewhat visible job so I keep it low-profile(ish). I'm not really embarrassed. In fact, on some level, I feel like the more of us who proudly recycle and upcycle, the more it will help remove the stigma because I'm with you - - keep it out of the landfills. 'course then there are more junkers competing for the good stuff. You're my new hero and I'm your new follower.


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