Relaxshax's Blog


Dumpster Diving for Tiny House and Construction Materials…(and food?)
February 7, 2011, 8:24 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve done a lil’ divin’ in the past- and read some GREAT (and VERY entertaining) books on the subject too. Truth be told, “dumpster diving” for things other than construction materials isn’t such a far cry from the minset behind “salvage construction” as you’ll see in the attached video. Its truly unbelievable how much gets wasted here in the states. In the tiny housing/small living world, since a good deal of the aim and impetus is to build affordably and “beat the system” to a degree, why not try this? If you’re worried about appearances, do it a night, and if confronted by”authorities”- go to the age old excuse “I’m moving, and was just looking for boxes”. You can always additionally drop some b.s. universal detail too- ie. “I talked to one of your employees the other day and he said it would be fine.”  If they ask for a name, as you’re already in the process of slowly walking away- drop some general name- chances are there is a “Mike” that works there (although you don’t want to get anyone in trouble).

ALSO- the main rule amongst divers, so as not to give them more of a misjudged bad reputation… ALWAYS leave the area cleaner than when you found it! As for yourself, if you’re going to do some true diggin- gloves are a must! A flashlight, and a stick to move and prod things around and aside, a long sleeve shirt, and GOOD rugged shoes are also a very good idea,

If you’ve got any great stories or tips of free dumpster, or curbside find, DO SHARE!

As for myself, I’ve never dived for food- although I’m not opposed to trying it- as most of the things that are tossed ARE perfectly good (as long as you read dates and use some scrutiny). The above youtube clip is based on a pretty decent story on the movement, and just might open your eyes to this avenue of obtaining whatever you might be in search of (in this case- building materials perhaps).

I’ve found hundreds of dollars, thousands even, worth of things on curbsides, and being thrown out behind buildings, and used most of it in my building projects. In other cases, I’ll clean up and sell some of the items on craigslist. I won’t get into details, but the savings can be HUGE, and the side-gig lucrative, if you have the time to pursue it.

Just recently I’ve found….

A full roll of roofing/tar paper, a wooden rocking chair that needed a minor fix (I’ll sell it, or use it in a future cabin I build), A HUGE box full of very expensive toys and action figures (which you can clean and gift to kids, or sell as a lot online), several six-panel pine doors (sold ’em ALL!), a HUGE, double-pane bay window (which probably cost $1000+ new), SEVERAL double pane windows (which I incorporated into my side-foyer remodel), a tile saw (which worked GREAT- I sold it), an air compressor (worked fine!- gave it to a friend who needed one), and the list goes on….

I also saw a woman (driving a Lexus!) the other week dumpster diving for potted plants (which I hear many do at cemetaries when the maintenance staff discards all the long-standing plants into their dumpsters). This might sound bizarre, but its not like the “residents” are going to complain- and this stuff is being thrown out anyway.

Anyway, its a tangent post, but in terms of location materials for your budget-home or project, its a means to an end that shouldn’t be overlooked AND keep in mind that you’re keeping all this stuff out of landfills!

-Derek “Deek” Diedricksen


7 Comments so far
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One of my sister’s just puts what she doesn’t want anymore at the curb with a “free” sign on it. The item is usually gone in minutes – yes, minutes. I think others in her neighborhood sell the stuff but she doesn’t care; she just wants it gone now.

Another sister and her boyfriend enjoy their wine which is usually a bottle each, every night. They saw a lady going through their trash on pick-up day so now they put the bottles in a bag of their own for her. Yes, they could get money back recycling them especially being as they are in California but again, they just don’t care to and they figure the lady must need the money.

To top it off I know a lady who likes garage sales (where dumpster divers are probably selling stuff) and will buy anything for a buck – even when she knows it won’t work! I couldn’t make any sense of that one.

Comment by Timaree (freebird)

Love Dumpster Diving…I have 3 stainless steel restaurant kitchens that came from resorts. When they installed the new kitchens they tossed the old ones. My husband loaded them on our big truck and brought them home through the years. When we moved to Costa Rica, we packed them in our container and now they live and work here at the farm.

Chain link fence, miles of it…when the high school installed new fencing, we were given the old fence. Same for the aluminium football benches, they just tossed them. Scored again.

Sewing machines that are perfect…why would anyone throw those to the curb? By the time my kids were 6, they had each scored their own from the neighbors bulk trash pile. They were always so proud walking home with their finds, some of which was bigger than they were. A rocking chair for me, patio furniture (the good stuff)…

Today my kids are 28-34 and they still dumpster dive. Why pay money when you can get better quality for free? Use your money for other stuff, like a truck so you can drag the good stuff home. It is also the thrill of the hunt, it gets in your blood.

Comment by ginnee

I love dumpster diving! I once got my best friend “new” furniture for her livingroom from a dumpster. A local bank was redecorating the lobby, and the stuff they tossed was in great shape, perfectly co-ordainated, and absolutely free! Another friend and I just rolled up along side the dumpster in a pick-up and loaded up a whole room full of pretty, good stuff!
Once I got a 6×3 foot mirror from a curb, along with three VERY nice BIG pieces of coral that are beautiful!
I have no problem dumpster diving. Why waste good stuff? With so much need in the world, it just blows my mind what people throw away!
I was inspired to begin diving by a friend of a friend we called “Dumpster Dave”. This guy actually supported his young family by dumpster diving! And supported them pretty well too! He had a “route” he ran throughout the week. He knew which stores threw out on which day. He knew the garbage pick-up days in the upper income park of town, where lots of treasures landed on the curb. And he had several second hand stores that bought from him.
If we all began to live like we only have one planet, alot less would be thrown away, and more stuff would be re-used, upcycled, freecycled, and kept!
P.S. I love your site, and your building!

Comment by Cathi

Great stories/finds all around- and thanks for the kind words. Somewhat recently I found TWO little tykes racecar beds- all in great shape- those things sell, even used, for a decent bit. Kept one too….For whatever reason Step2 and Little Tykes kid stuff is tossed ALL the time- and their products are close to indestructible! They ALWAYS re-sell too.

Comment by relaxshax

I used to curb side shop when I lived in a town where garbage pick up was free and they took anything. I found some pretty interesting things back then.
Where I live now I would not dumpster dive for food because all the grocery stores send leftovers that have not gone bad to the local pantries. I guess they figure it deters the people who need it from dumpster diving.
Also a great time to go dumpster diving when you live in a college town is in May when all the colleges let out and kids leave stuff behind.

Comment by Sarah L

I had to add the most fabulous resource for we Dedicated Divers: FREECYCLE!! The things you’ll find there are great! (www.freecycle.org) Loving the posts…

Comment by abbie

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