Dumpster Diving

by Madeline Laughs
A man rummaging through a skip at the back of ...

Image via Wikipedia

I have decided that for the next 26 days I am going to blog the alphabet. Each day I will endeavor to post a heartfelt article with a title that corresponds to the next letter in the alphabet. I am not going to just write. I hope to impart some kind of wisdom, or inject humor into your day with my articles. We will see how that goes.

Today the letter is D and my article is about Dumpster Diving.  

I met these two very resourceful women not long after moving to Austin, TX that were experts at the art of dumpster diving. They knew the right time of year to go and exactly where and when to go.

One early morning in the spring we loaded the truck with paper towels, hand sanitizer and a special pole they made that had a hook on the end. This pole, they explained, was for deep dumpsters that we didn’t want to climb into.

And away we cruised. 

Why dumpster dive? Because I had heard about it, read about it and marveled at it, but never experienced it. And what harm? If I didn’t enjoy it I didn’t have to do it again. But for that moment it sounded like a true adventure.

Who dumpster dives? From the looks of it…everyone! Check out these DD related websites:

www.dumpsterworld.com this website links you with dumpster diving sites and tips from all over.

www.dumpsterdiving.net this website shows dumpster finds from every city.

www.allthingsfrugal.com has all kinds of tips on how to dumpster dive successfully.

If you Google it there are 621,000 websites that talk about it. That’s a lot of chatter.

The best time to dive in Austin is the spring. You have nice weather and the students are all moving home. This translates to lots of big stuff on the curbs and in the dumpsters because if it doesn’t fit in the car they can’t haul it home.

That day my big find was a 5’x7′ wool, patterned rug with the Pier One tag still attached. Retail cost: $310.00. My cost: Zero. It was brand spanking new! My friend said the only possible thing he could see it might have as a problem was that I didn’t know if it had fleas in it or not. Lucky for me, it didn’t.

I also like to frequent thrift stores. I’ve found some real keepers there. I procured a beautiful Coach handbag (yes, it was the real thing) that needed a minor repair, which the repair shop gouged me out of $50 because they saw “Coach” and thought, “hey, moneybags!”. I gave it to my friend Becky and she enjoys it more than I ever would have and that makes me happy. I’ve found Todd Oldham blue jeans, Brooks Brothers dress shirts and everything DKNY you can imagine.

My latest obsession and my husband’s new love is the classic, vintage bowling shirt. They’re hard to find and you have to have an eye for them.

My husband was fascinated with my one dumpster diving achievement and one morning asked to go on a jaunt, just me and him. So we loaded up the car with the necessary supplies and headed out before rush hour.

As we headed downtown close to the campus he asked questions and prepared himself for the task. I saw the first set of dumpsters and told him to pull over. We got out of the car and I climbed up to look over the side. Nothing in this one. So I moved to the next one.

“What are we looking for” he asked.

“I dunno, anything worth diving for, I guess.”

“That’s not much of a plan” he said.

“Ok, well there’s nothing here. Let’s look for another set of dumpsters.”

“What do you mean” he asked. “Are you telling me we have to drive around and look for dumpsters and then look in each one?”

“Um, well yeah. How else are we going to find anything?”

“Well that just sucks! I didn’t know we’d be driving from dumpster to dumpster and having to look in each one.”

So now he’s giving me the look. I try to explain…

“That’s what dumpster diving is. There’s not one gigantic parking lot where all the dumpsters live. And the ones that have cool stuff don’t have signs on them that say “LOOK IN ME!! I HAVE COOL SHIT!!”

He now leaves the art of dumpster diving to his fabulously talented wife. I haven’t been in about four years, but I still love it and plan to go again someday soon.

If you have dumpster diving stories please share them with me. Until then…

Don’t drink and dive! Dive responsibly!

Note: There is only one kind of dumpster diving I do not recommend. Never dive in the dumpster of your competition. That’s just not cool. Old furniture, rugs and various collectible items are one thing. Stealing someone’s secrets is quite another. If you dive for the sake of spying, karma will eventually get you. So dive with respect.

About Madeline Scribes

A writer with a sense of humor. If anyone can laugh at life, it's me.
This entry was posted in All kinds of Advice and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Dumpster Diving

  1. Heather says:

    Thanks for the Pingback! I wish I could say that the people I saw dumpster diving were looking for a discarded rug, but unfortunately, they were looking for food. ;(


    • Yes, that is sad, but it is also ingenuity at work. In Austin, TX there is a food kitchen that’s open 7 days a week serving three, good and hot meals. The homeless there know where to go to get fed. When there aren’t facilities or kindness available, the dumpster is way better than going hungry.


  2. Regyna Longlank says:

    We used to dumpster dive for art supplies, the ones behind sticker stores are the best. I still have my notebook from college that is encrusted with the rolls and rolls of usable stickers they were tossing. The dumpsters at the university right around the end of the spring semester are a gold mine. The students throw out appliances, furniture, all kinds of stuff they just don’t want to deal with moving out of the dorms. Of course most people know this by now, but if you’re quick you can still find some great stuff. My sister’s friend has a great saying for the curbside recycler – if it can absorb urine it probably has. So avoid that overstuffed chair but go for the nice wood furniture or the cool lamp. You don’t want someone’s problem but sometimes a quick fix is actually fun. Lamps are easy, if you like the lamp fixing the guts is a snap and a nifty shade gives any old lamp new life. I haven’t been dumpster diving in ages…we used to have so much fun making cool stuff out of garbage.


  3. Ross Wolfe says:

    Recently I wrote a blog entry offering a leftist critique of the ideology of “Green” environmentalism, eco-friendliness, and lifestyle politics in general (veganism, “dumpster diving,” “buying organic,” etc.). I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter and any responses you might have to its criticisms.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rose says:

    Used to dive all the time when I lived in Ft. Worth. I have not lived in Austin long, so have yet to get a good feel for where to look. The best catch I ever got was in Ft. Worth, an entire dumpster full of (only) antique mannequin legs. Used them for art, crafts, furniture creations, and sold them on ebay as well. Spent almost all night driving back and forth to that dumpster looting it out. My roommate was a bit unnerved to walk into a living room of naked lady legs. Ahhh the good days.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There’s certainly a lot to learn about this issue. I love all of the points you made.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Anita says:

    I didn’t know about this 🙂 Thanks for the info!


  7. When the students leave, they take only enough stuff that will fit in their cars. The rest gets dumped. I was shocked by the amount of things we found that were barely ever used. We could have furnished a small apartment!


  8. Dive into a lot of words and you’ll come up with a blog topic…this one was great!


  9. Lendsey says:

    Haha it’s always interesting reading about other’s first dives 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. silvervox325 says:

    It’s crazy what people throw away. This guy found Donald Trump’s cell phone number in a Rolodex, and some guy’s full tax info


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