I Went Dumpster Diving
Author: Anna Newell Jones

It was a rainy day and I happened to notice that there were some new boxes in the trash cans that are in the alleyway behind my apartment building. There were some bright colors popping out of the boxes and some vintage looking purses that were strewn about and I found myself thinking “Looks like there may be some cute stuff out there…!!!” I haven’t ever formally been Dumpster Diving  even though I’ve heard a ton about it and grew up with a mom who was a “Curb Diver”. A Curb Diver is someone who sees something of interest on the curb that has been left out for the trash removal crews and grabs it. It’s the classy cousin of Dumster Diving. I think all of the dining room chairs in my parents house have been re-finished and re-upholstered and were found on the curb destined for trash heap when my mom swarmed in. She might kill me if I told you that so let’s just keep it between you and me. She finds treasures and makes them new again. It’s nothing be ashamed of it’s actually something to be proud of. See her Gettin’ Guesty interview.

After thinking about it for a total of 2 seconds I made my way out to the alley and started picking through the items. The vintage purses I saw were cute but were ruined by the rain and had some weird pieces missing so those were an automatic no-go. It felt a little strange to be out there… kind like a scavenger. But, cute stuff was a possibility so I was wiling to give it a try. Also, my sister owns a Buy-Sell-Trade store out in Omaha, Nebraska called Scout: Dry Goods Trade (it’s similar to Buffalo Exchange if you’re familiar with that concept) so I figured I could wash these items up and sell them to her for some extra money. Always on the look out for ways to make a little extra money. The little extra money here and there really adds up in the long-run!

The images above are the fruits of my Dumpster Diving labor. It’s hard to tell in the pictures but a lot of the clothes are actually for little kids and since I have a niece that is just the right size she ended up with these items once they were washed and re-freshed. I also checked for bed bugs too just in case that was why they got tossed… you just never know… and luckily there were none.

I’ve also taken to indoor Dumpster Diving (this falls into the Shamelessly Frugal category). This is how it works… at your office are there people who constantly through out plastic baggies or other things that could be re-used? Most people unfortunately do this so you swoop on in, pick out the disgarded items and give them new life. Dumpster Diving at work can be a little tricky because you don’t want to have it affect your job. That would be bad. Keep it subtle and don’t tell your co-workers about it because it will weird them out. Also, keep it to the common space trash cans/recycling bins and not the personal ones at individual desks. Because, talk about making people nervous/weirded out/what’s she doing/OMG/cut-it-out… that will do it.

Morale of the story, keep it subtle and keep your eyes peeled. You might find some gems covered in goo that can easily become shiny and new.

You might also like:

Tips for Dumspter Diving Success

How to Dumpster Dive

You can even meet up with other Garbologists!


Have you ever been Dumspter Diving? What do you think about it? If you are into Dumpster Diving what has been your best find? Do you use Dumpster Diving as a way to make additional income or do you keep the items for yourself?


in Make Do & Mend, Make More Money, Shamelessy Frugal, Take Action!, Things To Do


  1. Fash Flood // August 16, 2011

    I have TOTALLY dumpster dived. In the dumpsters behind Bruegger's Bagels. They just throw away bagels in giant (protective) trash bags. I haven't done it in years, but I did it many times in my early 20s. BAGEL CLASS OF 2003.

    xo Sarah

  2. Kat Skull // August 16, 2011

    I love the term dumpster diving as it sounds like a fun sport. I wrote this article the first time I did it: http://wp.me/p13iNG-14. I still have it hanging in my room!

  3. marianney // August 16, 2011

    What a shame to throw away such cute stuff instead of donating it!
    I did dumpster dive once years ago when someone told me there was a stereo thrown in the dumpster behind my apt building. I got it out and sure one speaker didn't work, but I'm not a big audio file anyway and some music was better than none!

    Did you see that thing about dumpster diving on the news the other night by chance? I think it might have been channel 4 or 7. These girls were dumpster diving behind Savers and finding all sorts of cool stuff.

  4. Stitchybritt // August 19, 2011

    Totally awesome finds. I've curb-dived before, but not dumpster-dived. You know what? Last week I saw a pair of nice, new-looking flat black ladies shoes lying lost down an alley near our house. I thought about picking them up for a minute, then hesitated, thinking it might be a bit weird to pick up someone's unwanted shoes. Now I wish I had – they might have been my size and I could have cleaned them up (for hygiene purposes). Moral of the story: there's no shame in saving stuff from landfill.

  5. Tash // August 23, 2011

    I've been dumpster diving behind Kroger and found some food that was thrown out. Still edible with a wash!

  6. Edie Barton // May 11, 2012

    Yes…. I admit it I have. It actually inspired me to start a used furniture store. I lived in Tokyo, Japan for three years and one day I walked out of our apartment building and found the most beautiful teak dresser in perfect condition with three hand carved oak chairs! I am a furniture connoisseur myself and couldn't believe someone just threw these out!

    This inspired me to start Simply Beautiful Furniture, a second hand consignment furniture store:

    I believe in reusing and recycling and I hope this rubs off on my kids.

  7. Nancy // December 4, 2012

    I love to drive around in different neighborhoods on trash day! You never know what goodies others think are junk or trash !

  8. Just me // December 14, 2012

    Yes I have dumpster dived. Especially when the collage kids move out of apartments cause there done with school. You can find brand new stuff that mommy and daddy paid for and they just trashed. I have found Awesome things in collage kids dumpsters

  9. Mandy @ MoneyMasterM // December 30, 2012

    I got my current purse out of the garbage can at the park. I’m not sure why someone threw it out but I put it through the washing machine (it was cloth) and it’s good as new :)

  10. jess // May 13, 2013

    how do you check for bed bugs if they can’t be seen because they’re so small? I’ve always been tempted to take stuff but the worry of the potential cost of pest control scared me off lol

    • Anna Newell Jones // May 28, 2013

      You can see bed bugs actually even though they are super tiny. Inspect the item in a very well-lit area and look at the creases of the item- that tends to be where they hang out. I wouldn’t take any mattresses, blankets, pillows, or other “plush-like” things from dumpsters just to be safe.

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