Alternatives to Throwing Your Stuff Out

An old friend of mine sent me some pictures of her refinished living room. In it, I noticed a few interesting items – an obviously expensive leather couch and a elegantly weathered old Victrola.

Curiosity got the best of me and I wrote her back asking about those two items. Where did she pick them up? I fully expected to hear that the couch had come from some ludicrously high-end furniture store and that the Victrola had come from an antique shop.

Nope. She found them both on the curb, about to be thrown out.

With the leather couch, a family was about to move to another country and was getting rid of things. She noticed the moving people placing the couch along the curb, along with a myriad of other items of lesser quality.

The couch, it turns out, has a large scratch on the back of it, but in the position it held in her living room, the scratch was unnoticeable. She asked the movers if she could claim the couch and they said it was fine with them, but to check with the homeowner, who also approved of it. So she returned an hour later with a friend’s truck, loaded it up, and brought it home.

The Victrola was simply sitting on another curb next to a trash can. She simply stopped, looked it over, and placed it in her trunk, happy as can be.

I would have happily put either item in my own house had I spotted them.

On a lark, I decided to drive to the most affluent neighborhood I knew of within a fifty mile radius of my home, just to observe for myself what items find their way to the curb. I didn’t collect anything, I just merely wanted to observe.

I saw two lamps I would happily use at home, even if their wiring were messed up (that’s fixable, after all).
I saw a beautiful desk that I was almost tempted to claim for my office.
I saw a wonderful rocking chair made from beautiful old wood that appeared to have been scratched a bit by a dog or a cat, but nothing that a bit of sanding and care couldn’t neaten up.
I saw what appeared to be a pile of new, very plush green towels in a box (I’m guessing they didn’t match the bathroom?).

This was what I observed in a fifteen minute drive.

Now, I don’t begrudge people for upgrading their stuff. If you really enjoy having perfect bathrooms and find a great deal of value in redecorating regularly, go for it. It’s not something I value, but what I value and what you value don’t have to be the same thing.

What’s troubling is that perfectly good stuff – stuff I’d happily use in my own home – is just getting thrown away.

There are a lot of things that can be done with such items that don’t involve throwing them away. Here are several options to follow if you have anything that might be of genuine use to someone else. These options keep stuff out of landfills and add additional value to your life.

What You Can Do With Your Unnecessary Items

Take it to Goodwill

All of the items I saw (save the lamps, if they didn’t work) would have been welcomed at a Goodwill store. The lamps might have been too if they had a handy person on staff there. Not only that, you can get a receipt for the items you donate, which helps with your tax bill.

Offer it to your friends for free

There are fewer ways to build a relationship with someone you care about that work better than giving a friend something really useful to them. I would have been thrilled had a friend given me any of the items mentioned in this article. It would have definitely cemented our bond a bit.

Offer it on Craigslist or Freecycle

If you don’t want to worry about the hassle of moving the stuff, just announce that you’re giving this item away on Craigslist or Freecycle. Attach a digital picture and give it to the first person who responds. They’ll come and get it for you.

In a nearby community, there’s a house that’s something of an “open house” for the teenagers in the town. They’re allowed to freely use it without supervision provided that a few very simple rules are followed. The house has been entirely outfitted with donated items – chairs, couches, flatware, and so on. It’s been a wonderful boon to the community. Beyond something like that, many nonprofits in your town would be thrilled to receive good furniture and other items they could utilize.

Throwing something out should be the last resort

If you have something that could be of use to anyone else, pass it on. By passing it on, you get some value in return as well – better friendships, a better community, and maybe even a tax benefit.

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  1. Laura in Atlanta says:

    Argh! This kind of thing drives me NUTS!

    My neighbors had a puppy that they brought home in a pet carrier. The puppy grew into a large dog and they no longer needed the carrier. They knew I had cats, so they asked if I wanted it. I told them no, but that the humane society (less than 3 miles away!) could DEFINITELY use it and that they should try to donate it, along with other things the dog may have out grown.

    Three days later, I saw the carrier plus a puppy sized sweater and puppy sized harness on the top of their garbage pile waiting to be picked up by the garbage men. I couldn’t believe it!

    I went over, grabbed the stuff, put it in my car and donated it to the humane society that weekend. The carrier – clean and perfect – went to a new cat owner, free of charge, and the leash and harness were immediately latched on to by the staff. They said that the items would definitely be put to use!

    Good grief!!

    I drive around and I see ALL kinds of things being dumped – furniture, kids toys, lamps . . . come on people, how hard it is to make a quick trip and donate the stuff?

    ~sigh~

    Your topic touched a nerve, Trent! ;-)

  2. AC says:

    @Laura: Well done, taking all of that to the humane society!

    This topic touches a nerve with me as well – the more that can be kept out of the landfills, the better. It is not always lack of resources that is a problem – it is the distribution thereof.

  3. Julie says:

    As someone who owns a few discarded-by-other-people items, the only caveat I’d add is to avoid fabric furniture unless you’re *really* sure the area doesn’t have bugs. In Montreal, where I live, bed bugs have become a real issue in the past few years. A friend of mine had to get rid of his queen size bed, which otherwise looked perfectly fine. I’d hate to have my home infected because I brought home a really nice sofa or something.

  4. Des says:

    It sounds like you’re getting mad because these people value system is different than your own. They seem to value their time more than you do (after all, it takes time to do the things you’ve suggested.) To each their own, right? Or, do you presume to force your own values on other people?

  5. Stephanie says:

    My daughter’s godparents have given her a very nice wooden toddler table with matching chairs, multiple books, high end European clothing (some with tags), several expensive wooden toys and a brand new wooden sled. All of these items looked new or very gently used.

    All of these items came from interesting garbage piles in Cambridge, MA.
    These are all things we are grateful to have and are far nicer than what any of us could afford.

  6. SF says:

    Most animal shelters and veterinary offices are also happy to get your old towels, too!

  7. Johanna says:

    As someone who has moved to another country twice, I sympathize with the couch’s previous owners, at least a little bit.

    Both times I moved, I got rid of a *lot* of stuff. And I used all those tactics: I sold some of it, donated some of it, and gave some of it away. And both times, there was still a fair amount of perfectly good stuff that, come moving day, I wasn’t able to sell, donate, or give away. That stuff ended up in the trash. I’m sure that if someone saw *only* the stuff I threw away, they would think, “What a wasteful person.”

    Plus, both times I moved, I gave myself several weeks between my last day at my old job and moving day. So I had plenty of time, in between packing and shipping all the things I wanted to keep, to lug stuff to used bookstores and charity shops, and to deal with flaky people who would say they wanted to buy something I’d advertised online but then wouldn’t show up for it. If I hadn’t had that kind of time, I would have thrown out a lot more.

  8. MegB says:

    We are big believers in recycling and we also donate items regularly. In our community, though, we have a bulk trash pickup once a month, and anything (and I do mean ANYTHING) can go in bulk trash. We also have “bulk trash trolls.” These are folks who drive around with a pickup truck and trailer and pick out all of the stuff that can be reused or refurbished. Light fixtures, computer parts, furniture, etc. We even had someone take our old doors. The stuff that ends up in our bulk trash is not stuff that we could donate, but if someone wants to take it off the bulk trash pile to recycle or reuse in some way then I say that’s great, and they are welcome to rummage through my bulk trash anytime.

  9. Jane says:

    I completely agree, and it doesn’t even just occur with wealthy people. I had a roommate once who was a graduate student moving town. Day after day I was finding brand new (w/ tags!) clothes in the trash. I mentioned to her that she could put it in a bag and I would happily take it to Goodwill for her. She did not take me up on this and continued to throw away new stuff. It was ridiculous. And the kicker was that she was moving to Africa to do service work!

    I have had great luck giving away free stuff on Craigslist. In fact I just gave away an 80 yr old door yesterday that would have ended up in a landfill, but there was someone remodeling who was thrilled to have it. You’d be surprised what people will want. And a lot of people are handy and can fix broken electronics.

    Another trick is to go dumpster diving outside the dorms of a wealthy university at the end of the semester. You’d be shocked what you find in there. We found an almost brand new toaster oven and a great carpet. Many college students treat their things as disposable year after year.

    @Des – Trent clearly said that he doesn’t begrudge these people having nice things and having their own values. But I totally agree with him that it is not right to throw away perfectly good things that others less fortunate could use or a charity could sell to raise money for good causes. That’s just wrong. In this case, I would say, yes, I presume to force my values (i.e. care for other human beings or even the planet) on other people.

  10. jim says:

    Lower and middle income people throw away a lot of perfectly good stuff too. My father has rentals and he’s seen a ton of perfectly good stuff end up in their trash cans over the years. Many people simply just don’t think of charities when they’re getting rid of stuff and take the easy way out by dumping it in the trash. But a lot of stuff sitting on curbs is there meant to be free for the taking rather than meant for trash.

  11. Jennifer says:

    I think it is so sad that people are that lazy or just have no clue that what they’re throwing out could be used by someone less fortunate than themselves.

    And seriously, Des? It would have taken those people more time to purchase the new towels or even move the couch to the curb than it would to call up one non-profit organization to ask them if they wanted it. These are most likely the same people who will spend hours driving all over town to find the hottest toy for their kid at Christmas, but they can’t take 1 minute to make a phone call to be a little less wasteful?

    Plus, Trent never forces his values on anyone else. We are all free to read his blog and agree or disagree.

  12. Jenzer says:

    @Jane – you can find some amazing items in just about any university town’s trash, not just the wealthy ones. We own a rental property near a state university with a very mixed-income student body. I’ve witnessed tenants tossing out new-with-tags clothing, hardware and tools still in the packaging, an entire set of matching dishes, etc.

    Several years ago the -Ann Arbor Observer- ran a story about a University of Michigan student who earned his spending money by selling items he gleaned from the curbs at the end of each semester. He knew enough about which textbook editions were still valuable that he could pluck one out of the trash and sell it online for 50 bucks or more.

  13. Crystal says:

    We have two Goodwills within 2 miles of our house…they are well stocked (even by the wealthy neighborhoods in the area).

    I personally Goodwill the clothes we “grow” out of, sell what I can of everything else on Craigslist, and Freecycle or Goodwill everything that’s left when we declutter. I’m currently trying to sell my wedding dress and petticoat, but I see Freecycle in my future…

  14. Daria says:

    my city also has bulk trash pickup. Every neighborhood has an assigned week twice a year. People ask on Craigslist “Who is having bulk pickup this week?” and they drive around with their pickups and their trailers. My neighborhood has bulk pickup the first wednesday of every month. As soon as I am done crossing guard duty, I start driving up and down the streets. I have helped furnish each of my childrens apartments and have a bunch of nice things in my home from bulk pickup. I also have brought things that are in good shape that I don’t want to Salvation army.
    Trying to beat the pickups and the trailers is the challenge.

  15. J says:

    I don’t like this kind of stuff, but I know sometimes people can’t find buyers on craigslist or no one claims stuff on freecycle. When you have a hard deadline on a move sometimes you can only try so long. Plus if you have to pack, work and deal with family matters, keeping up with craigslist or freecycle or taking stuff to goodwill sometimes isn’t an option, there is simply no time. Especially when throwing it out is “free” .

    So you can’t know the situation just by looking at the curb.

    Also, the bedbug thing can’t be emphasized enough.

  16. Ruth says:

    I don’t think you can assume that just because the item was on the curb, it was intended for a landfill. In my neighborhood, our garbage collection service won’t take anything that isn’t in the trash can, but people still put things out so that others can see them and take them if they want.

  17. Mike says:

    So help a brother out? Glen Oaks, West Des Moines in general? I could use some swanky stuff. :)

  18. chacha1 says:

    I’d agree that curb-picking is both extremely common, and increasingly well-regarded. I’ve picked a few things myself in my time – there’s a discarded full-sized mirrored sliding door on my patio right now doubling the amount of light my plants get!

    Cities appreciate it when some civilian collects the discarded furniture or appliances that thrift shops can’t or won’t use. Heck, *I* appreciate that someone is willing to go through the bins in our alley to pick out the recyclables.

    I do think that property owners should do their best to dispose of unwanted, useful items responsibly, but I try not to assume that just because a useful object is out at the curb, the property owner *hasn’t* made every effort to do so.

  19. Todd says:

    I work at a university, and every spring the residence halls fill five or six dumpsters worth of perfectly good clothes, books, posters, hair dryers…microwaves, small refrigerators, even small televisions that still work! Kids are so eager to take off for the summer–with limited space in their cars–that they just start throwing everything away.

    A campus group has finally started a drive to collect and deliver at least some of these items to Goodwill, but they can’t handle the volume. They’re still working on coordinating better delivery and pick-up of these things, but several dumpsters’ worth still gets thrown out. What a waste!

  20. Larabara says:

    When I was a kid, my parents never bought a new TV. Instead, they would load us all into the station wagon and cruise around Beverly Hills on trash days. We all kept an eye out for TV sets (this was back when all TVs had tubes inside of them, and you could check for bad tubes at this machine inside of drug stores). We would spot a large TV at a curb, stop and pick it up. The next day my dad would check the tubes, replace the bad ones, and we’d have a “new” TV. When that TV finally became unfixable, we’d head back to Beverly Hills again. I thought everybody got their TV that way, and they would look at the new TVs in the store to see what kind they wanted to look for on trash days, and then go cruising. Imagine my surprise when I got older and learned that we were the only “TV cruisers” and that everyone else was buying theirs new.

  21. Larabara says:

    By the way, I still stop and pick up various items, but I don’t actively cruise around for them. If I happen to see something that I can use at a curbside, I stop and pick it up. I have various cookware, dishes, flower pots and end tables in great condition, all serendipitous discoveries.

  22. George says:

    Check local laws before plundering someone’s curbside trash. In many cases, if the items are left with the curbside trash, then the trash company or local recycler has a claim on that salvage. There have been several cases in Oregon regarding this…

    On the other hand, putting the item(s) out with a “Free” sign on it several days in advance certainly gives the item(s) a chance to be picked up by others. Works in my rural neighborhood!

  23. Kathy says:

    I do put things out on the curb I want to give away(i.e. furniture), but I stick a “free” sign on it because I want someone to take it. Usually within five minutes, it’s gone.

  24. Donna says:

    I, too put things on the curb in hopes that someone will stop by and take them. This past weekend we cleaned out our garage and put a few usable pieces out. They weren’t worth selling, but were totally worth going to a new home. Sure enough, within 24 hours all the stuff was gone. Makes me very happy, and I hope people aren’t judging me, assuming I wanted it to go in the garbage!

  25. Tricia says:

    We have a ‘swap shop’ at the local dump. You can drop off usable items and take whatever is there, if you need it. I have gotten tables, ice skates, skis, books, vases, wheelchairs….Although, some people take the items and sell them on Craigslist or Ebay. They hang out there ALL day, to see what people drop off, and snag the best stuff. THAT is not what it was intended to be….but the hunt is fun!!

  26. JoeTaxpayer says:

    Years ago, before we moved, I had an old 4 drawer metal file cabinet. Ugly as sin, and not needed. I went to put it out front and my wife said the trash company wouldn’t take it. I told her it would be gone by morning. I was wrong. It took all of 12 minutes till someone came by and rolled it away.

    More recently, I had some plastic furniture to get rid of. As fast as I left pieces at the curb they were gone. The set was taken by 3 or four people.

  27. MP says:

    Well, I’ve put things on Craigs list for free, and it’s all turned out to be quite troublesome. So whatever we can’t donate, give away to friends or colleagues we put out at the curb, in the right season (winter is never a good season to do this), the night before garbage day and it’s always picked up by someone.

  28. I very much enjoy receiving the cast off things of those who are even more blessed than I. I don’t judge them either because I’m sure if they were less affluent they would value things the same way that I do.

  29. rhymeswithlibrarian says:

    As others have said, don’t assume that someone’s trying to throw it away if it’s on the curb; having someone pick it up may be the intention.

    I’ve gotten some great things from the sidewalk… and I’ve also gotten rid of things by putting them there. I’ve put out cardboard boxes full of little things with a sign saying “Free.” I live close to a big university and see others doing this all the time. It’s a lot more convenient than playing email tag with people from Craigslist, and it’s a win-win.

    A couple of suggestions if you want to put stuff out to be picked up – make sure it’s not garbage day or the day before, or it might get picked up as garbage before your neighbours have a chance. Don’t put stuff out when rain is coming. And while not essential, it’s thoughtful to put a note assuring people that it’s OK to take the thing, and saying whether or not a machine is working.

    Conversely, if you’re putting something out that should be garbage – like a bedbug-infested mattress, or a baby car seat that was involved in a collision – it’s good form to either damage or label the item clearly so it DOESN’T get salvaged.

    The other day I saw a sign in front of someone’s house saying “Free bike, works OK.” The bike was gone and another handwriting said, “Thanks a lot!”
    This made me smile.

  30. kristine says:

    #29, so right. In some neighborhoods, it is taken for granted that it will be gone in 15 minutes.

    The ultimate curb shopping experience? The gold coast of Long Island (north shore). Unbelievable goodies. But they freecycle as well. I am wary of bed bigs now, after hearing so much about it, and there are a lot of business travelers locally.

    The trick is to know which towns have automatic “special pick-up” for large discarded items, and go super early on pick-ups days. It is just like shopping!

    I think some old-timers do not post or call for pick-up, as they are nervous about telling strangers where they live. And some people get fed up with recipients who don’t show, o think their friends might be insulted to be offered cast-offs (not me!) So I try not to judge.

  31. Michael says:

    Craigslist is hit and miss. People say they are coming, but then don’t. It can be a real hassle. Freecycle is better since most list’s moderators will boot a person who consistently no-shows.

    Also be aware that taking things from someone’s trash is considered stealing in many cities.

  32. Prasanth says:

    When I came to US for the first time, I was amazed by the type of things that I saw being thrown away. I “reclaimed” a perfectly fine (and very heavy) drawing room table which was sitting next to the garbage bin. Had a few scratches which was taken care off by a new coat of varnish. Much later, a friend who saw the table told me that it was made of burmese teak and is very expensive to buy!!

    I made sure that the table found a new home before I left US back to India

  33. rhymeswithlibrarian says:

    “Also be aware that taking things from someone‚Äôs trash is considered stealing in many cities.”

    Well that may be true, I very much doubt that this would ever be enforced (as long as you’re being a good citizen about it… i.e., not scattering the stuff you don’t want like a raccoon, or shrieking with excitement over your finds in the middle of the night). I said above that curbside salvaging is a win-win, but really it’s a win-win-win-win (the last being for the city/garbage service and for the environment).

  34. Kate E. says:

    My dad is a mailman, so he finds things all the time. He has found an almost new expensive riding lawnmower sitting on the curb. He likes to tinker with stuff like that, so he brought it home, and the only thing wrong with it was it needed an oil change and some new spark plugs. The person just didn’t know how to fix it and didn’t want to take it anywhere, so they just bought a new one.

  35. austere says:

    Only in America.

  36. I just recently wrote an article on this.

    Just throwing this stuff away is a travesty.

    First, I try to sell my unwanted items. Then, to a friend or family member, then, it gets donated.

    There’s too many people needier than you and I out there to be throwing this stuff away

  37. Thea says:

    @ Crystal (13): Have you tried PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com?

  38. deRuiter says:

    I shop curbside all the time, and when discarding, that’s where I put what I don’t want, way ahead of trash day. I usually put a line in Craigslist that the stuff is there, and pull the listing when it’s gone. At one yard sale after a rainy night I saw two beautful orchid bath towels on the top of a can of trash set out for pickup. They were soaking wet, obviously brand new, but one had been used to wipe up some water, and the other to removed traces of white wall paint which must have dripped during a painting project. I brought them home, ran them through the washer with a load on hot and Oxiclean, and to this day they are the best towels in the stack, thick, lush, and free! The little white paint spots on the one towel still make me laugh when I’m using that towel. Many Americans waste a lot, but some are very thrifty and prosperous because of the laziness or foolishness of the rest.

  39. triLcat says:

    I’ve seen it where I live too – a middle-class community very far from the US of A.

    My daughter’s changing table was picked from the trash. The first couches I had when I moved into my own place were from the trash. (futons that had to be replaced when I got pregnant and couldn’t get up from them anymore).

  40. Steffie says:

    I have been a ‘Treelawn Treasure’ seeker since I was a little girl and my mom would take out the back seat of the car and drive around the suburbs on garbage day. We often got a box of newer board games because their mom would go through the house and pick up the toys when the kids were ‘bad’. And we picked up newspaper, this was in the 60′s/70′s when they paid you for newspaper to recycle. I have furnished several houses with heavy wooden furniture found on the curb.

  41. Virginia says:

    In my experience, the wealthy in our area are much more likely to be responsible about giving their stuff away than the poor. My mom does housework for a very wealthy woman, as well as getting a good paycheck, she has brought home innumerable bags of expensive clothes and accessories, several sets of furniture, “old” towels every 6 months and lots and lots of shoes. These goodies have been shared throughout our extended family. This experience is not atypical for the wealthy set in our neck of the woods and our thrift stores have always got something nice to discover, thanks to other donations.

    Many of our poor residents, however, are just the opposite. My husband is a teacher and many of his students come from families on the welfare system. Instead of washing their clothes and socks, they wear them until they are dirty and then throw them away. I don’t know if this cultural practice is due to laziness, lack of laundromats near their homes, pressure to spend all of the stipend $ each months so as not to appear to be “saving” or what. Whatever it is, it disgusts me.

  42. Nancy says:

    For MegB #8

    Freecycle takes anything! Those old doors, light fixtures, etc. are perfectly fine to list on Freecycle and you are 90% guaranteed someone will want them. Probably anything that is tossed out during your bulk trash day could be put on Freecycle. I moderate my local Freecycle group and we’ve had everything from baby food jars and egg cartons offered and asked for (you can request items on Freecycle also) to bathroom sinks and old doors and windows. I’ve seen carpet, bedding, toys, baby supplies, clothes, lawn ornaments, large and small appliances, etc. We only request that if something needs to be repaired, that it is listed that way so the recipient knows what work needs to be done. Join your local Freecycle group and see what you can keep out of a landfill next time you have bulk trash pickup. You may not have anything left to put out for the trash man!!

  43. Daina says:

    I live in a VERY unrich neighborhood and am still boggled by some of the things people just throw away.

    I also do understand why some people throw other things away — like a rather shabby-looking bicycle trailer for pulling a baby. But those things are pricey and it was working fine, so with the owner’s permission, my husband and I claimed it for ourselves. We plan to use it on the trail this summer!

  44. Evangeline says:

    I recently inherited the small estate of my great aunt. Some things I chose to keep and cherish. Some I chose to let others cherish. First it was a yard sale combining our things with her small things such as kitchen ware, dishes, lamps, and the like. When it came time to empty her house we used a dumpster for many things we couldn’t imagine anyone wanting (shower curtain, bathroom rug, and a whole lot more. But my favorite thing was sitting things on the curb. We did it on a Saturday in broad daylight. To see a mom top and get a desk for her son and the lady who got the rocking chair for the new baby on the way let me know we were ‘paying forward’ so to speak. You clear out the clutter and you fill some one else’s need. Doesn’t get much better than that.

  45. Mel says:

    I agree with those saying something on the curb might not be intended for the trash.
    When my mum was moving she had to clear out 4 rooms of my dad’s stuff: tools, books and art supplies mostly, but also some furniture.

    After she found homes for most of the more difficult things (eg air compressor), she got a skip bin (dumpster, I guess) delivered to the curb. Anything broken/unusable went into it, anything usable went next to it. Nothing stayed next to for more than a day, and even with filling up the bin, the level stayed pretty constant.

    My favourite story is a family who pulled up with a trailer to collect some chairs. Mum saw them and went running out – they seemed terrified she’d say they were stealing or something! In fact she wanted to tell them there were more chairs. They not only carried the rest right from the garage (up a steep driveway), but also saw other stuff they wanted and took that too. Big win-win!

  46. Anna is now Raven says:

    This week I was delighted to give a table in good condition to someone who was moving and needed more furniture. Word of mouth made the connection with only two degrees of separation.

    In most urban areas it is understood that leaving unwanted items out on the curb is a form of charity. Win-win.

    I had a friend in a large city who claimed to have assembled whole sets of dinnerware from trash-picking.

  47. Anna is now Raven says:

    I mentioned urban areas, but in my rural area (like most others, I am sure) it is customary to put items out at the curb with a FREE sign. They disappear fast.

  48. Nicole says:

    Hey– Is today the day? If so, CONGRATULATIONS!

  49. Shevy says:

    Nicole, I was wondering that too when I saw no morning post up today. As we say, b’sha’a tova! [It should be in a good time!]

  50. Alexandra says:

    I once threw out a cheap futon matress that my new kitten had peed all over. It was out of the trash when I went out later.

    Who would want to sit on a cheap matress that was soaked in cat-urine? Cat urine never really goes away.

  51. Julie says:

    Bedbugs.

    People often throw nice things away *because* they have bedbugs.

  52. wisnjc says:

    Im my area, Easter Seals charity sends postcards about once every 6-8 weeks saying they will be in the neighborhood on a specific day (usually they give about 14-21 days notice). You call the toll free number on the card or visit the web address up to the day before the scheduled visit, tell them your address (and if your items are very large or heavy), and they come and pick it up at the end of your driveway or on your porch on the specified day. You get a receipt as well for tax purposes. I absolutely love this service! I get rid of all sorts of items that are not worn out (clothes, dishes, furniture, etc) and don’t have to make special trip to a charity or try and fit the larger items in my small car! The 2 weeks notice also helps plan spring cleaning, furniture purchases, and the like. Other charities will come and pick up items if you call them, but in my area, Easter Seals is the only one with a dedicated, regular route system.

  53. Laura in Seattle says:

    You can put a post on Craigslist or Freecycle that basically says “Bunch of stuff on the curb at _______. Take it and it’s yours!” I have seen several of those.

    I usually put a “free” sign on things so people know they can take them without any trouble. Most things in my neighborhood disappear within an hour of being put on the curb.

    If you live in an apartment building it’s a little trickier sometimes, but look for a space no one is using and put your “free” stuff there and see what happens. I found an out-of-the-way spot in the second-floor lobby of my old building and left a nightstand with a free sign. Next day it was gone and someone else had left a mirror and small plant stand with their own free sign. That spot became the unofficial “swap spot’ for our building.

    My all-time best find was a table out by the dumpster that had collapsed legs with four missing bolts. Nothing was wrong with it, so my best guess was that someone was moving and couldn’t fit it in their car. I brought it home, pulled out another bolt, took it to the hardware store, and got four identical ones for a dollar and change, brought them home and set up the table. It’s now my desk and has a top that is one solid wood piece and wrought iron legs. The underside is stamped “Pier One Imports”. I looked it up online and the original price was over $100.

  54. Diane says:

    We formerly had our office in an upscale apartment complex and you would not believe the things people threw in the dumpster and placed beside it… Like-new furniture, kids toys, clothes with tags still attached… AND there was a Goodwill Store 1 block away!

    We would pick up things we wanted to keep, and sometimes pick up items and drop them at the Goodwill, because I just couldn’t stand to see them thrown away when someone could use them. Sometimes we picked up things and later sold them at our yard sales!

    In our neighborhood, if you put something decent out a day or two before garbage pick up generally someone will come by and take it.

  55. Stella says:

    I take bags of stuff to Goodwill several times a year. And I’ve mostly had excellent experiences selling or giving away stuff for free via Craigslist. Makes me feel much better than throwing stuff away–I find the growing landfill issues to be very disturbing!

  56. Perry says:

    I’ve put some usable stuff out by the curb because I know that someone will pick it up before trash pickup. I put it out a few days ahead of time and keep on eye on it and it is always gone before pickup dya. It saves me the trouble of putting it on something like Freecycle and then responding to requests. And the last couple of yard sales I’ve had, the local thrift stores have told me that they had too much stuff to accept the unsold items I had left.

  57. Leah says:

    I love the curb economy. I’ve been on both sides of it — I’ve picked up rugs, bookshelves, clothes (not my size, but they went to goodwill), mops, and more. Just last week, I picked up about 50 assorted plastic pots; just the perfect thing for my container garden, and I’m giving the rest away to a friend in exchange for a few hosta splits.

    I’ve also left a lot on the curb. Free signs do wonders in helping something disappear quickly. I don’t have a truck, so there’s a limit on the size of things I can take to goodwill. If you don’t have tons of traffic in your neighborhood, just put up a Craigslist post with a pic of all your free stuff, list the address, and say “first come, first serve”! Several times, this has helped me get rid of tons of things I couldn’t take while moving, from bikes to couches to kitchenware.

    I think the key is finding some way to keep items moving in society without resorting to the landfill. Save the landfill for things that are truly unusable.

    Oh, and for the folks warning about bedbugs: I know some cities encourage people who have bedbug furniture to write a warning with sharpie all over the items. That way, no one picks up your couch or mattress and spreads the nasties.

  58. Leah says:

    Want to mention the best ever dumpster find. It was by a friend — he found a brand new laser jet printer in a dumpster. There was a piece of paper jammed in it! That’s all, and someone threw it out. It still had plenty of ink. My friend found this a few years ago, and he is still printing on the same cartridge.

  59. Jennifer Lissette says:

    First off, let me start by saying that much of my furniture as a child came from other people’s curbs. My desk, dresser, stereo speakers… My mom could spot good trash from three blocks down going 40mph.

    Maybe this doesn’t occur in the midwest, but over here in Silicon Valley, there’s actually a thriving economy of garbage-picking garage-salers. People drive through the neighborhoods, and pick up any quantity of stuff they find on the curb in front of people’s houses. They bring it home, store it somewhere and then have a garage sale every single weekend.

    We recently put our old bbq out on the curb because we knew that someone would happen along and take it. It was gone within 36 hours. When we moved out of our old college apartment, we knew we wanted to become minimalists and tossed tons of stuff. I kid you not, within fifteen minutes of us bringing bags out to the dumpsters, the neighbors were ripping them open and sorting the items for sidewalk sales. We just started handing all of our bags to them.

  60. Steve says:

    I suspect the people who throw away all this “perfectly good stuff” are not reading this blog.

  61. Brittany says:

    One quick tip for those without enough time/getting into the moving crunch–put it on the curb with a sign. “Moving–clean and in good repair. Take what you want.”

    Then post on a curbside pick up on craigslist and freecycle. Basically no time investment for you, and may not keep everything out of the landfill, but makes progress at least.

  62. anne says:

    leah-

    i love what you wrote- “curb economy!!” i’m going to be using that term from now on!!

    i live in a very affordable city, and work 40 miles away in an affluent town, where i lived for years.

    one day while at work i saw a huge heap of gorgeous valences in a trash pile, w/ a lot of other remodeling debris. i went back several times and loaded up my little honda.

    a day or so later a brand new friend who lived on the same street invited me over, and said she wanted to ask me something- i thought she was going to make a negative comment about having seen me loading up her neighbor’s garbage into my car or something.

    but she awkwardly asked me if i would possibly be interested in some large rolls of slightly used carpeting? she explained she saw them in a pile of remodeling debris down the street, and couldn’t bear to see them go to waste- she already took out all she could use, but she still had more rolls in her garage. she was embarassed to ask me, but couldn’t help herself.

    i told her about the valences i’d scored, and she couldn’t believe she’d missed them!

  63. Caroline says:

    While these people were probably hoping someone would just pick the stuff up and take it off their hands, I really do hate people who are so lazy that they just throw away good stuff. So many people don’t care about adding more to the trash heap, it’s disturbing. Do they think the planet has unlimited storage? Thanks for pointing this out – it’s one of my serious pet peeves!

  64. Victoria Vargas says:

    I too work in a university town and always cruise the alleys and curbs for student cast-offs. It’s amazing what you can find that’s perfectly good and often barely used. When I need something for my house, I also ask around to my friends too my house is 80% furnished with curbside rescues, hand-me-downs from friends, and thrift store & consignment shop goodies. The only pieces I bought were my bed, coach, and recliner. I also often swap things with a friend of mine -”sure, I have a twin bed for your son you can have and I’ll take that TV cabinet you’re replacing off your hands in exchange.” People are often in awe when I explain when they comiment me on my beautiful home that the great majority of the furnishings and decor is used, which I got either free or for pennies on the dollar. Read the Scavenger’s Manifesto for some great ideas on where to find great stuff for free.

  65. NB says:

    Reuse Reduce Recycle!
    Tell your friends, neighbours and colleagues of things you want to get rid off.
    It’ll take no time and most people are willing to pick things up.

    During 20 years I got four dining room chairs (with washable cotton covers waiting for a wash), an office chair, a training bike, a bedside lamp, a living room lamp (somebody was not able to exchange a light bulb because he lacked a screwdriver to remove the covering fixture), an office lamp (new bulb for 2 USD required, too), three wooden beds, some rubbermaid boxes, a back pack, a quilt, two red curtains, office equipment from the curb side.

    Just regarding a complete kitchen I lost out, my neighbour beat me to it.

    Maybe next time ;-)

  66. Leigh says:

    Here where I live it is understood that anything placed by the curb is up for grabs, and once it is there, it often does not stay there long. No need to even post a curb alert on Freecycle if you live in a high traffic area – it goes so fast. Last time I placed a couch on the curb it was only there five minutes. A metal table and lamp I left there two days ago was gone in less than an hour.

  67. Aaron says:

    Take a look at this lettuce. It’s almost perfectly good. Just peel off the top.” Or so says the bum in Look who’s talking too. Tons of truth to that, though I’m no longer sure about eating unpackaged foods out of dumpsters. A childhood friend of mine allegedly found a lawnmower that was brand new and there was a small glitch in it that wasn’t difficult to repair. they had themselves a new lawnmower. And even I found sofas out in the country myself. I’m glad someone warned me about the bedbugs.

  68. 454645 says:

    anything on the curb should defacto be for grabs (as long as it is not in a bag of course)

    however people who throw away such things
    - have more money than time meaning likely
    their time is worth more than all the effort of loading and taking to charity,goodwill etc.. (2 hours out of the day for $600 of stuff doesn’t sound so bad but look at it from the pov of someone who pockets $1200 an hour)

    -don’t know the value – hey did you know that the $250 purse you bought is about $10 of materials and labor (much much less if it is coming from third world piss poor/child factories and odds are it is) ? I don’t think most western consumers are qualified to judge. I mean you pay thousands and tens of thousands for a diamond the importers pay almost nothing for (the wealth certainly isn’t going to the producers now is it if it was they would have fly swatters at least and maybe something resembling a stomach instead of a crater where one should be)

    So a rich diet and lifestyle = rich waste. whats new? let us nasties enjoy their wastings and leave slightly less rich wastings for a lower tasting individual and so on and so forth until you get to the people who have utterly nothing – and notice that they do not waste. (but give them 10 million dollars and pretty soon they would be filling bags of designer water bottles, half full $300 bottle wine, egyptian cotton towel set with a teeny tiny hole) – thats human nature. the moment you feel sorry for someone you see a reminder that they too are made of the same bs as everyone else.

    a toast to sustainability! we are building one hell of a world for the future of our raccoon gods.

  69. Julie says:

    I live in an urban apartment building in a major city. I have recently acquired a nice dresser and bookshelf (I had my eye on at the store), I would have not been able to purchase it for a while if it hadn’t been for kind people to leave it by the dumpster. I have also left stuff in the hopes of someone grabbing it. (Someone did-every time!) I also do take items to thrift stores as well. I think one should just follow their intuition whether its donating to a thrift store or placing it by a dumpster or even hauling it to a dump. You never know where its use might lay.

  70. Linda Wilson says:

    Be careful when you take stuff from a dumpster. Someone I knew went to jail for possessing stolen property which in actuality was thrown out and subsequently restored by the finder. When the objects were supposedly “identified” this person was prosecuted. There are many people who are craftsmen who can fix a seemingly destroyed piece and return it to its former condition.

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