by Madeline Laughs
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, Brookes Brothers dress shirts and everything DKNY you can imagine.
My latest obssession 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 neccessary 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.
- Dumpster Diving (motorlessmotion.wordpress.com)
- Dumpster-Diving Outlook on Unemployment. (surviving-unemployment.com)
- Tips from a “prolific dumpster diver” (boingboing.net)
- Dumpster Diving and DIY: Is It Really Worth Your Time? (apartmenttherapy.com)
- Dumpster Diver Arrested & Handcuffed for Taking Food From Trash (treehugger.com)