photo credit: caterina
Some of my favorite decorative things in my home have come from a dumpster. We live in an apartment complex, and when people move out you can find absolutely amazing finds in the dumpster. There was the shelf in our kitchen, already painted to perfectly match our table (my husband found that one when he was taking out the trash. The dumpster was empty except for the shelf). There's the huge black frame holding Doodlebug's picture (it had an ugly picture and broken glass, we just took it out). I got a nice desk chair for my brother, an expensive towel rack for my mom, and a new-looking trash can just missing the lid (I use it as a recycle bin).
So many people think that dumpster diving is "disgusting" and "germy". Well, germy maybe. Wear gloves and wash your hands when you get home if you are worried about that (it's a good idea anyway). But I have never had to get in the dumpster to get things. If I can't reach I use a bent hanger to pick things up.
I'm not a professional dumpster diver or anything (though I totally admire the freegans who can get food and everything). I don't do it that often. But if good stuff is just sticking out of the trash can you can bet I'll take it!
If you live in an apartment and notice that someone is moving out, just stop by the dumpster and see what they have gotten rid of. If you live in a college town, stop by the dorms at the end of the school year. The dumpsters get so full that people start leaving their trash outside the dumpsters. Most of those kids can't be bothered with moving their stuff home for the summer, so they throw it away. You can dumpster dive at store dumpsters, too, provided they are not locked up or marked "No Trespassing". A lot of stores now destroy their products to keep people from dumpster diving (which is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. If they don't want it anymore why can't someone else have it?!). I have always secretly wanted to dumpster dive at Hobby Lobby, but I haven't done it at a store yet. While digging, think outside the box: Can I use this item for more than its intended use? Can it be cleaned up, painted up, or spiffed up to make it useable? Can something be used for its hardware or scrap wood?
So many people in America today have no appreciation for the things they have. It is easier just to throw things away than to repurpose them or find someone who needs them. By dumpster diving, you are keeping unwanted items out of the landfill, and if it was something you needed, you are preventing the production (and all the waste and pollution that goes with it) of that item.