Frugal Living

Top 5 Dumpster Diving Rules For Finding Free Stuff

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Dumpster Diving Canada USA

Diving In A Dumpster For Free Stuff Is Like A Treasure Hunt

You know there are a lot of negative connotations with dumpster diving and I know I definitely always had issues with this myself.

As I’ve gotten older and as the US economy has gotten tougher I have learned to be more resourceful of course not only that but my husband has pleasantly surprised me over time with some amazing dumpster finds.

This is a regular feature on my blog Lil’ Suburban Homestead’s site that we share our latest dumpster diving finds and it has become popular.  

I mean, Who Doesn’t Like Free?

I will admit we even had our own family members in somewhat disbelief of the great finds we have found until they have been out with us when it has happened.

I am not going to claim to be the dumpster diving diva although I do know how to dive.

While I love to join in on dumpster diving adventures I am often not as mobile because of my job.  I work for the school system in Coastal North Carolina so I’m trapped in a building all day long.

It’s my husband who finds the good dumpster diving finds but he is the one who taught me some of the main components of dumpster diving.

My husband drives for his job so he simply keeps his eyes open when he’s out and about the town. 

Rarely he has spotted something he has needed to bring his truck back after working to collect.

Most of the time it is stuff that is just right in front of him or he could be having a lunch break and spot these items.

Top 11 things you can find in a Dumpster

Dumpster diving is lucrative in Canada and the United States because someone else’s junk is a treasure to another.

  1. Clothing
  2. Health and Beauty Make-up
  3. Food and Coupons
  4. Electronics
  5. Music CD’s, Cassette Tapes, DVD’s
  6. Books
  7. Raw Materials or Building Materials great for renovations
  8. Furniture and Appliances
  9. Baby Stuff
  10. Toys
  11. Tools

Gear Up For Dumpster Diving

If you do plan on dumpster diving whether you are going for a walk around your neighbourhood looking in garbage bins or in large recyclable and industrial dumpsters you’ll need important gear.

As you may already guess dumpster diving can be gross and dangerous so there are a few key items that you will want to bring especially if you are hunting for dumpster diving treasures at night.

  1. Long Sleeve Shirt or Jacket
  2. Other appropriate seasonal apparel
  3. Thick Gloves
  4. Flashlight
  5. Heavy material bag or rolling cart to add goods too
  6. Running shoes or safety boots or shoes
  7. Knife or other cutting tool, Nifty Nabbers

Top Rules For Finding Good Stuff Dumpster Diving

Nifty Nabbers for dumpster diving

  1. Be consistent and check your favourite dumpster’s frequently. Always be aware of your surroundings.
  2. Act Fast…if you see something on the side of the road grab it up it may be gone the next time you drive by.
  3. Look for the potential in every item. For example, my husband found some display ladders in a mall dumpster and he had no idea what we were going to do with them but he grabbed them anyway and he turned one into a shabby chic pot rack which I love and the other one is decorative ladder still leaning up on our bookshelves.
  4. Own some nifty nabbers which are extremely handy as my husband has been able to reach items that he might not normally have gotten.
  5. You have to be safe and watch out for broken glass, sharp metal and other potentially dangerous objects
  6. Always be aware of your surroundings and proceed with caution.

Our Dumpster Finds

Fishing reels
Fishing reels dumpster diving finds

Just look at these fishing reels a few of them my husband had to order minor parts for but most repairs on the reels have averaged under $3.00 a reel. However he found enough he was able to swap parts in most cases.

Fireplace Log Basket
Fireplace Log Basket dumpster diving finds

The second item is a fireplace log basket…….we really needed one of these and the timing was perfect as the cold weather was settling in.

1984 olympic silver dollar or medal
1984 Olympic silver dollar dumpster diving finds

The third item is a 1984 Olympic silver dollar it is one of a two piece set but we did not find the other piece so because of that it is only worth about $40 on Ebay.

Japanese stainless steel salt and pepper shakers
Japanese stainless steel salt and pepper shakers dumpster diving finds

The last item is a beautiful set of Japanese stainless steel salt and pepper shakers with some scroll-work…very elegant looking!

I hope you enjoyed taking a tour of some of our amazing dumpster diving finds. They all add up to huge savings and besides it’s kind of an adventure. I never know what my husband is going to come home with.

Where To Go Dumpster Diving

If you are looking for some good places to dumpster dive in Canada I’d stick to public property but many people locate awesome finds all over the city.

  • Apartment buildings or complexes
  • Grocery Stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Side-walk
  • Big Box Stores
  • Downtown
  • Restaurants
  • Side of the road and in ditches *we find mostly beer cans and bottles.

We have found one of the best places to go dumpster diving at local parks or provincial parks where beer cans, beer bottles and wine bottles are often located.

Dumpster Diving in Canada

I’ve always been interested to hear about dumpster diving as I really didn’t know much about what happens behind the scenes.

Although we shouldn’t be dumpster diving in several provinces in Canada according to the Tresspass Property Act.

For example, if you go to Best Buy dumpster diving and it’s on private property you may find yourself in big trouble. Keep in mind that there are surveillance cameras all over Ontario especially at businesses.

Be a SMART dumpster diving Citizen.

You will want to avoid going on to private property to dumpster dive at all costs. If for instance there are bins on the road or side-walks this is public property and you can look inside.

Always leave the area you search in the same shape if not better and to never cut any locks or break into anything. If you get caught you may end up living in a dumpster which is behind bars if you know what I mean or end up with a big fine from the police.

It’s interesting to learn what others do around the world as in Karen’s experience from the USA to Britain where dumpster diving is illegal.

In our Ontario community once or twice a year we have a free goods weekend where homeowners can put free stuff out to the curb and anyone can pick it up for free.

We’ve picked up beer cans from garbage bins in the park, on the ground or in recycle bins from the few neighbours around us that we know and are friends with.

Free money is hard to turn a blind eye too, it’s like finding coins or dollar bills on the ground. Would you leave a $20 bill in a garbage bin or on the  ground? Probably not, that’s what I thought.

Although our neighbours wouldn’t give a hoot someone you don’t know might and some cities might have by-laws for this so it’s always best to check with your city hall.

In our city we can take an item that is typically placed on the curbside with a “Free Sign” which I like to call curb watching for free stuff.

Alternatively, we can use free-cycle where people post online what they are giving away for free and set it out on their porch once claimed online for pick-up.

As Karen points out in her post above the opposite stands true in the USA as you have to be much more careful about grabbing stuff from the side of the road as sometimes people do not intend for it to be picked up but the dumpster implies it is garbage.

Food Waste and Dumpster Diving

Regardless of any laws it happens in our own cities, all around us whether we want to accept it or not.

Whether one gets caught is an entirely different story but a chance many are willing to take.

I agree that too much food is wasted and at times it’s good food and if you plan on dumpster diving for food, take caution.

Many times we’ve bought reduced items on the cheap rack and there is nothing wrong with them and they likely hit the dumpster by evening if no one buys them. This is where freegans may step in.

Although I’ve never met a freegan I’d be interested to talk to one to hear their views to find out what life is like. 

It’s a shame with all the starving people in this world and too bad the food can’t be donated.

Lastly, dumpster diving identity theft should be a big concern for everyone so if you do toss anything with personal information, SHRED IT!

Discussion: Have you ever found something in or around a dumpster that you picked up? Can you dumpster dive where you live? Leave your comments below.

Guest Post By: Karen Lynn-Stop on by our Lil’ Suburban Homestead any time. Thanks to Mr. CBB for allowing me the opportunity to be a guest blogger and to talk about our Dumpster Diving. I never show up as your top fan but trust me I’m a huge fan of your blog.

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