Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dumpster Diving

Get your gloves, a flashlight, a face mask, and most open mind.  This is the ultimate recycling.  If you love going green, dumpster driving may make you feel like you are saving the world one recyclable at a time.

A friend recently confessed to me that she joins several other people to scour select neighborhoods for high-class trash.  The "pickers", as they call themselves, go on the hunt when municipalities schedule their bulk trash pick-up days once a year.  People clear out big old items like chairs, toilets, and patio furniture...then throw them to the curb for haulers to take away....unless my friend gets to the pile first.  This is a slowly emerging nationwide movement by green-minded and downright thrifty folk to find furniture, toys, tools, and anything else they can rehab and keep or sell for a little extra dough. 

These are not people who are living off of the bread line.  They are resourceful and their dumpster diving is carefully organized, competitive, and strategic.  Divers start with a map, identifying a target neighborhood scheduled for bulk pick-up each week.  They hook up a trailer, grab anti-bacterial soap, and pack a couple of high-powered flashlights because some of the best finds come out at night.  Some pickers are focused on gathering scrap metal, others want things for their own homes, and some just look for items to wash up and sell online or at a garage sale.  The nice homeowners even package up extra pieces and leave signs to let pickers know if their items are in working condition.

My goal was to find a project I could get crafty with, to prove that you can literally make trash look lovely for just a couple of dollars.  I spotted a simple wooden box with tiny shelves and glass doors on top of one of the first trash heaps we passed.  I was sold.  Here's what I used to fix it up:

Mod Podge
A small brush
2 pieces of 12x12 paper
A paper trimmer

I picked a bright and glittery paper with bold colors because I knew I'd be using the display case to store ribbon in my craft room where anything goes.  You can pick any paper with colors suitable to the room where you'd display your project.  I measured the wood surfaces I wanted to replace with my patterned paper and cut strips using a paper trimmer.  I pre-cut all my paper in advance so I didn't have to worry about my mod podge  drying out before I was ready to apply the paper.  I spread a generous layer of MP on the surface of the left door, quickly placed my strips...smoothing them out with my fingers to prevent air bubbles underneath, and I topped it off with another layer of MP to seal my paper in place.  When the MP dries, the white streaks become clear.

My paper was two-sided and I decided to incoporate both patterns.  I also put some paper inside the shelving to add depth and layers.  Admittedly I had all of these supplies on hand, so it didn't cost me a thing to make this project.  Since I used so few supplies I can't imagine it would cost a thrifty person more than $2 to make and I spent about 2 hours putting it together while I watched television one night.  Dumpster diving certainly isn't for everyone...but you can rehab your own trash.  Next time you prepare to throw something out or put it in a garage sale because you are sick of it...consider sprucing it up.  You can give it a whole new look with some scissors, paper, and mod-podge.  You just might turn that trash into cash.


  1. I'm having ribbon holder envy!LOL- I love this Crafty Cat!!!

  2. Ha You know I approve of dumpster anything!

  3. Very nice! Wish I had some good places where I live.

  4. I am having ribbon holder envy as well. What a great upcycled project. Thanks for sharing.

  5. love dumpster diving...I always see a new use for unwanted items...think outside the box and be creative :)

  6. Oh my, my mom did this, and the things she found! one womans trash is anothers treasure! very nice! love the ribbon holder!

  7. Oh how fun! I am always so tempted to pick up things people put out for the trash, but what you have done is truly beautiful!


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