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August 1 is just around the corner, and the popular move-in/move-out date means one thing for those of us seeking some Cheap Thrills: It’s prime Dumpster-diving season.
Dumpster diving, for the uninitiated, is reaping the benefits of those who hit a certain level of frustration with moving and simply dump things they don’t want either in or near trash receptacles.
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I’ve scored some great stuff through Dumpster diving over the years. Here are five reasons to don some old clothes, hold your nose, and see if you too can find treasure in other people’s trash:
1. You don’t have to get up early. One of the best things about Dumpster diving is that people are moving at all hours. A 3 p.m. cruise through an alley can be just as fortuitous as a 6:30 a.m. dive.Â For that matter, there is hardly ever any haggling, either, unless you find yourself nose-to-nose with another diver, both eying an entertainment center. My advice? Yield. Dumpster divers are famously fierce and notoriously stinky.
2. You don’t have to write a shopping list. It’s impossible to predict what people are going to throw out, so put your expectations away. My laissez-faire attitude toward Dumpster diving has won me a wooden stand for my record player, several colorful lamps, and a hefty charcoal grill—none of which I knew I needed until I considered their near-perfect condition.
3. Free food. This is, admittedly, not for the faint of heart. More seasoned divers can exist purely on found food, while I tend to go with sealed packages only. During a diving trip to the University of Colorado-Boulder, I filmed a video on some of my findings (including the previously mentioned grill and lamps) for a newspaper story. Along the way I scored an unopened box of PopTarts and a package of Twizzlers. (Be sure to listen to the end of the video to experience the videographer’s reaction as I start to eat my candy from the trash.)
4. Puppies! There will be some decidedly un-cute things in a Dumpster. I remember sitting down in a great old recliner only to have a friend point out that my arm was resting in dried vomit. Keep in mind, however, that on certain amazing days people have unexpectedly found adorable little friends in their exploration.
5. It’s officially literary. 5280‘s own Laura Pritchett has edited a collection titled Going Green: True Tales from Gleaners, Scavengers, and Dumpster Divers. Once you come back flushed with excitement from your new, free gear, read these assorted tales of Dumpster divers, yard salers, and even road-kill scavengers to stay inspired.