Terrific Trash Finds of Summer 2015

Whether you call it the devil’s strip, tree lawn, or just the curb, if you leave something good on it, we’ll shamelessly whisk it away. Part of pretending to be poor is keeping our eyes peeled for free goods left roadside. Here are our finds from this summer alone, along with a few principles of trash-picking:

  1. No shame. Don’t be embarrassed to pluck gems from amidst the junk. In fact, it’s far more embarrassing to over-pay for new stuff at the store when you could get the same thing for free. Neil’s even been known to dumpster dive (during college), but everything shown below was picked from the curb. Much of frugal living depends on the principle of shamelessness: not worrying so much what others think, being willing to haggle, be different, try new things, etc. The Frugalwoods extol the virtues of being a “frugal weirdo” here.
  2. Trash or treasure? Check if the item in question is broken. If it is, try to determine whether it’d be cheap & easy to fix. Neil’s restored many free & broken treasures, but leaves true trash behind.
  3. Is it useful? Trash-picking isn’t about grabbing every piece of garbage off the side of the road. We don’t want to collect junk, but are happy to gather items that are useful for hosting, occupying kids, our existing hobbies, or meeting current or future needs. See the pictures below for examples.
  4. Does it fit in my car? We use the word fit quite loosely. If we can safely get it home, we’ll cram it in. For example, we squeezed this pinewood derby track into our station wagon just last week (we haven’t had a chance to set it up yet).
This pinewood derby track should be lots of fun for the kids & their friends. And the parents & their friends!

This pinewood derby track should be lots of fun for the kids & their friends. And our friends, too!

Our son loves his bike & when he outgrows his the next size awaits him.

Our son loves his bike, & when he outgrows his, the next size awaits him.

Got this off a tree lawn. Neil will share his strategies for collecting free firewood soon.

Firewood is super pricey which made this a great tree lawn find. Neil will share his strategies for collecting free firewood soon.


Attaching this free slide made the toddler playground suitable for “big kids.”

We're resisted replacing our not-so-great camping cooler, but found this better quality one in the trash. It's also a bit smaller which is nice for our weekend trips.

We’ve resisted replacing our not-so-great camping cooler, and found this better quality one in the trash. It’s also a bit smaller which is nice for our weekend trips.


Perfect for hosting bonfires featuring our free firewood. All of our many lawn chairs have come from the trash.


Free tool boxes. Neil said it’s against “guy code” to let these beauties go to the dump. Whatever you say, dear.


Here’s our best trash find ever (not from this summer):


Neil hauled this huge desk out of an office building’s trash. It was the last act of service by his beloved 1985 Ford F-150. The pieces of this beastly desk covered the entire floor of our one-bedroom while we drove his poor baby to the junkyard. This was all while I was trying to cook many pounds of tacos for his college graduation party. Sometimes epic trash finds come at an inopportune time, but if it’s a useful item and you save some money, it’s worth it. Happy trash-picking!

What’s the best treasure you’ve found in the trash?

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33 Responses to “Terrific Trash Finds of Summer 2015”

  1. Holly says :

    That is a pretty sweet desk for free!
    i found a really nice pair of swim trunks on the side of the road and my husband wore them for about a year!

  2. Hannah says :

    We found containers for storing our firewood, a trash can, pool noodles, and a ladder. We ended up fixing the ladder and selling it though. We wanted a fancier one after all.

    My husband also pulled a bike out of the ditch, but its in bad condition. Although I have a thing for Trek bike frames from the 80s, I doubt we will actually fix this one up.

    We didn’t find an acceptable patio set this year, which was pretty surprising since we live next to a college campus.

  3. Jordan Yoerger says :

    Gotta love recycled goods. I found an entire standing craftsman toolbox full of tools this summer. I couldn’t believe someone was throwing it out. Also I’ve learned to go to Givits in Hudson for me immediate hardware needs. They have cheap tools, screws, etc when you need something quick and cheap. Lowes is too expensive sometimes.

  4. Kathryn says :

    Bikes, a table, chairs, and an old door that Joel used for a desktop for years, we have found many good things this way. Paula is really good at finding things like this too! Some of us even text each other when we pass by something to let others know it is there (but we don’t want it).

  5. DC YAM says :

    Oh my goodness I’m so jealous of these trash finds! That desk is incredible, as is pretty much everything else you posted. I can’t think off the top of my head what my best trash find is, but obviously I need to keep my eye out more often.

  6. Jana says :

    My husband likes to bring home things from work that would otherwise get trashed. He’s brought home a bike, a lawnmower, a computer monitor, and food like chips and cans of soda. I mock him at times but some of the things really do save money for awhile.

    • Kalie says :

      Those are some good finds! Both of the monitors on the picture of the desk were given to us by people who didn’t want them (though they didn’t make it to the trash). It is kind of a humorous habit to “rescue” trash.

  7. Amber says :

    Nice finds!

    I will pull things from the curb without embarrassment.

  8. Abigail says :

    Ah, I miss living near a university. Right before summer, all sorts of cool stuff got jettisoned. Somewhat true during the year, but mainly as students dumped stuff in a desperate attempt to get home without too many checked bags/filling a storage unit.

  9. Luke Fitzgerald says :

    Great finds!! I need to keep my eyes peeled! It is amazing how much people “trash” simply because they don’t want it anymore, not bc it’s actual trash. Just because they dont want it doesnt mean that we dont!! 🙂

    • Kalie says :

      It is amazing, though I understand wanting to get something off your hands. We really don’t go out of way to find stuff, it just seems to happen along our normal routes.

  10. Cindy Brick says :

    Husband just snagged a stove off the curb — he asked our neighbor about it (who was jettisoning it). Neighbor said they were upgrading their kitchen to stainless steel. (The stove was black.)
    He noticed it was a convection oven. He’s always wanted to try one. (The neighbor said, ‘What’s a convection oven?’)
    Hauled it home — he installed it this afternoon — and it works perfectly.

    Total cost: free.

    • Kalie says :

      A working convection oven certainly trumps all our trash finds! If you sell your old one you’ll really come out ahead. Happy baking!

  11. Kurt says :

    I look forward to the free firewood finding post. We heat mostly with wood!

  12. Harmony says :

    That track is so neat!

    I would just add to really inspect the item before loading it in/on your car. Just last week I spied an old hockey net on the side of the road. I decided to grab it for my son to practice playing soccer. It would not fit in my car so I got out some ratchet straps and prepared to load it on to the luggage rack. As I put in on the roof, one of the support bars shifted because it was rusted through. A jagged, rusty edge scraped down the side of my car. I still can’t believe the amount of damage it did 🙁

  13. Mrs. SimplyFinanciallyFree says :

    In our neighborhood people leave things on the curb all the time for free. This weekend I grabbed and old laptop case that I am hoping to turn into a photo shootsac for my husband instead of shelling out a couple of hundred dollars for a new one. I also often leave things by our curb that I can’t sell or are not in good enough shape to donate. You never know what you will find!

  14. Rose says :

    Nice! We have picked many treasures from the road side over the years. But this summer’s fave finds were- a brass fireside set that is perfect for our wood stove. A 50’s/60’s bent wooden chair which goes perfectly with my father’s restored desk. A squirrel proof bird feeder. And a gorgeous solid wood tea/coffee/sugar canister set. Happy trash treasure hunting everyone!

  15. Will says :

    I once carried home a 17″ cast wheel I someone was giving away on the curb. Brand new and for a late model Ford Explorer like my mom has. It was 100* out and something like 9 blocks up and down hills. Worth it.

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