From Trash to Treasure…bookends from A to Z

Dumpster diving is sometimes viewed as an urban foraging technique.Dumpster divers typically scour thru dumpsters for items such as clothing, furniture, food and…my good luck… bookends… in serviceable condition.

Imagine my surprise and delight when my friend BC found these cool bookends near his dumpster in the North Park neighborhood in San Diego. Location to be kept secret– I have to protect my sources! BC is an avid “dumpster watcher” who is always on the look-out for trash-to-treasure opportunities. What a score!


As you can see, I had books all in disarray in the living room. Well, maybe not this bad but you get the idea, right?


So… the bookends look really cute on my shelf in the living room. And the books look a little more tidy as well. Not bad for a dumpster diving find!  Bravo!


Dumpster Diving- Patio Chairs From Trash to Treasure

Tonite I’m writing this post from the comfort of my “new” patio. Decorated courtesy of yet another quasi-dumpster diving adventure. You don’t always have to jump in the dumpster to find the good stuff. My patio chairs were found outside the trash bin which is much easier for me to navigate given that I’m 5 ft 4 inches on a good day.

My two chairs started off a rusty, metal mess. I initially wondered if they might be better off just staying in the trash?

I busted out some sandpaper and sanded off the worst of the rust. Then I whipped out the spray paint and voila– in a hot minute I was finished. Two perfectly fabulous chairs. Side note– this sounds like an easy project but I did experience a few minor mishaps painting due to semi-windy conditions and blowing newspapers. Thankfully there’s not a noticeable amount of paint specks on the patio though the floor is now a much deeper shade of gray in certain spots. Shshsh… don’t tell my apartment complex…

To complete the project I found a cheery red pillow at WalMart for $7 and a small table at Target for $15. Right now I’m using two rugs that are rejects from the kitchen years ago. I’m still in the market for a like-new rug and maybe a few more plants and candles. I’m determined to have a low cost and semi- upcycled/recycled/repurposed patio area. So far, so good. (Let the dumpster diving adventure continue!)

Cost of Project:

  • 2 Metal Chairs– FREE
  • 2 cans black satin spray paint (WalMart)– $5.00
  • 1 red pillow (WalMart)– $7.00
  • 1 small table (Target)– $15.00
  • Plants– FREE





From Trash to Treasure

I write a lot about dumpster diving. But what about the stuff you can find parked out in the alley near the dumpsters? Imagine my excitement when I spotted a cute little barrel type container sitting all lonely in the alley. Guess it didn’t make the cut for the dumpster! Lucky day for me.

Location of this “find”–  somewhere in San Diego.

After a quick dusting the barrel looked great. It will be perfect on my patio as a plant holder.


Dumpster Diving – University City – San Diego

My motto– if you’re planning to dumpster dive– do it with dignity. I’m not a big fan of physically diving into dumpsters. Mostly out of fear.

I prefer to walk by and if there is something interesting laying out front of the dumpster or perched within easy reach then I grab the item and give it a visual scan. Personally, the item needs to be in good condition and something I can put to immediate use or else I leave it.

Here is a cute table I found recently in the UTC area near Nobel Drive and Lebon Drive. It was set out front of the dumpster within easy reach. Very cute table. The only thing I had to do was dust it off and replace the drawer pull. The cost of drawer pull was $2.75 at Cost Plus World Market. Again, a really simple fix and now I have a cute table in my entryway!


Stay Classy San Diego: Dumpster Dive with Dignity

Picture this it’s 10:30 at night and I’m outside getting ready to toss the trash into the dumpster.  I hear a slight rustling… could it be a rat? (I hate rats!)  And then, an older gentleman popped up out of the dumpster holding some glass bottles.  Yes, this actually happened to me recently!  While this can be the negative side of dumpster diving there are a lot of every day people who cruise dumpsters looking for treasure.  A few days after my run-in with the guy popping out of the trash, I met a college student who had just arrived in San Diego– she was near the dumpster pulling a nice bookcase away.
Here are a few rules to keep it classy when you’re cruising dumpsters:
Look before you “leap”
Scope out your options before heading out on your first official dive — take a walk, bike ride or drive around your neighborhood. Note which stores and apartment complexes seem like good places to stop.  If you are feeling extra enthusiastic, plot out a map of the stores or neighborhoods you plan to visit.
Keep an open mind
Dumpster diving is different from a trip to the department store.  View your dives as treasure hunts for free stuff and everything you find will seem like a small victory.
The right equipment is essential
Bare minimum, pack a flashlight, rubber gloves and bags to hold your loot. A change of clothes is also a good idea (especially if you are heading somewhere after your dive).
Don’t bring an entourage
Find one or two trusted friends to dive with, and make an agreement beforehand to be discreet, quick and respectful to the places you visit.  No need to trash out the trash can!
Trust your instincts
I’m not a fan of diving for food, but if you choose to go that route, bring a cooler for perishables.
Foods that tend to be particularly safe include bread/bagels/baked goods, packaged products (chips, cookies), boxed juices, canned goods (avoid bulging or dented cans) and fresh fruits and vegetables.
When diving for furniture, avoid mattresses at all costs (the potential bed bugs–not worth it) and take care to inspect upholstered items like chairs and couches for stains or dampness. Consider getting upholstered items professionally cleaned before bringing them into your house.
Don’t dig too deep
Dumpster diving requires a certain mind shift.  Dumpsters can be gross. Decide in advance how far you are willing to go.
Also,  if accessing a particular dumpster requires jumping a fence or somehow “breaking and entering,” just don’t do it.
Personally, I’ve found a few cute things near the dumpster in my apartment complex– everything from a nice patio table to a nightstand.  Last week someone left 2 dressers in “like new” condition down there with a sign that said “free to a good home.” I so would have taken these if I wasn’t downsizing in preparation for a move.  I’ve also discovered the Freecycle community website.  I’m on their email list for the San Diego chapter and have noticed there are some great items out there people are recycling amongst themselves.  Again, I can’t fully participate in this until after I re-settle.
Remember the rules- dive with dignity and keep it classy!