Mr. Frugalwoods and I are not above taking things out of the trash–in fact, quite the opposite. We fancy ourselves experts in the procurement of others’ unwanted goods, specifically those found on the side of the road. After all my frugal friends, why pay when you can find it free?!? Am I right?

There’s a lot we don’t glean from the trash: used mattresses, musty shoes, and couches of questionable provenance. But there are simply amazing finds to be had in our urban neighborhood. The Frugalwoods-mobile is integral to our strategy as anyone who has tried to carry furniture home via bike or human arms (both of which we’ve done) well knows.

People have called us tacky for engaging in this lowlife behavior, to which I respond: I’m tacky and I know it.

To prove just how tacky I am, I’m starting this photo essay (see? I’m highbrow) of the greatest things we’ve plucked from the trash for all the world to see.

In case you’re wondering, we don’t get everything from the side of the road (I wish!). The vast majority of our earthly possessions stem from one of the following sources.

One Greyhound
One Greyhound

If Purchased:

If Free:

  • Hand-me-downs from friends and family (anytime someone offers us something for free, we say YES because we’ll either use it or sell it on Craigslist)
  • Side of the road finds
  • Gifts from family (our Christmas wish list is always peppered with useful household items such as a pot, a pan, or a spatula)

And now, for the first installment of Great Trash Finds!!

Find #1: Brace yo’self for my greatest clothing scrounge ever:


Found this amazing, near-perfect condition, 100% down-filled women’s LL Bean winter coat atop a box of giveaways last October. I washed it with special down wash at the laundromat (you can’t use down wash in a conventional home washer) and wore it every day this winter. I’ll wear it every day next winter too.

LL Bean dudes! Only 1 size too large for moi.
Look at that warm collar! Only 1 size too large for moi.

Downsides: it’s a size too big for me, but it’s a coat so who cares! Also the zipper doesn’t un-zip all the way, so I must step in and out of the coat (our friends are used to me doing this by now). And, it does zip up all the way, which is the real pièce de résistance for a coat.

This is warmest, nicest coat I’ve ever owned PLUS it’s waterproof! If you’re not familiar with the new coat market, an LL Bean coat of nearly identical specs retails for $199!!!!

Check out this hood!
Check out this hood! Also, apparently I can’t take a straight photo to save my life. What was I doing, leaning over?!

Find #2: Two Charming Bookcases:

In perfect condition!
In perfect condition!
Free shelve-sies!
Rock Chalk Jayhawk!









I rescued these babies from our neighbor’s trash pile! They’re currently in our basement providing a home for our fancy-pants plates and glassware that we don’t use on a daily basis.

Find #3: Highly Questionable Pottery:

And finally for this installment, I give you a hideous piece of pottery that my sweet Mr. Frugalwoods triumphantly brought home with him one day last month. It has yet to, ahem, find a permanent resting spot within our home. It’s currently chilling in our basement. I didn’t say everything we found was ideal

(Mr. Frugalwoods here. I feel I must stand up for my misunderstood roadside pottery find. Just gaze upon its awesomeness. How many times have you watched Antiques Roadshow (free, on PBS!) and thought “That ugly piece of pottery is worth WHAT?” Plus, it’s not a sex toy, which is what I initially thought when I saw it in the trash pile. So that’s a plus.)

Uh. Yeah....
Uh. Yeah….

What’s the greatest thing you’ve ever scrounged from the side of the road?

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  1. We have apartments surrounding us and it’s totally amazing what people will throw away rather than move with them. I found a good pair of Timberland hiking boots just sitting on top of a trash can one year. A little shoe polish and voila, winter boots for me! They’re a size too big but that just enables me to wear two or three pairs of wool socks for the weather. Yeah, we get odd looks taking the stuff but their loss is our gain.

    1. Totally! It really is incredible what people just toss out. Such a great resource for those of us willing to hunt around and put in a little elbow grease to clean or fix things. Nice job on the boots!

  2. The greatest thing I’ve ever found in the trash is a Willie Nelson cd 😉 You have some good finds on here, those bookshelves look nearly brand new. Do you ever roam the free listings on Craigslist? I was shocked at how much is on there. The good stuff goes quick, too. We had an extra (very heavy) chest of drawers that we got rid of (we got it for free from my sister in the first place!) and it was gone within a half hour of listing on the free section of Craigslist.

    1. Hey, a free CD is a free CD! I think the bookshelves are brand new, they’re relegated to the basement right now, but they might migrate upstairs in some future re-organization. Good call on the Craigslist free section–I do troll through periodically, but I’m usually not willing to drive the distance to pick stuff up. A lot of our Trash Finds (all of the above) are within a few blocks of our house–what can I say, people throw a lot of stuff away in our ‘hood. But great idea to get rid of unwanted items through CL, we unloaded a box spring that way. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  3. I haven’t been lucky enough to find anything awesome on the side of the road, but there is a guy that cruises our ‘hood on Sunday nights (Monday is trash day) looking for treasure. I’ve got mad respect for his efforts and since he’s out every week I’m willing to bet he’s found some awesome stuff.

    1. Nice! Preemptive trash searching! Our efforts are not so focused, we just grab stuff when we see it. Except during moving season (Sept 1 around here)–then we do intentionally drive around like the weirdos that we are :). Thanks for sharing!

  4. LOL, I really like your “pottery.”
    I found my husband’s current swim trunks on the side of the road when I was on a walk. I don’t know how they got there, but they were super nice and even his size. I just washed them and put them with his stuff!

    1. HAH! Swim trunks! That’s pretty great, I’m not sure I can top that.

      P.S. Don’t say too many nice things about the pottery… I don’t want it to go to Mr. Frugalwoods’ head. I also really don’t want that thing on display in my home. I suggested he take it to his office, but last time I checked it’s still hanging out in the basement ;).

  5. You know, I’ve always admired people who were able to make ends meet on as little as possible. Personally, I’m not into the dumpster diving thing, but if I throw something out that someone else wants, I don’t see any reason for them not to take it.

    1. You gotta do what’s right for you. For us it’s no hardship. In fact, it’d be much more stressful and time consuming to go try and buy this stuff from a store. Probably an artifact of living in an urban environment… but it’s a major hassle to get to a Target or Kohls! If something great it free just down the street… well that works just fine for us! 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I haven’t found anything all that great, but my parents found a solid wood bureau on the side of the road. One drawer was a little loose, so my Dad fixed it up re-stained it and they put it in the guest room.

    1. That’s a great find! And re-staining is such a perfect refresher for droopy furniture. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I pick up push lawn mowers whenever I see them. My retired dad fixes them and sells them. I get a cut of the action when he sells a freebie I found. Lawnmowers are hard to get rid of, so people creatively leave them in some interesting places. By the grass recycling area is common. I love freebies.

  8. Find #1: two giant aloe vera plants that I re-potted and use whenever we get a scratch.
    Find # 2: a turtle-shaped sandbox for the backyard (with cover). Play sand is about $4 a bag and we bought 4 to fill it up.

  9. One time I saw a 17″ wheel from a Ford Explorer on a curb. The guy saw me eyeing it and came out of the house. Turns out it was off his wife’s Explorer. The insurance company replaced the wheel after an accident because they thought it was scratched. Turns out it was just a little streak of tar. My mom has an Explorer so I grabbed it as a spare or to use on a trailer (we have lots of farm trailers with the same bolt pattern). To be extra manly, I picked it up and carried it the mile home. Normally the wheel would cost $200!

  10. I found my way to this post after reading another one of your great posts. Like you we have found some great stuff along the side of the road. We found a dresser for my husband, a second one for my sister-in-law. A baby high chair, bouncy seat and changing table. Those were sitting on the curb across the street when our neighbors moved out earlier this year. I stuck them in my yard sale and made $25.00! In fact, my husband has instructions to pick things up he finds if they look in good condition. If it isn’t something I think I can sell then back on the curb it goes.

    1. Those are excellent finds! And what a good idea to sell the stuff you don’t use. Nicely done! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

  11. This post made me so happy!

    When I moved to Korea right after college I was informed that when you no longer need something you put it on the curb and then someone who needs it more than you can take it. I thought this sounded weird, but after taking a dresser, a chair, a vanity and various pots and pans to furnish my teensy apartment, I was hooked. When I left Korea I returned those things to the streets and smile thinking about them bringing happiness to a new person.

    1. It’s a perfect system! It’s commonplace practice here in Cambridge too, so we find things on the side of the ride with regularity. Thank you so much for stopping by :)!

  12. What’s tacky is throwing away perfectly good things to just end up in a landfill. It’s not that hard to instead put them on a sidewalk with a “free” sign, or post them on the free section of craigslist or freecycle. It’s disgusting what some Americans throw away.

    I also appreciate that you rescue things from the trash while still having a home that seems sort of minimalist looking. I find it disturbing when people turn their home into cluttered, hoarder-like messes because they can’t turn down a free item.

    1. We’re always happy to take things that we can use. It certainly can be tempting to take too much if it’s free! We try to restrain ourselves and not take alllll the free trash 🙂

  13. I brought a free white fridge home that was out on the street for the taking. Works great. Hard to believe bonus fact: -power company doubled the rebate for the old fridge because ( I showed it worked) it was very old….50 dollar rebate!! What a deal !!

  14. In 2012 I found myself with a lot of time on my hands after the death of my father. On my way home from work, I saw a large amount of baby accessories, crib, walker, high chair, etc. sitting roadside just a mile or so from my home. When it began to get dark I went out and picked up the good as new items…my plan was to take them to the goodwill. Instead I decided to hold them until our community garage sale. After 3 months of shopping curbside in my neighborhood, I had a garage full of everyday, cleaned up household goods to sell. On the day of the neighborhood sale I made $1000 from my finds…..I call it my GARBAGE sale. It was great fun recycling and selling other people’s trash…

  15. LL Bean will happily fix that zipper for you! Just send it to them and they will correct it. They are the gold standard for customer service.

  16. I’m going to say that my KitchenAid Mixer that I found in the trash 15 years ago is still my favorite trash find. I use that thing probably 3 times a week still. My mom would say my bathroom vanity was my best find (side of the road, had a granite topper, the sink and the faucets and fit perfectly in the bathroom we wanted to renovate!). Also, the 2 working Dell laptops I found in the college move-out trash last year, the Galaxy tablet, the Nook (just needed a battery)…living in a college area helps. Students throw so much away, probably because they didn’t pay for it in the first place!

  17. I am fortunate to have discovered, over a period of about three years, five bookcases in excellent condition in the ‘rubbish room’ of my apartment block!

  18. That’s a Land’s End coat! Does it have belt loops? If so, I have the same one in navy. I bought it at an insane discount from Land’s End in late 2012, so that’s 5 winters now of wearing it almost every day, and it’s still going strong. You made an amazing rescue!

    And thanks for the tip about down wash, I’m going to look for that as some areas of my coat seem to have darkened.

  19. Oh I had the same (Land’s End) coat in red! I bought it new, but it was halfway through winter so it ended up being $60. Not as good as free, but significantly better than $200 🙂

  20. The basement is a good place for those Jayhawks glasses. -Your Mizzou “Friend”.

    P.S. All in good fun. I just discovered your blog and am reading from the beginning. I’m loving it.

  21. Just discovered this post and had to share: my family’s very best trash find was a dishwasher! We spotted that our neighbor had put out a lovely wood/glass coffee table and were busy putting that in our car when our neighbor ran out and asked if we wanted a free dishwasher too! Obviously, the answer was YES. Apparently they were remodeling their kitchen and were throwing out their relatively new, Swedish dishwasher! We took it, stashed it in our basement (as we already had a dishwasher), and then when we moved to a new house shortly thereafter replaced the old dishwasher there with our new-to-us trash find! I’m happy to report that this entirely free dishwasher lived a long and productive life, giving us nearly nine years of sparkling dishes before it finally kicked the bucket.

  22. I’ve been thinking of you stepping through your coat’s broken zipper to get it on and off, and have some suggestions. First, it’s a Bean coat, and Bean has a repair department (for their famous duck boots), so maybe they can replace the zipper for little or no cost (Do they give a warranty on your coat’s zipper?). Second, while the manufacturer is often the best equipped to make repairs (unless they don’t make the item), a shoe repair shop will often replace zippers for a nominal fee (shoe shops have the necessary heavy-duty sewing machines). Just take a suitable replacement zipper with your coat. If you don’t want to buy a new zipper (they are surprisingly expensive), you could remove the zipper from another donor coat. Third, most frugal of all, you could remove the broken zipper and replace it with loops & toggles that you can make and sew on yourself. Make the loops with some black cord and carve some wood toggles from a tree branch, then stitch them along where the zipper used to be. Of course, a fourth option would be to do none of the above and just cut off the zipper, then close the coat using the existing snaps. But toggles would look nicer.

  23. Rock chalk! I’m new to your blog and loving it. And a proud KU alum. Keep those glasses forever!

  24. Kenwood Chef mixer (in working order) is my biggest side of the road trash find and I also found some fancy Italian glass food storage containers

  25. This is a 10 year old post, but I feel compelled to nitpick. That coat is Lands End, not LL Bean. There. Got it off my chest. 🙂

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