On the heels of last week’s list of shockingly expensive things we own, I figured I’d better bring it on back down to earth with some trash finds. This month’s Great Trash Finds is devoted to a few choice items that Mr. Frugalwoods and I will use while we host his family for Thanksgiving this year. We’re thrilled that my in-laws are visiting us for the extra long weekend! In addition to many of our superb kitchen trash finds, there are a few other pieces we’ll employ in the hosting of this oh-so-festive holiday.

In case you’re new around these here frugal woods, Mr. FW and I are devout trash scroungers and every month I share a sampling of fabulous items we’ve pulled from the refuse piles of others. Living in the city is terrifically conducive to this type of frugal weirdo behavior since people often leave items on the sidewalk adorned with a “free” sign. We don’t take everything we find, because we aim for a pared down, non-cluttered home, but we sure do grab the stuff we know we’ll use. Hey, you cannot beat free!

Find #1: Mr. FW’s Dress Shirt

This is one sweet shirt
This is one sweet shirt

This shirt is our second most epic trash clothing find ever, right behind our all-time #1: my down-filled winter coat. We were out walking Frugal Hound one fine afternoon when we happened upon a free pile containing books, a computer keyboard, and this shirt. It was brand new, J Crew brand, with the TAGS STILL ON, in Mr. FW’s exact size (medium tall in case anyone has hand-me-downs they’d like to send our way…). Mr. FW wears this shirt for pretty much every semi-formal occasion: a wedding dress rehearsal, Easter, our anniversary, and, he’ll wear it for Thanksgiving and probably Christmas as well. He’ll wear it in the family photo we’ll take while my in-laws are here in town, which leads me to my second Thanksgiving find…

Find #2: A Tripod


We use this tripod every year to take our family Christmas photos during the Thanksgiving holiday. It works like a charm and appears to be an antique to boot. It has also proven its worth in holding our shop light when we’re working on home DIY and renovation projects. I probably should use the tripod more in my blog photography, but, eh, I’d much rather continue my epically lazy point and shoot method. So far, no one has complained…

Find #3: My Autumnal Handbag

Gotta have the fall colors
Gotta have the fall colors

This adorably autumnal purse hails from the same free pile as our fondue pot! I’ll tote this handbag to purchase our Thanksgiving feast supplies and on any outings we take with my in-laws. I still can’t get over the fact that someone threw out a perfectly good purse!

Find #4: Decor!

Thanksgiving decor!
Thanksgiving decor!

The trash find in question is the lovely silver vase holding my Thanksgiving ball decoration in the foreground. I like using silver and chrome in contrast with autumnal hues and this little vase was a perfect addition.

Will you be using any trash finds for Thanksgiving or any other holidays? I bet you wish you had a trash tripod too.

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  1. We don’t have any awesome holiday trash finds but we do have a hand-me-down Christmas tree that has been in the family for close to 20 years that we use and love. It was headed for the trash and we snagged it up about 6 years ago. It had a broken stand and some bent pieces but we were able to fix the stand and we hide the bent pieces in the back. Gotta love free decorations!

    1. Nice! I definitely love free decorations! Festive, budget friendly, and saving a tree from the landfill. Huge win 🙂

  2. Every holiday Mr PoP’s parents cover the table with silver place settings that didn’t quite from the trash, but close – the grungiest flea market around. They paid next to nothing for the stuff, but Mr PoP’s dad just loves polishing silver and was able to get it shining like new again. He loves showing off his cheap finds, “This silver gravy boat was $1.50! These bread plates, $0.50!”

    1. That’s pretty fabulous–silver is expensive! And, how great that you have frugal in-laws. Love it when frugality runs in the family 🙂

  3. This year they took out Fall Clean out in our small town. I cried! Twice a year (Spring Clean out) we walked our town looking for good finds. People will haul their unwanted stuff out to the sidewalk before trash day. Tons of people will walk the street looking for anything. I scored a vanity and my friend a really nice chair and a nice bed frame for her kid. We scored Christmas decorations once year. I’m going to miss it.

  4. That’s pretty incredible that you were able to find that tripod in the trash! I can’t help but laugh/be amused at how nice of stuff you have been able to find in the trash. I can’t get over the tripod! Great finds.

  5. I can’t believe you found a shirt in the trash with the tags still on! I am glad that you made that find; however, it’s kind of sad to me that it didn’t end up donated to Goodwill or something like that. It seems wasteful to me to throw out a perfectly good shirt, but at least it benefited Mr. FW. I really wish we had the opportunity to do more trash finds; however, because of deer and other critters in our area, no one puts any trash out until the morning.

    1. I agree with you about donating things–I’m always shocked at the stuff people toss out. A lot of it does get picked up (not just by me :), but by other folks), but, so much ends up at the landfill. It’s a shame that more isn’t donated.

  6. My mom and I are all about trash finds, especially furniture! She’s really good at reupholstering, so when we find something good, we take it home, pick out some material (she has a lot of fabric) and voila! They turn out like new! Just about every couch/chair/loveseat in her house and my tiny apartment has been a trash find. It’s amazing how people will throw out perfectly good (and often quite new) furniture due to a little stain or tear. We only see the potential! 🙂

    1. Reupholstering is a great skill to have! My sister-in-law is excellent at it and I’m absolutely amazed at the way she’s able to transform furniture. Very cool that your mom is similarly skilled!

  7. What’s weird to me is why people are throwing out clothes and bags. When I get rid of clothes I take them to Goodwill or those clothes dumpster places they have all around. What a waste, but good for you though. 🙂 I think Ive said this before but I never see people leave anything out where I live. Or if they do, someone is snatching it up first! But I have used freecycle.org.

    1. I know! It’s sort of bizarre, but it’s definitely a thing around here. Mr. FW and I have a whole little collection of clothes, coats, and bags we’ve retrieved from the trash. People move a lot here and I think they just kind of forget about donating things to Goodwill, which is a shame because I hate to see perfectly good things wasted.

  8. Wow, awesome finds…especially on the shirt & tripod! I can’t get over throwing away a nice shirt like that and with the tags still on to boot. I can only imagine what that shirt cost…it’s like throwing money in the trash.

    1. Thanks! We were shocked to find that shirt–it’s definitely an unusually quality piece of trash for us!

  9. Awesome finds! I need to find a better neighborhood to run in. All I’ve found recently was a trash can and a sheaf of loose leaf paper. (Seriously, who would throw out new paper?)

    Well, food, that’s another story. Last dumpster dive at a grocery store got me: a pomegranate, an egg (the rest were broken or too far away), three bags of oranges (minus one or two in each bag), four heads of lettuce (salad anyone? More salad anyone?), a loaf of bread (four days until use by date even), four containers of mushrooms (more salad with mushrooms anyone?), zucchini, carrots and cauliflower. That was all one stop (and I got the box to carry my haul away in from the dumpster as well.) I love grocery finds. They never clutter up your house and are often good for you! (No one ever tosses Doritos or Twinkies.)

    1. Thanks! It has really come in handy for us. Does a great job holding our camera and our work light for home improvement projects. All around a useful thing!

  10. We used to find tons of great stuff when we lived outside of the city, but here in the city there are way more scroungers and they must just be way earlier and faster than our scrounger selves! All of your finds are great, but I especially love that shirt find! I don’t think we ever found clothes out to the road. Nice! 🙂

  11. We’re currently in the process of moving, and I’m astounded by how much crap we’re gonna be giving away. I am going to try ridiculously hard to be more mindful of my consumerism for the next place. I hate how much junk we have. To be fair though–a lot of our stuff was gotten used or second hand, and heck, we’ve had it for five years now, so it’s not exactly in the best shape.

    1. Moving really does bring it all into focus! Every time we move there’s always several goodwill trips. At least our cruft becomes someone’s else’s useful stuff!

  12. Wow I am so impressed with your free finds. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever found anything cool from the trash especially now that we live in the suburbs. I do take hand me downs from my parents though. Seems like they have been downsizing on their holiday decorations the last few years. I am always happy to take them : )

    1. YES! We have tons of amazing holiday decor choices thanks to our parents. Mrs. FW is a decorating maven, but our seasonal displays would be much less classy without our folks sending us their old stuff. We love it!

  13. I’m always amazed by what I see on the side of the road in the city. It’s never been a thing to put your old stuff on the curb anywhere else I’ve lived. I’m gathering that it happens a lot when people are moving out. Sometimes we laugh about what we see in piles, other times I start walking slower to take inventory. The window fan we have actually came from a side of the road pile, and it’s worked great!

    1. Yeah, the heavy turnover in certain city neighborhoods definitely plays into it. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have the harvard and MIT moveout days on our calendar months in advance.

  14. I have to admit that Boston trash is much more high class than rural Colorado trash. I doubt anyone here even owns J.Crew shirts to potentially toss. Maybe Faded Glory or Wrangler. Although, I did get a free pair of Dansko shoes once from one of Jim’s coworkers who was going to give them to the thrift store, so it’s not all bad. You just have to look hard for those diamonds in the rough.

    1. Hah! I’d take a pair of wrangler jeans, that’s for sure!

      It’s true that rural serendipitous trash finds are rarer. I’ve lived in some small, midwestern towns and I know the feeling!

  15. I haven’t been lucky to find any Thanksgiving dumpster finds but I have snagged super cute straw men for free at a conference. Don’t mind me, swooping centerpieces for free decor!

    1. Great idea! We’ve taken plenty of wedding centerpieces that were offered at the end of the evening. The flowers were very pretty for a short time, but the glass vases continue to hold new decorations years later!

  16. We’ve never lived in a place with good trash, but a lot of our most-used possessions were hand-me-downs. We still use the ugly lamps my grandmother gave us from her attic for our first apartment, circa 2000, and at least once a week I fire up the crock pot my mother gave us when she realized it was stupid to own two different-shaped crock pots, for instance. When we like something, we use it until it literally collapses. I only got permission to throw away Mr. FP’s laundry basket from 1998 (aka freshman year) once it was broken in TWO places, not just one.

    1. Broken laundry baskets unite! No kidding, we too use a broken basket from college. You have us beat on level of brokenness though! Ours just has a wire on one side loose. It makes it look odd, but still totally functional.

  17. I am so envious of your great trash finds! That is quite the adorable tote. I was lucky enough to get a free tripod from my dad, and he still has another. He used to be into photography, and I’m glad he kept them around. The dress shirt looks very fall-like as well!

    1. Thanks! Good tripods can be really expensive! The one we have is pretty lightweight, though well made. I looked into getting a heavier one and wow! I think we’ll stick with the free one for now. 🙂

    1. The tag said $98, but it was selling for $60 at their online store. It’s a super comfy shirt, and it’s actually long enough for my freakishly long torso!

      It’s also the only way I was ever going to own any J Crew.

    1. Wow! That counts as basically free in my book! Our tripod is decent, but I’d certainly spend $5 on a more sturdy model. Pro tripods can be so expensive!

  18. That J. Crew dress shirt is an AMAZING steal!

    When I lived in SF, my roommates and I were constantly bringing home free stuff for our apartment. TVs… Nightstands… Furniture… you name it! It’s much harder to find free stuff now that I’m in a more suburban neighborhood.

    1. Hah, yep, city living does have its perks! When we decamp to our eventual homestead I imagine we’ll still hit up the city on moving day just for the great free stuff!

    1. Yeah, it’s pretty great. Pickings are good here in a big city. We’re maybe more extreme than some, but most folks in my (not so frugal) office have at least one piece of furniture they picked up off the side of the road. It’s just part of the culture.

    1. Thanks! I was super excited about that purse and the shirt for Mr. FW is seriously awesome. It’s incredible what people throw away!

  19. I L-O-V-E trash finds & hand-me-downs (i.e. “if you guys don’t want it we’ll throw it out”).

    I have quite a few in the house that make a big difference for us:

    – Two of our bookshelves, flower pots, books, leather furniture, fur coat, linens, dishes & pots, printer, scrap wood for the fireplace, gym equipment, children’s toys, tools, holiday decorations and even candles & soaps!

    Like you, we only take what we can use. I don’t want to clutter up the house with stuff just because it’s free. Let other folks take what they can use more than us…

      1. Fortunately/unfortunately, it’s easy to do when people throw away just about anything that is still in great condition because they want to upgrade. Sometimes I shake my head and just plain wonder…

  20. My notable trash finds.
    – 4 wooden dowel chairs once, then 2 slightly different dowel chairs
    – 48″ 1080p TV – my brother-in-law got it working
    – 2 almost identical “obsolete” 1280×1024 monitors. They currently adorn my desk on either side of my on-sale 1080p monitor, run from USB3=>vga converters. So many people get one monitor & throw out their previous without realising they can use them all at once.
    – heavy duty grocery cart – bag needs sewing/riveting.
    – various office & home chairs
    – Rolling briefcase
    It pays to live in a rental or ritzy area. People discard what they can’t fix or what is not good enuff for them any more, or if they are moving.

    FWIW, there are bunches of giveaway yahoogroups (maybe googlegroups too?) Search for FreeCycle or FullCycle in your area. List stuff you don’t want anymore, or see in trash, & look for stuff you need. Craigslist & kijiji also good for finding or gifting free stuff.

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