Doing The Right Thing (Or) No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Let me relay a story from a few years ago about a yard/estate sale that Mr. Trashfinds and I were shopping at.  While running errands, we saw signs posted for this particular sale, and we arrived while they were still setting up [side note – for various reasons that include needing to make sure I’ve had ample coffee and to minimize the amount of early birders, I don’t post signs that direct people to our sale until we are ready to open].  We could already see from the items already out, that we would find stuff that was definitely up our alley.  We were happily invited by the sale hosts to look through anything that was still in boxes.  I’m a ‘rooter’, so I naturally dug in and got to work unwrapping items and opening boxes.  In about the third box I opened, I found a wad of money in a ziplock bag.  WAD.  It was EASILY over $2,000 (judging from the amount of $50’s and $100’s I saw).  I approached one of the ladies running the sale, not really sure what to say so instead just held up the bag and said, “So, this was in a box and you might want it”.  She exclaimed, “Oh my – that’s my mom’s.  I don’t know why she does that.”  She thanked me, and I just went about my hunt, continuing to add to my pile of finds.  About a half hour later, I found another bag, this one filled with quarters, and so, I turned that one in to the woman also.

After we made our selections (it was a large sale and we were there for about an hour), we went to pay, and paid exactly what the items were marked (spent about $100).  Mr. Trashfinds was disgusted and had to walk away while I paid.  He felt that the appropriate thing was for the sellers to have cut us some kind of break, as we did just give them well over $2,000 they didn’t even know they had AND, it’s money we could have easily kept.  While I know what I would have done if I were the seller (definitely waived the cost), that doesn’t mean I expected anything.  Regardless of the outcome, I do feel it’s important to do the right thing – especially as I have to live with MY decision.   How do we know what the other person is going through?  Maybe their house is in foreclosure, or they have some medical bills and need money?  I’m not a sucker, I just know what it feels like to be so emotionally consumed by one of life’s not-so-fun moments, it’s hard to notice or acknowledge anything else – even the good stuff.   The topic comes up on occasion when we’re faced with a ‘do the right thing’ situation, and Mr. Trashfinds likes to quote his favorite Marine Gunny Sergeant (who claims the saying came from one of the priests where he went to catholic school) – “No good deed goes unpunished“.  That’s not to say he doesn’t do the right thing – he does but rather reluctantly….

What do you think?  Should the seller have cut us a break or some kind of deal?  What would YOU have done?


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Scrap Wood OR Nice Rustic Pine Mantel?


This ‘rustic’ pine mantel is by no means, what Mr. Trashfinds considers a good representation of his ability or the quality of his work.  Or, as he put it, “Geez, I just slapped it together with scrap wood”.   The shelf/mantel was made per last minute request of a family member who had just moved into a place in mid-December and wanted something up for Christmas, but not necessarily permanent.  In less than two hours, from start to finish, Mr. Trashfinds had the mantel made and anchored into the brick.   To the average, non-woodworker or carpenter (at least myself) that’s a little impressive.  Heck, if I were looking for something like this, even I wouldn’t bat an eye if the minimum price was $100 (I won’t even pay that for a large appliance.  Read about it here).  While I look at the above pictures and see a cool, rustic-looking, surprisingly light-weight pine mantel, Mr. Trashfinds sees a slapped together from burn pile wood shelf that, while passable, he wouldn’t consider it ‘nice’ woodworking on his part.

The mantel is made from untreated pine logs that still had bark on them, pulled from my father-in-law’s burn pile.  BURN PILE.  You can imagine what the logs he considers to be ‘keepers’ looks like.  He is a small, local supplier of wood, and buys logs from various sources within his area, yet never needs to cut trees down or have them cut just in order to acquire them.  I’ve always appreciated wood for it’s many variations and natural beauty, but until recently, I had no idea what it took to turn a log into boards or workable wood. How and when a log is sawed, dried or planed has such a profound effect on what it looks like, and whether the character of it’s natural beauty surfaces.

IMAG0527                              mantel


Whenever I see this mantel, it brings to mind all the nice, solid wood pieces of furniture we’ve found and continue to find at the curb.  Mr. Trashfinds and I may have a difference of opinion on furniture in terms of what we consider ‘nice’, but I’m glad we both agree that 99% of it is still usable as is or with a minimal amount of reworking.  For now, we disagree on the other 1% – mainly because of the work involved with making something from all the bits and pieces.

How about you?  What’s something you often find that you can easily fix or use?



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Choices And Buying Our Big Chunk Of Land


From our first look of the property in December 2012.


Also, first look at the property.







Trashfinds, I’ve missed you so!  Well Amy, where have you been?

I’ve been committed to looking for, ultimately finding, and then BUYING our move to, work it, build it,  junk it up (in a tidy and organized manner at least), and die on it chunk of land (what many refer to as a ‘forever property’, but I roll my eyes when I hear that).   The ‘our’, is Mr. Trashfinds, two big goofy dogs, and a few cats.  Every waking moment (give or take…) since the last Trashfinds post over a year ago that wasn’t spent at work or some other necessary time-suck, was used to research, inquire, drive nine hours, look at, talk to a realtor, research some more, discuss, look at again, and then BUY our forever property (well, technically, a financial institution owns it for the next 20 years, but you get the idea).

I just want to point out an extremely important, significant, tide-turning thing about choices.  If we were not steadfast about how we live, and what we reuse, consume and buy or don’t buy, we would never have been able to make this a reality.  NEVEREVER.

The whathow, and why of our property, in addition to building a livable structure in another state 500+ miles away from where we live now, will be a significant addition to my posts on Trashfinds.  I find most accounts of  “we-looked-and-looked-to-buy-property” stories to be boring, uninteresting, and redundant,  so I promise to stay away from that.

I want to know about you – are you living or working toward what makes you happy? How does your thrift and reuse help you with your goal?


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Don’t You Have To Have A Voucher To Shop At A Thrift Store?



Mr. Trashfinds revealed to me that before we met, he had never shopped at a thrift store.  I laughed, pretty much in disbelief, and then realized he was absolutely serious.  He’ll wear clothes that have landed on the side of the road and has no problem trashpicking – both things he did even before we met (ok, he may not have gone out specifically to trashpick, but if he noticed something in the trash he could use, he’d stop).   Mr. Trashfinds never shopped at a thrift store for the mere reason that he TRULY believed you had to be on some kind of public assistance, or have a voucher of some kind.  I was a little stunned.

Naturally, I needed to know more:

Amy:  “Really?  You had never shopped at a thrift store before me met?

Mr. Trashfinds: “No…I thought you had to be on some kind of public assistance or have a voucher in order to get items from one.”

Amy:  “So, what did you think when we went to the Goodwill for the first time?  What was running through your head?”

Mr. Trashfinds:  “Well, I figured you had whatever it is that was needed to buy stuff from there.  The whole time we were checking out, I was waiting for them to ask you for some kind of identification or voucher or something…”

Amy:  “Wow.  I have to say, that’s a new one for me.   Sure, I I could see where people could be under the same misconception – I mean, even well into adulthood, many of our ideas and opinions reflect what we were raised with.  Which brings up an important point to address and of course, another post for Trashfinds.”

Mr. Trashfinds:  “Growing up, we’d get clothes and stuff from discount department stores, but never a thrift store.  You know my family – we weren’t above used – we’d take hand-me-downs and stop at a yard sale or flea market every now and then, but I grew up thinking thrift stores were for more needy people….not in a bad way.”

Amy:  “That just amazes me!  We always shopped at thrift stores, and when I was able to buy my own, brand-new clothes, I started seeing how little was Made In USA, so I just kept shopping ‘used’…”(continuing), “Well, it’s no different than how people think things in antique stores are all high-end stuff or out of their reach, when, in reality, most items cost less than something brand-new of the same quality, or even the inferior of the same – [if there is even still quality to be had in a new version]…”

How about you?  Were you ever under the impression that only certain people were allowed to shop in thrift or second-hand stores?   What lead you to believe that?


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The Sky Is Falling!

(please bear with us while we go through redoing the past couple of months)

Well, the sky really isn’t falling, but it’s been a trying couple of days for Trashfinds tech-speaking. Had a website snafu, have since figured out the problem, unfortunately, have yet to find anything from July or August that was written, posted, or added to Trashfinds. I was making a few positive steps toward spicing up the site too! The lesson here of course, is to backup files regularly. For many of you out there, I’m sure that’s second-nature. Kind of like having a few months of emergency supplies is second-nature to me [yes, that’s right – months]..

So, since we entered into Hurricane-speak, how about you? How prepared are you for emergencies?

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Utilizing A Trash Picking Cart


When we get the opportunity to trash pick my favorite flea market [Mr. Trashfinds wants to know what I mean by ‘we’ – yes, I’m the catalyst, but he makes finds also…he’s just not a volume picker like I am, since he has his wits about him], this is the cart I use.  We found this in the trash at the flea market a few years ago due to a rubber wheel that separated – an easy repair for Mr. Trashfinds.

There is always a clean, usable box to be found along with sellers discards,  but having one that is more of an exact fit for the bottom of the cart makes it easier to manuever.  We also clipped on two plastic tool caddies (we find these by the dozens in the flea market trash), which are perfect to temporarily lay my leather gloves when I take them off to look at an item for sale, and for little or small fragile items that could get crushed if mixed in with everything else. The plastic caddies are easy to remove as the cart fills up, and, if for some reason within that time there isn’t an area created in one of the boxes for the smaller finds, by the time I have to remove the plastic caddies, it’s time to make a trip to the truck to unload the haul anyway.

I added some bungee cords which are handy for the times when the finds are soooo good, that even on my way back to the truck, I’m finding things.  While I always have a canvas bag that has water bottles, snacks & my phone, we added a wire to hold a water bottle and/or to steady some of the longer finds.  Mr. Trashfinds also added a wire clasp on the top front to hold the cart together when we collapse it, as the one that it comes with doesn’t work too well.

How about you?  If you have a cart or the like, how have you tailored it to your trash picking or dumpster diving needs?


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One Easy Way To Find Good Trash Finds


(pictured above is a mod Barbie house found in the trash – the plastic roof is really brittle, but, the panels are still beautifully vibrant & in great shape!)

Are you a budding trash picker but a little hesistant to drive through various streets & neighborhoods, or try a ‘route’?  Cut to the chase!  Make note of yard sales happening near you & cruise by on trash day – odds are you’ll find a few boxes of leftover yard sale stuff pushed to the curb!  It might be just the kind of bolstering find you need to encourage yourself to try trash picking more often!  How this ever escaped me, I don’t know, but this tactic is something I truly started utilizing only a few years ago (an incredible DUH for me, yes….).  If you don’t make any great finds in the first try or so, don’t let it get you down – keep at it & you WILL make some awesome finds!  Also, while it’s tempting to pick under the cover of night as a newbie, try to make it during the day – it’s safer, there’s better light, & you look less like you’re sizing up which houses to rob in the neighborhood & more like you’re ‘just giving someone a ride to work & looking for their house’.

As with all ‘used’ items, be careful with your finds!   Check over & inspect an item for safety concerns/issues (examples – broken glass, iffy electrical wiring, splintered wood, bugs (!) before utilizing it).

How about you?  What’s a tip you would suggest for a budding trash picker?

(check out this Trashfinds post from awhile back – ‘I Was Just Admiring Your Yard And Other Excuses… that gives some examples of what you can ‘pretend’ your doing while cruising the trash.)


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Free Overlooked Yard Sale Advertising

I just wanted to share a little tactic I do when I’ve planned & set a date for a yard sale.  After I get a permit (yes, many towns require you to buy a permit for a yard sale…that’s not to say they’ll necessarily enforce the fine they have on the books if you don’t, but for $5, I’ll abide) a couple of days before the sale, I put a sign like this at the end of my driveway:

(Take note, all the items that make the sign & display prop, were of course, trashpicked….)

I’m surprised that more people don’t put up a pre-sale sign.  The street I live on is a cut-through street between two larger roads, so this gives our sale a lot of extra exposure.  Although we’re not real chatty with our neighbors, I’m guessing a few of them also appreciate the ‘notice’ so they can put cones at the end of their driveway or plan their parking accordingly.  Our sales generate a lot of traffic!

In an amazing stroke of non-brilliance, I somehow convinced myself I didn’t need to put signs up at the usual places since there were a few other yard sales on my street that day.   I went on the word of two of my friends who came over to sell stuff also, but completely forgot they don’t see promotion the way I do.  Sure, there were signs at the end of my road, but there are two other major intersections where I always put up signage & when we drove by them early the next day, there weren’t any signs up (and I KNOW, people rarely take their signs down the same day they had their sale – I do of course!)    Needless to say, that won’t happen again….


How about you?  Do you have any special kind of promotion or marketing you do prior to when you have a sale?


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One Item That Won’t Be In The Yard Sale


It’s finally that time!  We’re going to have our first big yard sale of the season on Saturday & I’m giddy with anticipation of reclaiming some space.  Every year about this time, I hit what I call ‘Critical Mass’, and thus, we kick off our first yard sale for the season.  We would have had one earlier, but Mr. Trashfinds was working on the weekends, & having a yard sale at Trashfinds HQ is not something to tackle alone.

One thing that WILL NOT be in the yard sale though, is the awesome plant stand in the picture above.  It’s an absolute keeper for me.  I found it a few weeks back, or as Mr. Trashfinds said, “I have to say, that’s one of the best things you’ve found lately, even by other people’s standards….”.  I’m particularly fond of this find since my Terminator-like sight came into play – as it was on a dead-end street that forks off one I use daily, driving the 45mph speed limit.  I got the slightest glimpse on the side of the road of an undefined larger item that looked like it MAY be made of wood, almost didn’t turn around (I had a particularly good few weeks for larger items & kind of hit my wall for larger-takes-up-a-lot-of-space stuff), trusted my gut, turned around & well, this is what I scored on!  The base is one solid piece of wood with added shelves.   It’s surprisingly heavy & about a foot shorter than me, however, because of my super-human strength on loading a Trashfind, the father & son doing yard work at the house didn’t even have time to put down their tools before it was in my truck.

If there’s a lesson to be had, always trust your instincts when trash picking…..and fighting zombies.

How about you?  What are some of your best ‘almost didn’t happen’ finds?


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Thanks For The Free Garden Supplies!

Check out our small, container garden – all trashpicked except for the vegetable plants!   I have a green thumb but I’m extremely, uh, in lieu of lazy, I’ll say lackadaisical, so I bought the plants  at a local church plant sale instead of starting seeds (set me back a whole twelve bucks).  I’m not the best planner of things – I mean, I plan to do stuff, but then it all kind of unravels from there in terms of starting & taking the steps involved to do whatever it is I want to do.  Fortunately, being a constant gleaner of all things usable, while we were getting our garden together, any time a need came up for an item, I moseyed on over to my non-specific found item area & came up with what was needed.  Man, I love that!  It’s a love equal to that I have of having a well-stocked pantry so that if we’re in the mood for something specific to eat, it’s already there!   I will say, my fiance & I make a good team though as he really, really enjoys the hard work or physical labor part & I really, really, like the finding-of-the-free-materials-not-so-hard-work part.

JUST to experiment, I decided to see how much it cost other people to buy the items that I trashpicked for our container garden.  Prices are approximate, based on the closest, larger hardware/department stores:
  • 24″ plastic planter (3) – $15.00 (are you frickin’ kidding me?!?)
  • 20″ plastic planter (1) – $8
  • 15″ square planters (2)  – $7
  • Potting Soil (4 bags) – $3/each
  • Peat Moss – $3 (half-bag)
  • Shovel – $10
  • Watering Can – $5
  • Vinyl Coat Wire; Wire Mesh fencing – $10(?) worth (making this up based on the gazillion types/sizes of fencing & prices I’ve seen)
  • Garden ‘stakes’ – in this case, metal holders used for retail tool displays (8) – $2/each
  • Plastic Lawn Edging (12ft)  – $5
  • Total – $127.00

It’s sooo hard to not feel superior when you add it all up.  I’m just saying…..

How about you?  How have your finds been?


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