I Was Just Admiring Your Yard (and other excuses to use when trash picking)!



My recent guest post on ThriftCore (http://thriftcore.com) helped remind me that many people’s approach to trash picking isn’t quite as brazen as mine.  After I’m talking to someone about a great score or trash picking day, I often have them tell me they always see stuff that looks good, but admit they still can’t bring themselves to pick.  Usually, a concern about someone seeing them, the stigma, or the imagined scorn of others is what prevents them.  In my experience, most of those concerns are just that, imagined.  However, taking advantage of any opportunity to encourage a wannabe picker, over the years I’ve offered a few excuses or comebacks someone can use (mainly for themself!) to help them feel more comfortable about pulling over for finds.   

Following, are just a few excuses I’ve come up with to help your transition from trash ogler to cool trash finder!  Many of these have crossed my mind while cruising for finds, and I do believe, are very plausible:

  • As mentioned in my ThriftCore guest post, you can always say you were just checking out their Christmas lights & decorations.
  • You’re checking out landscape design, thinking about what to do with your yard.
  • You wanted to get a closer look at a sign (it’s helpful if there IS a sign nearby).
  • You wanted to take down an outdated yard sale sign (doesn’t have to be yours!)
  • You were just writing down some realtor info.
  • You’re looking to buy a house & wanted to get a (fill-in-time-of-day)  feel for the neighborhood.
  • You pulled over to write something down you heard on the radio.
  • You thought you saw a kitten dart across the road.
  • You thought you hit a kitten [kitten used as example because awww…who doesn’t love a kitten?].
  • You’re looking for your dog/cat.
  • You really liked their lighthouse mailbox & wanted to get a closer look.
  • You hit a monster pothole & just wanted to check your tires.
  • You stopped to take a look at your map (or look FOR your map).
  • A water bottle was rolling around the driver’s side & you stopped to pick it up.
  • You thought your car was making a noise & wanted to listen closer.
  • You’re a birdwatcher & saw a bird you wanted to get a closer look at.
  • You had something under your contact lens/in your eye.
  • You wanted to make sure you had fill-in-needed-item-here for work/school.
  • You’re looking for potential areas to shoot for your photography hobby.
  • You had to answer your phone and just want to abide by the law.

Personally, I’ve only encountered an uncomfortable situation while picking someone’s trash ONCE –  just a few months ago – and it really wasn’t that bad.  Consider that, conservatively, I’ve picked over 1,500 days in my life*, and this is the first & only time I’ve had a lukewarm interaction with a person.   One morning, I stopped to pick up a few great, older drawers , and the homeowner came out of the house at the same time to add a garbage bag of actual trash.  I honestly think she didn’t see me & was startled & freaked out because of that, but she did ask me a little coolly, “Can I help you?” (less as in an offer to help me load & more like Pretty Woman on Rodeo Drive…).  I happened to be loading the last drawer, so said  “Nope.  Just stopped to pick up these great, sturdy drawers.  They’re always useful, thanks!”.  I find it’s always better to play oblivious in these situations.

How about you?  Do you have gems any to add?  Comment & share!

*Average based on picking 3x a week for ten years.  I’ve been picking a hell of a lot longer, but maybe not as consistently.  Read about my first trashpick here!


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The Gift of Thrift. And I Did It My Way….

                                 (not the books I gave, but probably not too far off)

Over the years, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to share my trash picking, thrifting & general reuse habits with others.  After a few VERY reluctant years of going along with the requested new items as gifts for holidays, registries, birthdays, etc, I couldn’t take it anymore & stood by my convictions.   I can still give gifts MY way & the recipients will still like it.  I disregard registries & wish lists, however, may use them to get an idea of what the person or couple’s interest is.  (Ok, I’ve never used them as a guide, but it sounds a lot better & less cocky than me saying, “I pretty much know what they’ll like anyway…”.).   It works the other way too.  For years, my family insisted on buying me gifts (oh, poor me), regardless of me insisting & pleading not to, or to at least donate in my name to a charity.  Finally, a sense of reason settled over & now come the supermarket gift-cards!  It fills their need to give something & fills my pantry, so I’m ok with it. 

Fiscally sane gift-giving for kids can be challenging.   The first time I tried it ‘My Way’, was for a nephew’s birthday – and it was wildly successful!  I have a nephew who is as voracious a reader as I am, but not-so-good-with-the-library-book-returning.  Sure, I could have easily gotten him a new book, paid his library fines in advance, OR, for the price of a new book (or a heck of a lot less if you hit a bag sale), I could get him an amount of books equal to his age wrapped in a brown paper bag!   I can’t even remember what the ‘hot, new toy’ items were that year for his age group, but I do remember the glares from the other adults in my family as their very overpriced, shiny, ‘new’ gifts were cast aside while he strategized what titles he wanted to read first.  
How about you?  Have you been able to give thrift/used gifts to family or friends?
 (check out this previously published Trashfinds post – Thrift Giving – http://wp.me/pZyJ6-2A )


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Holiday Trash Picking High Jinx

It’s always fun when you have a friend who shares your interests…in this case, trash picking (or free finds altogether).  Two years ago, during Christmas break (we both worked in schools), my friend Amanda & I went trash picking one beautiful, sunny morning and had a blast.  We’re talking giddy, pre-teen-like giggly fun that if we’d had gotten pulled over, the officer would have given us a sobriety test & called for back-up.   We also learned from each other since she knew what some things were that I didn’t (mostly machinery-related) & vice-versa, plus the novelty of having someone to trash pick with was pretty damn cool too!

My trash picking co-pilot started musing with the idea to decorate her then-boyfriend’s yard while he was at work with some of the Christmas stuff we kept passing over in the trash.  When she first mentioned it, I thought, ‘that would be pretty cool…..but I don’t really want to give up any car space’.  As we drove on & didn’t come across anything that we were interested in at the time, it started becoming a more attractive idea.  So, from the trash, we started grabbing super-huge poinsettias; christmas light deer; various bows & garland; a plastic lamb; about a dozen candy cane lawn ornaments, and a few other odds & ends.  
We decked out his yard while he was at work & had a blast! In retrospect, we probably should have taken some pictures, but alas…..   If you can, I highly suggest you try surprise trash find yard decorating sometime for a friend, loved one, or even your own place!

How about you?  Have you ever found a way to liven up a holiday with trash finds?  How?


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Trashfinds Has Inspired

Anybody who comes into contact with me for ANY period of time will learn that I am a proud, enthusiastic, trash picker.  I received a great compliment from a coworker, who has known me for a few years, and has also been the lucky recipient of a few finds. She told me that even though there are things she would try at a yard sale for rather than new at store, she is now being reminded even more of the bounty of the trash, and finds she has more of an awareness in noting what’s at the curb.  She always lets me know when there’s something to be had right around the corner from work, my house or her house, (we don’t live too far from each other – both she, I & work), but she wanted to tell me since she was noting trash more in terms for her personal frugality & willingness to pick on her own….not quite yet, but is considering.  I’m so very proud.  

How about you?  Have you helped inspire someone with your trash picking or general frugality?  In what way?


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Black Friday – Is Your Merchandise Made In The USA?

I stopped by the antique store last week & mentioned that I couldn’t wait until Black Friday so I could spend time overhauling my booth.   One of the owners said, “Really?  I thought being the great deal seeker, you’d be out taking advantage of all the Black Friday specials”.  WELL……

I’m not a big shopper of ‘new’.  I’m not without my enjoyment of finding dirt-cheaper-than-a-thriftstore stuff on clearance, but since it’s so rare I go into ‘new’ retail establishments, it’s more of a novelty for me.  Among a few reasons for going with (most) all things used, is that I buy Made in USA (if it’s local, even better!).  I’ve started, drafted, & re-wrote SO many posts about buying Made in USA products, but I just can’t seem to really express my feelings about the importance of it, so instead, I’ll direct you to a few websites/articles that have said it much better:

American Economic Alert.org - Masthead

TONS of info on this site- here is American Economic Alert’s ‘about us’                                                 page: – http://americaneconomicalert.org/aboutus.asp

Buy American Challenge http://buyamericanchallenge.wordpress.com/

(Also on the Buy American Challenge site – great post to check out                                                ‘Buying American On A Budget’:  http://wp.me/pTJcN-85 )

MADE in USA Search Engine Home Page

Lists lots of Made In USA products! http://www.madeinusa.org

From Livecheap.com –  ‘Ten Ways Patriotic Consumers Can Shrink The Trade Deficit’:


How about you?  Do you take note of Made in USA?


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A Sacred Chest We Wouldn’t Be Surprised To Find In The Trash

My boyfriend & I just spent nine days in Ireland.  First stamp in my passport!  We plan on going back  & spending a lot more time, but, the opportunity came to take this trip, we had the cash, so it was a go!  About a thousand blog topics were discussed between us & will trickle their way into trashfinds as they become applicable.   Due to the website & selling of items, I’m getting better at remembering to take pictures – I was never a very good capture it all on camera person. 

I’d like to share a picture of one of the many relics & antiquities we saw.   This was a chest in St. Patrick’s Cathedral that was used to store vestments (1600’s?).  In the people-don’t-have-a-frickin’-clue arena though, this (sadly) looks like something I would find in the trash in my area of the U.S – which is why I decided to take a picture [didn’t see the no pictures sign until after – my apologies Ireland].  As I was taking the pic, my boyfriend came over & said “Wow…that looks like something we’d find in the trash at home”.  No joke.  


How about you?  What’s something you’ve happened upon that wouldn’t surprise you if someone were throwing it out?


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Four Thrifty Tips For Hopeless Procrastinators

(two recent trashfinds – cool record album art!)


I’m a pretty frugal person.  I don’t make much money (by choice), but I have an abundance of time, great benefits, and by being thrifty, am still able to pay bills & build a reasonable savings.  I subscribe to a few thrifty-type newsletters, and they often have great tips to share that will help save the reader money & time.  Unfortunately, many of these tips go right over a thrifty procrastinators head – like me.  I read a tip & think, “That’s a good one I could definitely save money with“, but never follow through on it…even though yes, I logically understand how it will save me money.    Let me give you an example (or four) of a few ‘DUH! I should have done that years ago‘ (so really, it should be five tips, the first being Try Not To Procrastinate. I sat TRY because I’m convinced many procrastinators don’t do well with orders like DON’T).  Each tip probably takes less than five minutes to follow through with.

CABLE. I like cable & am not at a point in my life that I want to cancel it.  I’ve seen & read this one for years.  Yep, YEARS.  Yet, did I ever do anything about it?  No.  Why? (here comes my inner teen persona) ‘I dunno’….   FINALLY, a day comes around that I find myself calling the cable company as their recent teaser premium channel marketing ‘ free promotion’ was about to end, and I kind of grew to like one particular station (Encore Westerns!  Oh how you have fulfilled my TV viewing).  I asked about their most minimum package that would give me that channel.  I was offered one which included up to 200 channels & was good for six months.  In a very WTF!?! moment, their new offer had me paying LESS than I had been for the past five years but gave me MORE channels (132 to be exact).  Whatever.  I somehow remembered to call again in six months & they renewed it, & somehow, I’m now on automatic renewal at that price. I’ve unfortunately calculated my savings, and the $300 I now save A YEAR would have added up to even more had I acted YEARS ago.

The Daily Coffee. Oh my.  I have one cup of coffee in the morning.  For years, I hit a convenience store I passed in the morning, paid roughly $1.50, cruised the trash & went to work.  When I switched work locations, I had to go out of my way by about three miles to get coffee (uh, my ‘commute’ is just shy of two miles).  Let’s ignore the fact there are ‘one-cup’ type coffee makers since I’m just never going to get around to making my own.   I tend to like strong coffee, but some days, not-so-strong.  I’m not too picky about taste.  I had considered instant coffee, but thought it was too pricey (let’s not note that three days of store coffee = one small jar of instant).  One day, I discovered my warehouse club carried a generous jar of instant coffee that was very budget friendly.  Let’s see – $1.50 a day saved, including the 15 extra minutes involved with manuevering the parking lot & other people – that’s 15 more minutes to trash pick!  Rough estimate saved per month (minus expense of coffee/sugar/half&half) = $32.00 a month or $384.00 a year

Prescriptions. I found out our insurance had some deal where you could get prescriptions through the mail for less, but that you’d have to get them three months at a time.  So, my doctor wrote my prescriptions for a three month supply, I of course never followed through with mailing it to the company & ended up at the pharmacy anyway.  Guess what?  Still had a three month prescription but just one co-pay!  Holy Crap!  (note: my insurance just changed & now they will not approve 90 day scripts at the pharmacy – they MUST be mail-ordered.  Drat.) $340 a year saved

GAS. I’ve always consolidated errand running in terms of saving time, but it often translates to saving money too.  When people start talking gas prices, in my head I hear the adults in the Peanuts (I’m 37 but really…..what is age…?).  Whatever.  Am I going to go out of my way to fuel up for three cents less a gallon? No.  However, I do (mostly) remember to look at prices & now know even the most expensive gas station near my boyfriend is still cheaper than near me, so I have been remembering to fill up when I visit him (he’s 1/4 of a tank of gas away….). Estimate savings of $576 a year!  Just for actually paying attention to gas prices!

Ugh.  It’s now time for me to look at those long-term investments & get around to moving stuff like mutual funds into something with better interest & less fees.

How about you?  What have you learned from your own procrastination?  What steps have you taken?

Looking for more great thrifty tips?  Check out The Dollar Stretcher www.stretcher.com & Thrifty Fun www.thriftyfun.com – two sites I’ve referred to for years & absolutely love!

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Cultivator Of Controversy We Never Discuss


I LOVE selling items I found in the trash for a few reasons.  Getting a little extra cash is actually one of the least reasons I do it.   I love that I rescue something from utter destruction, keep it from adding to a landfill, AND am able to pass something off to someone at an extremely reasonable price.  I price stuff  low, but, I’m of the mind-set that I want to see stuff move rather than collect dust hoping to get a higher price for something (especially since we can all pretty much agree finding MORE things to supply the booth isn’t going to be a problem).   I’m happy I break even & finding stuff that I can sell enables me to continue, well….finding stuff! 

My boyfriend disagrees with my prices sometimes.   In fact, the beautiful cultivator seen above is a topic we can never speak of again.  Seriously, he was that insulted & put off at the price I sold it for, the mere mention or reminder of what I am now calling ‘the cultivator of controversy’ get’s him all ired up.  An awesome trash find we made over the summer, the cultivator was in the store for a few months (which is a few months longer than I would have liked) before it sold.  My boyfriend comes from farm country, where simple & useful agricultural tools are still used, valued and sought after.  We visit his folks often, and yes, I’ve seen cultivators similar to the one we found (just not in as good a shape) easily sell for double what I sold it for, but that doesn’t mean we would get that in our area.  Regardless, I’m still happy with the price I got for it.  

How about you?  How do you price your finds when you sell them?  Are you looking to move items quickly & price accordingly, or do you prefer to wait it out & get a higher price?

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My Car Keys Are In Your Trash Picking Cart


(1-box of kids trinkets; 2-broken things for mosaics; 3-a few random finds)

We had a great day trash picking the flea market this past Sunday – the pics are just a small sample of our finds (the REALLY good stuff is still boxed). I love this particular flea market for picking, and the rows are about the length of a football field (actually, they’re probably longer)!  We did have an awkward moment though (ok, I felt awkward but my boyfriend’s attitude is, “oh well“).  A common practice for dealers leaving stuff behind at the flea market, is to leave discards on the table.   Often, the dealers or their cars, are still within the vicintiy of their table, even though they’re packed up.   A lot of dealers are totally cool & will let you know before you can even ask, that what’s on the table is what they’re leaving behind.  Some will only acknowledge you if you ask, and some just simply ignore you as they’ve already washed their hands of the space so-to-speak.     

We were working our way down a row of tables, & came upon a table area completely empty except for a zip-up hooded jacket.  Though I’m slightly reluctant picking clothes, even ones that were for sale just a few minutes before, it doesn’t bother my boyfriend.   The dealer was in his car with the door open & having once of those half-conversations with the dealer next to him, who was one of the few in the row still set up.    We were lingering at the table, I was waving & said excuse me, looking at the dealer of the empty spot, who made no acknowledgement.  We looked at the other dealer who did say hi.  We looked at each other wondering if the jacket was being left behind, tried to get the dealers attention again with no luck, so I picked it up, checked the size, shrugged to my boyfriend, and threw the jacket in my cart.  We were there for at least five minutes – which is a long time when there’s not a trash/discarded item table to go through (ok, we had stopped for a water & strategy break anyway).   We took about another ten minutes working down the row.   About half an hour later & two rows over, the dealer comes toward me & says, “Ma’am, I think you took my jacket..”.  He starts going into my cart, gets his jacket & stands there going through the pockets.  He’s moving so fast, I can barely respond.  Anyway, it was his jacket & his keys were in the pocket.  Oops.  I felt a little weird, BUT, regardless of the half a dozen or so trash pickers gleening the flea market around packing-up time, aren’t most people aware to not leave items of any importance out in the open? 

In the thinking about things way too much department, I felt bad.  I mean, here it was, the end of a long day, the guy goes to start his car & can’t find his keys?  I’m sure a mild panic was setting in after looking for a few minutes & not finding them.  What if he also had a really crappy day selling (or….not selling)?   For some reason, I just got this vibe that maybe he was a bit down on the luck & me making off with his keys probably didn’t help.  Despite the previous effort to get his attention, I truly felt bad, but it doesn’t mean my boyfriend & I weren’t cracking ourselves up the rest of the day over our non-trashpick.

How about you?  What’s your take?  Did we make an ample effort to communicate? 


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Refusing To Buy What Will Be Found For Free (…eventually).

I’ve had a washing machine issue going on for at least a month (ok, closing in on two).  Fortunately, the issue is one I’m willing to work around until I locate a nice, free one.  If push comes to shove, there are a variety of decent used ones out there for about $100, but, I’m still not wild about spending ANYTHING when I know, there’s going to be a free one if I’m patient.  Some may consider this inconvenience ludicrous, but I don’t agree, and here’s why:

My washer still fills, rinses & spins.  So, I can soak laundry, churn by hand with a wiffle ball bat, get some upper body exercise & still have clean clothes!

$100 doesn’t seem like a lot, BUT, it all adds up.  If I were to put out money EVERY time I needed something that I can & am willing to make do with (or do without) until I find a suitable FREE one, I would never have money for fun stuff (like beer & an occasional drunken Ebay spree).  Additionally, that $100 not spent, challenges me & allows the joy of learning (or sometimes not learning) how to fix things on my car & around the house & the wisdom in sharing that knowledge. 

When I do find my free washer, I’ll probably end up doing someone else a favor by taking it & hauling it away.  Maybe it’s because I immerse myself with all levels of used, but I have heard countless stories that people relay to me of how happy they were to give something away for free as they were pressed with time on a house clean-out or closing, OR, they just didn’t want to be bothered moving, trashing, or taking it to a thrift store.

How about you?  I’d love to know – where would your breaking point be when it came down to replacing something for a nominal fee or holding out for a free one?


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