My Top Dumpster DIY Projects

Welcome to my Top Dumpster Dive DIY Projects.  Hey friends!  If you are new here, welcome 🙂  One of my favorite things to do is Dumpster Dive!  Yes, you read that right.  And when I find some good junk, I love reimagining it, repurposing it, recycling it, and transforming it.  This is a round-up post of my Top FIVE Junk and Dumpster Dive Projects from the last 15 years!  I hope you enjoy and are inspired to repurpose your junk!

(Disclaimer, some of the photo quality is a little less than….most of these pictures were taken some years ago and technology has drastically improved since then, yay for us!)

#1 Dumpster Dive and Junk Projects – The backyard is made of Junk! 

When we first bought our current and forever home in 2003, I had three kids under 5, twins that were barely 2, a husband who was working long hours, and a big new house with a big backyard and a BIG mortgage attached to it.  One thing I didn’t have that was big was a budget.  I had no budget for the backyard. I had to get creative with how I was going to decorate, which meant DUMPSTER DIVING.

We are fortunate that we had this beautiful side patio that is shaded most of the day, the Northern California Sun can get pretty hot during the Summer months, and I wanted to create a backyard oasis we could enjoy.  Here’s the junk I found and upcycled.  Old Garage Door Panels (the guy I picked them up from could not believe I wanted them, he cut them so I could get them in my van!).  Those were used to create an outdoor wall.

My Daughter’s changing table (also had been free to me and one of the first things I ever painted when pregnant with twins) was repainted and transformed into an outdoor buffet.  The table was a free leftover from a neighbor who moved and left that in their garage.  It got painted, and the wood on the top was a pile of wood that LITERALLY fell off a truck, and I picked up while wearing a skirt and heels off the highway.

You can read all about the details of the Upcycled Outdoor Patio HERE 

Outdoor Patio Room on a Budget

How to Create an Outdoor Room with Found Items

#2 Dumpster Bookshelf Cut in Half to Become a Rolling Cart Junk Upcycle

One morning, I found this giant IKEA Black and UGLY bookshelf while out dumpster diving.  I lugged it home, fired up my circular saw, and cut it in half!  I put some reclaimed wood on top (old fence boards, to be exact), painted it with DIY Paint in Mermaid Tail, and added Wheels.  I even made some fun wood boxes for storage out of old wood. I stained the top and the boxes with 100% Natural DIY Paint Dark & Decrepit Patina.  This project was as eco-friendly as it gets!  Read more about that project HERE 

#3 Dumpster Headboard and random junk Upcycled to a Bench 

This project is probably one of my all-time favorites, and I have a lot of favorite projects!  This bench still sits in my entryway and brings me joy every time I walk past it.  This bench made of Junk is what I like to call a piece of Frankenfurniture.  It was upcycled junk made from a Headboard I found in the trash, a Coffee Table I got for $5, cut the legs off, and used the top for another project.  The sides are made from one of those garage door panels! Cut down to make arms.  The front is a railing from an old twin bed a friend gave me.  I did build a frame inside with new wood.  I painted the headboard and legs with DIY Paint in Black Velvet.  I initially used my daughter’s old comforter and a drop cloth for the cushion.  Last year I upgraded and had a cushion professionally made.  It was a splurge!

#4 Dumpster Frames turned Photo Gallery Wall with Free Frames and Free Templates 

After I finally finished the long-running project of painting my Black and White Staircase, which was a LONGGGG project with lots of missteps, part of which included me literally sawing off the front of the stairs treads, until my sister mentioned to me that it was probably a tripping hazard since the stairs were so shallow, your entire 8.5 size shoe wouldn’t even fit on it… but you can read all of that saga HERE. 

I had all this empty wall space and just recently found a box of free frames.  I knew I wanted a gallery wall, so I painted all the frames with different colors of DIY Paint.  To figure out how to place the pictures, I used Newspaper Print cut out in the shape and size of the frames, this was FREE and didn’t require me to buy an expensive template or expensive frames to create this wall.  I have since added and updated some pictures, but I still love the way this gallery wall looks, and all the free frames I found! You can read more about that project HERE. 

#5 Dumpster Console Turned into a Rolling Bench

Before we get into why I loved this project so much, part of the reason is that it was featured in a nationally syndicated column!  It was so fun to be recognized for my very odd proclivity for Dumpster Diving and then making useful, and dare I say, beautiful furniture from the junk I found.

I found this broken console in a Dumpster behind a Home Decor Store.  I knew immediately what I wanted to do with it.  It did require a bit more DIY than many of my projects, but it was so worth the effort and finished result.  Read all about the dumped console turned bench HERE and be sure to check out what that console was supposed to look like when it had legs!  I was shocked myself!

I hope you enjoyed my round up of my favorite TOP FIVE Junk and Dumpster Dive DIY Projects.  Did you have a favorite?  Let me know in the comments!



  1. Mary

    I love them all, but my most favorite is #2 bookshelf into adorable rolling cart!!!! Thanks for sharing ❤️

  2. Diana

    Love the console turned into a bench. The color suits it too.

    • Colleen Firkins

      Love it–it w’d be great, too, w/a quilted bench pad! But darling as is!

  3. Jan Southern

    I love the console / rolling bench conversion.

    • Cheryl Atkinson

      Hi Karen! I was so excited to hear about the new contributors to the Journal. I can’t wait to see what you ladies have in store. Congrats. Congratulations

      • GTC

        Thank you so much! It’s an amazing group of creatives, and I can’t wait to learn from each of them.

  4. Cheryl Atkinson

    Hi Karen! When I lived in CA I used to love to go dumpster diving and city clean up was my dream. they don’t do that here in Florida😭.

  5. Colleen Firkins

    I absolutely love the headboard bench…… Soooo cool to place in an entry!

  6. Margaret M.

    Love all the make overs! So much more fun to re-do or re-purpose for me also.
    Dumpster diving is saving items from the landfill plus they’re free. Thanks for sharing. Keep on diving and designing.


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