Complete Guide to Dumpster Diving Part One

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This post is regularly updated to provide you, the Furniture and Decor Upcycler with the latest tips and information on finding Free Furniture.

Complete Guide to Dumpster Diving Part One!!

Happy Monday, if you are new to my blog, then you should know one of my great loves. Junk! I love all things Furniture Upyclind and Decor Upcycling

I love Dumpsters!  I spend so much time peering into them, that I have developed some handy tips on scoring the best junk, with the least amount of effort. I also love Garage Sale Leftovers, and Free Dressers. Free Furniture of any kind.

If you think you can’t find good free Furniture and Decor, then think again! Everything in this picture was found and upcycled!

Free Furniture that was upcycled

Comprehensive Guide to Dumpster Diving Part One!

I love to restore and refurbish furniture.  If I am lucky enough, even use pieces I find on the side of the road, or Facebook Marketplace, and search for FREE. I love repurposing Old Dressers, Desks, Chairs, Decor.

In fact, I recently became a certified member of this club:

Guide to What You Can Find in or Near a Dumpster

Dumpsters, my friends are not just repositories for stinky garbage and dirty diapers.  They are treasure troves of Architectural Elements, trim, cool molding, and old boards.  They are often the secret place people go to get rid of broken chairs, ugly old mirrors, Oil Paintings by Aunt Bertha, and any number of salvageable furniture items that may have a scratch, dent, or just be plain ugly. These items end up in various dumpsters because of one reason.  People are lazy and don’t want to haul their stuff to the dump and pay the fee.
There are always friendly workers at my local dump.

Guide to Rules to Follow for Successful Dumpster Diving

What is a cheater’s misdeeds can be your gain if you follow these simple rules:
In order to yield the best results from a dumpster dive, you need to keep these rules in mind.
  1.  Bring work gloves and a flashlight. You might have to dig around a bit for something good, and you don’t know what you might encounter in the process. (sidebar, I have NEVER encountered a live animal, i.e. Mouse or Rat)
2.  Wear old clothes, this goes without saying. (overalls are my personal favorite)
3. Go in the early morning hours, before the garbage trucks come and people start arriving at work for the day. It is slightly embarrassing to explain to people that the Middle Aged Suburban Mom in the Ford Escape is diving for stuff.
My dream is to dumpster dive here someday….
4. Bring a large vehicle.  My Escape has seats that fold down and create a lot of room. I used to have a minivan with seats that fold in, I miss that car!  You don’t want to discover an amazing collection of chairs, only to realize they won’t fit in your economy-sized car.
(not my actual car, mine is far yukkier)

Guide to Where to Go for Successful Dumpster Diving or Free Furniture Spots.

If you don’t know where to begin a good dumpster dive, here are some suggestions.  Take a tour around your city. Stick to the mom-and-pop type stores, independent furniture stores, flooring stores, etc. Don’t bother looking behind strip malls as most of the stuff they get rid of goes back to the manufacturer or  Dumpsters here are locked and most stores have industrial-sized trash compactors that immediately destroy any goods you would hope to score.
 5. Look for smaller groupings of businesses that are not necessarily on busy roads.  These dumpsters are usually not locked. This is where people will go to throw out their almost perfectly good items.   If there is an unlocked dumpster in your town, and it is in a secluded area, trust me, the trash rule breakers know about it and put their goods there.  Often, the good stuff is not just in the dumpster, it is often behind, and next to the dumpster.
5. When running your daily errands, scan the roads, especially residential neighborhoods, for “reno” dumpsters. I have even trained my children (when they still lived here) to keep their eyes open for these. Reno dumpsters are gold mines for Architectural Salvaged pieces, old doors, cool moldings, and trims.  And, if you are lucky,  furniture! I always try to find the owner of the dumpster first before beginning my raid.  Just to be on the safe side.
Also in residential neighborhoods, especially on Saturday and Sunday afternoons during garage sale season, many people will put Free Furniture out on the curb that did not sell. If you want to know how to repurpose an old Dresser, A TV Stand, or anything decor-related, put that phrase in my search bar or go to my TUTORIALS, and you will see a year’s worth of step-by-step tutorials. I also have several informative YouTube Videos to help you!
7. Once you have made your plans and pinpointed your dumpster locations, head out early.  If you live in a city, I recommend you go with a friend.  I live in a small city with a low crime rate.  I feel comfortable diving on my own. However, I once encountered a man in a dumpster.  I pulled up to a dumpster and heard noises.  I paused in my car for a moment, and lo and behold a man popped out and waved at me.  When coming upon a dumpster in the dark, I highly recommend giving a quick tap to your car horn to alert anyone who might be there of your presence.  I don’t recommend joining them in the dumpster dive. Just say a few angry words under your breath and come back in a few days.

Above all, BE SAFE!

Don’t climb into a dumpster where you cannot clearly see what is in there.  I truly only “go in” when I can see it is just broken furniture pieces, etc.

If picking up things from a Garage Sale leftover, be sure it is on the curb or has a “FREE” sign on it and their stuff is not just on the driveway because they are cleaning the garage.

Don’t reach for things where you cannot see what is around them.

Don’t get in if you really think you can’t get out.  Think, “Help, I have fallen into a Dumpster and I can’t get out”.

Want to know more?  Stop by Redoux Interiors and check out my Dumpster Diving Series, Part Deux and Tres! 


  1. Heather @ The Junktion

    Ahhh…love some good dumpster diving!! I just stumbled across your blog and I'm so glad I did…I love it!! I'm your newest follower!

  2. Eclectically Vintage

    You sure that wasn't me you found in that dumpster!? Passed a good one yesterday and think I'll go back today – I saw a great old window sticking out of it!

  3. Carrie@comfortablycarriedaway

    I love that you have given this so much thought. You have it down to a science! When I used to drive to work I would go through a fairly affluent neighborhood where on Thursdays they would set their recycling out. I found beautiful light fixtures and wooden pediments. I got a few odd looks, but I'll never see those people again.

  4. Sarah AKA The Thriftress

    I love this series! I want to be a dumpster diver so bad but I'm to scared. Looking forward to part deux because I have always thought there could be treasure at apt complexes!

  5. Fox Hollow Cottage

    Well, I am sure glad to know the rules 😉 Would not want to step on another diving divas toes. hehe

  6. Suffering Husband

    Dont forget the shower!

  7. Cassie @ Primitive & Proper

    i have one addition- put a tarp in your vehicle! i have learned this the hard way, meaning my car is a dirty mess from auctions!
    we live more out in the country so i need to figure out where the good dumpsters are. 🙂

  8. Anonymous

    nice opinion.. thanks for sharing....

  9. Karah @ thespacebetweenblog

    Love your other edition of this at Eclectically Vintage…I do heart a good dumpster find. 🙂 That sewing machine upgrade is so cool!!

  10. Stephanie Adams


  11. Linda Vandrell

    I have been dumpster diving for a couple of years…My Michaels has a dumpster and I love going to it! But now they are angry cause I haul off good stuff! Been caught 2 times now and the security guard says it is against the law in my town..Checked with my local Detective friend and he says it is not against the law to dumpster dive…PD gets most of there drug evidence out of dumpsters..But I haven’t been back! And I know I am missing good stuff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. debi beard

    oh my how did you get the photo of the guy????? thats hilarious! great tips can’t wait for the next part!

  13. Mindy Levinthall

    I just began my dumpster/trash day picking career this summer and have been having so much fun! It started out that I would only look through recycling bins because I’m a mosaic artist and I got a kiln and I was looking for glass bottles to melt, preferably the blue ones because they are so rare. This was at my beach house and things are kind of laid back down there. If people were outside I would always if they minded my rooting through their recyclables and after explaining what I was going to do with the bottles everyone was more than gracious to let me pick. One evening an elderly woman came out of her house screaming at me (how embarrassed was I?) I explained what I was doing and told her that if she wasn’t comfortable with my going through her recycling can that I totally understood and respected that, but that wasn’t enough for this woman, she had to call the police on me. Now you have to understand that during the summer these shore communities hire college aged kids to patrol since not much happens in these small towns. Well, two police cars came, both “officers” couldn’t have been more than 21 or so – I’m 54, here I am with my kids old, old stroller with a black garbage bag in it to hold my “finds”. I explained what I was doing, showed the officers that I only had bottles in my “cart”. Meanwhile this lady wanted me arrested for stealing! It was too funny. The officers were happy that I was repurposing the glass as were the neighbors who gathered around. Finally they told me to leave and they stayed and talked to this woman. After that experience I began carrying my business cards with me nd going out on trash night after dark with my flashlight. I found amazing goodies, such interesting shaped bottles and other thing that people through away! What fun I had on Sunday and Thursday nights, I can’t wait until summer comes!

  14. David B

    The picture of the guy you got is of me I work at Contra Costa waste recycling center transfer station not a bad, you are a good photographer and I hope you were not offended by my comment today about anger management and breaking up furniture.

  15. Providence Hill

    I Love number 3!!! ” It is slightly embarrassing to explain to people that the nice looking mom in the van is diving for garbage.”

    That is just awesome.

    • GTC

      LOL! I just go for it now and ignore the strange looks, and sometimes there are some STRANGE looks!

  16. pulau tidung

    Awesome things here. I am very satisfied to
    peer your article. Thank you a lot and I’m looking forward
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  17. Miranda
  18. Denese Braden

    Very good.



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