Free Furniture: a Dumpster Diving Saga

I needed furniture. But a quick glance at my bank account told me that short of rummaging through a dumpster, it looked like I would be eating my meals whilst squatting around an overturned cardboard box. And that’s what I did — for the first two nights. The next night, my friends and I left our dignity in our empty house and headed for the Costa Verde dumpster.

If you’re disgusted by the idea of dumpster furniture, then you obviously haven’t seen my sweet IKEA coffee table (retail value: $50). Or my awesome collection of folding deck chairs, my roommate’s desk, three of my trash cans or the vast array of cleaning products that I used to scour the furniture of stranger-danger germs.

The cherry on top of my furniture shopping experience was when I discovered my storage unit had a drop-off zone for unwanted and forgotten junk. There, the phrase “one man’s trash, another man’s treasure” rang true. I snatched up a gigantic painting of the Grand Canyon that would tear down a section of drywall if I tried to hang it up. Ah, the aesthetics of interior decoration.

If you’re actually going to take this column seriously and you’re currently en route to the nearest dumpster, flashlight in hand, keep these tips in mind:

Only look in dumpsters near large apartment complexes during popular move-out and move-in days. There, you are more likely to find actual furniture than dozens of not-so-carefully tied up bags of food scraps and mold. People who simply can’t cram their beloved desk vanity into the moving truck will often tearfully toss it in the nearby dumpster. And nothing says vanity like a dumpster, right?

Please, for the love of god, don’t take anything home that has a cloth surface. Ignore that heavily broken-in mattress — just assume that it’s riddled with bed bugs and unsightly stains that you wouldn’t want to confront under a black light.

Cleaning is key. Your stockpile of Clorox will finally pay itself off handsomely — anticipate devoting the next hour or so to cleaning your newly acquired treasures. Some of your furniture may have come from a dumpster, but if you want to effectively impress, not repulse your guests with just how miserly you are, clean up.

When I stop to think about it, dumpster diving is a revolting concept. But after taking a long look at my thoroughly cleaned, completely free swag, I decide to take pride in doing the impossible: I’ve managed to out-hipster the guy who got his desk chair at the local Salvation Army.