A Day in the Life of a Scavenger

by Katy on May 25, 2010 · 10 comments

Yesterday was a pretty typical day off from work for me. I did a little writing, hung a lot of laundry and ran a number of errands. However, by late afternoon it occurred to me that I was embracing the art of scavenging. I have written before about my opportunistic tendencies, and how I seem to be constantly scanning the landscape for free stuff. Not in the active, dumpster diving sense, but rather passively, as the opportunities present themselves to me.

My scavenged goods from yesterday?

  • I cleaned one of my mother’s guest cottages, and brought home a quarter gallon of chocolate chip mint ice cream, which I served as a very exciting after school snack for my sons. I also brought home a quarter bag of dried macaroni noodles.
  • I noticed that a neighbor was having one of their trees pruned, so I went and talked to the men, asking if they would be able to dump a couple yards of mulch in front of my house. (I did this last year, and was able to transform my side yard from a dangerous mud slick into a respectable pathway.) Sadly, I was informed that the mulch was “all or nothing,” and that the “all” was going to add up to 12 cubic yards. I declined the offer, as a two story tall pile of mulch would be sure to be more of a burden than a gift. However, I will continue to keep an eye out for arborists, as I want to place mulch under our enormous tree house. I know I can get it for free.
  • I walked to the credit union to deposit my cleaning fee, as well as all my found change. I poured my coins into the change counting machine, and took a quick glance under the machine. A dime sat there waiting for me, which quickly got added to my savings account. There was also a New Zealand dollar coin in the machine, which I brought home for my collection of found foreign coins.
  • My credit union is next to the library, so I stopped in and picked up a fresh audio book. This may not fall squarely into the scavenging category, but it’s still a situation of taking advantage of the free opportunities in my midst.
  • On my walk home I picked up a small hen and chicken plant, which had flown the coop onto the sidewalk. I will plant it in my garden.

There was nothing I did that took me out of my routine, yet my scavenging radar was, (as always) on full alert. I was not bringing home crap from people’s free piles, which is a different mindset. (I actually fit in a Goodwill donation, as there’s a drop site near my mother’s guest cottages.) Rather, I took stock of the world around me, and the opportunities presented themselves to me.

I scavenge, therefore I am.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa May 25, 2010 at 10:02 am

Scavenging has became such a part of my makeup, that I usually don’t even realize that I’m doing it. Thanks for heightening my awareness.


Beatrice Terry May 25, 2010 at 11:11 am

Yes, but what about taking the gift from your dad? The suspense is killing me!
PS Though I didn’t weigh in, I am squarely in the “take it” camp. Parents work hard all their lives to be able to make a better life for their children. Your parents did it. You’re doing it. It would make him happy, and it would be something he could see and enjoy every time he visited. Take it.


Donna Korzun May 25, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I have been told that I am the queen of found change. I almost always find change or other items during walks. Thanks for a great article.


Donna May 25, 2010 at 7:30 pm

My sweet hubby knows that when I start a sentence with..”Ummm, honnneee,” he will most likely need to go help me pick something up that I have found..tee hehe!


Christopher May 25, 2010 at 8:58 pm

My friend Tim refers to this as “Seagulling”, and often begins his proud show & tell commentary with: “Look what Timothy Livingson Seagull found…”


karen May 26, 2010 at 6:47 am

TLS — love it! I find it affirming to hear others have my same habits, lol. It makes my hubby cringe on occasion to know there are others like me but he doesnt seem to mind when my scavenging is something that benefits Him, lol. It’s surprising & somewhat sad to see what others consider garbage & put on the curb, within reason, of course. Another sign of our times when it is easier to buy new than fix the less than new. In our neighborhood, if it’s on the curb it’s up for grabs. Good way to give away free stuff to someone who may be able to use it. I find some useful things that way & good to know my gleanings didnt add to the land fill. Thanks for a great post Katy!


Mary Anne May 26, 2010 at 7:40 am

I, too, am a scavenging but my radar went up on you proposed ‘free mulch’. I presume that was result of the chipping process done with your neighbor’s pruning products. Landscapers, I have always been told, caution against the use of this type of fresh, ‘uncured’ mulch because of it very high nitrogen content which will kill/burn any plant matter on which this is applied.


Katy May 26, 2010 at 7:45 am

Mary Anne,

The mulch is to go in an area where I don’t want any plants to grow. I would be ecstatically happy for the scrappy weeds in this area to die!



Tracy Balazy May 26, 2010 at 8:50 am

Last week, while I was walking the dogs the morning of our neighborhood’s trash day, I saw a solid wood shelf/divided box (depending on whether you use it vertically or horizontally) on the curb, and came back with the car when I went out to run errands later. I hated to see such a well-made item go to the landfill. I don’t have a use for it, so I posted it on one of the three Freecycle groups I’m in, and a woman is coming to pick it up this afternoon, for use as a book shelf.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned to a staff member at the animal shelter where I volunteer that my bike had been stolen in a recent garage break-in, and another volunteer overheard and offered me her old bike, which she says has been languishing in her garage for years. I picked it up yesterday, a gorgeous yellow early-1970s Schwinn Collegiate in great shape.

Another friend who, because she’s legally blind, can’t drive to donate goods and isn’t linked to Cheapcycle or Freecycle or any of those, gave me a pair of new shorts and a cool, tropical-print T-shirt to do with what I will. The shorts are on Cheapcycle, and I’m keeping the top. Like the ones you described, Katy, these were opportunities that just came up on their own.


Marie-Josée May 27, 2010 at 4:04 am

Wow, what serendipity!


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