Good Things Come To Those Who Mooch

by Katy on March 23, 2023 · 36 comments

Please enjoy this reprint of a previously published post.

I have a method for getting great stuff. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

I simply ask people for things that seem to be on their way to the landfill.

For example:

There’s a mini-mall a few blocks up the road that is getting a fancy-schmancy overhaul. In the 12 years we’ve owned our house, this property has been home to a series of unsuccessful Asian restaurants, laundromats, a rather seedy convenience store and a pizza joint. It’s always been poorly kept up, with lots of litter blowing around and a general air of neglect.

However, there’s always been a small, oddly kept up garden planted with pretty flowers and even a lovely pear tree. It stood out as an oasis of hope among the vista of plastic bags and cigarette butts.

With the hubbub of construction, the plants were getting sadly trampled. They were certainly no longer getting watered.

I needed to save those plants!

Cycling by yesterday, I noticed a number of people at the site and swerved my bike over.

Taking a deep breath, I asked one of the workers if I could dig up the plants. He pointed out the new owner of the complex. He told me to take all I liked. He didn’t care.

So yesterday evening I grabbed a couple of five-gallon buckets, a shovel and my ever-present Discman with the audio book of Jasper Fforde’s Something Rotten. (I’m addicted to audio books from my local library — it’s the only way I get any fiction read.)

My husband’s parting shot: “When the police give you one phone call, make it your mom.”

Thanks. Good to know.

I started with the gladiolas, and moved along to the long thin yellow iris I’ve always thought were so much prettier than the squat purple freebies lining the north side of my house.

At that point a man came along and asked if I was the new landscaper for the development. Defensively, I explained that the owner had given me permission to dig up the plants. It turns out he’s the next-door neighbor who had originally put in the garden. His wife then joined us and was over the moon that her plants were not going to waste. She also pointed out where she’d planted an expensive variety of daffodils. Cool.

(Whew! Not going to have to make that one phone call after all.)

I was only able to dig up maybe one-tenth of what was there. But I plan on going back in a day or two to salvage more of the iris for my ongoing backyard project.

Here’s the thing: I’m sure many people have walked by this spot and noticed the trampled flowers. But I was the only person to actually talk to the owner and get permission to salvage them. My next-door neighbor mentioned she had been lusting after the gladiolas herself.

Yes, it’s hard to overcome one’s natural shyness. It’s kind of embarrassing to ask someone to simply give you their stuff.

What’s the worst that can happen?

The person says no.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Heidi Louise March 23, 2023 at 12:48 pm

Thank you for reposting this! I enjoyed the story, and also really like the more delicate iris blossoms.


janine March 23, 2023 at 12:49 pm

Great Post! You saved some beautiful plants, enriched your yard and met some good people who had originally planted the garden. Win. Win.


Jennifer Eldredge March 23, 2023 at 1:48 pm

What a great story about the rescue of the plants! I always learn something from your blog and comments. Which reminds me, listened to your podcast with Joel and his BFF yesterday and it was really good! You really got your message across. And you didn’t even swear once. At one point you had the perfect opportunity to say #cheapaf, but I could tell you held back. Loved it!


Katy March 23, 2023 at 4:11 pm

The specifically told me not to swear. Saddest fucking day of my life.


Anne March 24, 2023 at 6:48 am

Okay, I roared at this one.


Jennifer March 24, 2023 at 6:01 pm

Haha. I find swearing a nice stress reliever myself.


Bee March 23, 2023 at 2:21 pm

I love this story. Flowers are my weakness. I was able to do something similar last year. One of the landscaping companies working near my home was ripping up Pentas that they had just planted. I see this landscaper almost everyday when walking Rescue Pup and always say hello. So I asked him why he was pulling up something he just planted. Evidently my neighbor had changed her mind. The
landscaper asked me if I want them and delivered the “used” flowers to my home where they were replanted.


Carrie March 23, 2023 at 3:19 pm

Years ago I was on the way to the Farmer’s Market very early in the morning and part of a historic brick building was being demolished downtown. Piles of brick laying there. I asked the backhoe guy if I could have some. He was thrilled to not have to send the whole load to the landfill (fees for that) and ended up dropping them off at our house. I’ve made decorative paths, garden edging, walls, etc. They weren’t all perfect and there was sometimes work involved to remove mortar, but many have cool manufacturer’s stamps and symbols. The broken ones were passed on to someone looking for fill on their property.


Kara March 23, 2023 at 3:54 pm

Following on from the brick story, my son just received a free load of wood chips that the tree service would have had to pay to dispose of. Instead, the chips were dropped for free, and the recipient will reap the benefits of improved soil and less water use. Good things happen when you use it up!


Katy March 23, 2023 at 4:10 pm

Oh yeah, I am a fan of free wood chips and have been keeping an eye out for landscaping trucks in the neighborhood. Ideally on a day that isn’t part of endless consecutive days of rain.


Katy March 23, 2023 at 4:10 pm

I have a whole brick patio constructed using freebie bricks.


janine March 24, 2023 at 11:01 am

Bricks and more used brick stories.
Our rustic patio was constructed by a previous owner from original street bricks when the city decided to pave the street behind our house. Many of our city’s streets were originally constructed from bricks with a few still in use. More than 100 years old and still functional albeit a bit rough. Adds to the ‘character’ of the patio.


Katy March 24, 2023 at 1:05 pm

When things are a bit off to begin with you don’t have to worry when they get a little bit damaged.


Alison Hicinbothem March 23, 2023 at 6:29 pm

Great idea for rescuing the plants.
I almost cried at Aldi today. Eggs were $2.11/dozen and butter was $2.49/lb. I was so happy! I also picked up a $3.xx gallon of 1% milk.

Made dinner with cheap, on sale, but good ravioli for dinner and used up the half a jar of spaghetti sauce.

Went into the kitchen with the light off, and it was dark out, and noticed I left the flame going under the ravioli pot. Used the pot holders to move it off the flame, shut off the flame and I think I managed to save the pot.

Got home from our once in a lifetime trip to Singapore for my son’s wedding. Everything was beautiful, hubs and I were treated to quite a few meals which were delicious. We even went to Shake Shack in the Gardens by the Bay. Not an inexpensive trip by any means but a wonderful one.


Loretta March 24, 2023 at 3:29 am

I’d long admired/lusted after the huge mother-in-laws tongue/snake plant at my fishmongers. It was waaay too big for its pot and had lproduced lots of babies, so one day I asked the woman behind the counter if I could have a piece and she said yes. When I got it home my kids were mortified. But I also have no shame. You don’t ask, you don’t get!! Always love your posts Katy!
PS My women’s group organised our town’s first whole town garage sale last weekend and it was fabulous!! Bargains galore and the sense of community was palpable.


Katy March 24, 2023 at 10:47 am

Imagine living a life where you never embarrassed your children. What a bore!


Anne March 24, 2023 at 3:47 pm

AND, it’s the only way we have to get even with them.


Jan March 24, 2023 at 4:19 am

Katy, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I just saw warnings that this beautiful yellow iris could be an invasive species –
Hard to understand how it could be bad to plant such a pretty flower, but I guess just keep an eye on it, if you plant it. I love reading your posts and I always “root” for your frugal finds! (Sorry for the pun.)


Katy March 24, 2023 at 10:46 am

Thanks for the info. This post was originally published in 2009, so I’ll just take that information going forward as I don’t want to be part of spreading invasive species.


Selena March 26, 2023 at 6:43 pm

We should *all* do our due diligence to ensure we are not planting invasive species. I’ll be pulling garlic mustard (and/or hiring to pull garlic mustard – yes it is THAT invasive) as well as spraying/pulling bush honeysuckle (which at one point in time given out to plant GNASHING TEETH). Sad part is IF the adjacent properties don’t do their part, it will be a never ending fight.


lulutoo March 24, 2023 at 6:19 am

Speaking of asking, I read a wonderful book called ‘Rejection Proof’ by Jia Jiang. He was terrified of rejection and so he set out to be rejected for 100 days just to build up his stamina. I think he has a TED talk also. The book really had an impact on my life–and reminded me of your ‘ask’.


Katy March 24, 2023 at 10:44 am

Interesting concept, I think I’ll put that book at hold at the library.


Lindsey March 24, 2023 at 11:28 am

Years ago a work colleague had what can only be described as a rattan throne in her office. I asked her to think of me if she ever decided to get rid of it. A year later, she retired and was moving to Washington and did not want to drag the huge chair with them so gave it to me FOR FREE! She refused money. If I had not expressed an interest, she never would have known I wanted it.

Also, years ago, I was in the Pacific Northwest for a few weeks. While walking, I saw a hedge made of blackberries (they don’t grow in Northern Alaska) and they were perfectly ripe. The owner was working in her yard so I asked her if I could pick a few of them. She said she did not intend to harvest them and to help myself to every single one if I wanted them. I double checked that I had heard right and she said yes. I ended up picking berries every single day for about two weeks, enough for breakfast and snacks for me and the husband. I still dream of those delicious berries.

When I do stuff like this, my husband tries to walk away as if he does not know me.


Katy March 24, 2023 at 1:04 pm

I love picking wild blackberries! I have a secret spot that I hit up every year that provides enough to make jam, yet we still just eat as is.


Selena March 26, 2023 at 6:45 pm

Kudos for still having blackberries. Had them at our prior house but the wild raspberries forced them out. Mom used to talk about picking blackberries (and watching out for snakes!!)


Dmarie March 24, 2023 at 12:57 pm

so love this post. Just yesterday I asked for a “coupon” at checkout for some shoes I was purchasing for one of the grandgirls. They took another $5 bucks off, and I told the girls, ‘never hurts to ask.’ Hope that when your flowers are in bloom, you’ll share a photo of how they’re getting on at your home. 🙂


MB in MN March 24, 2023 at 4:10 pm

Love this story, love your approach. Hooray for saving something beautiful! It never hurts to ask. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. And in some cases, a no is just a yes waiting to happen.


Selena March 24, 2023 at 7:21 pm

What’s the worst outcome of asking – being told “no”. If we all do what we can do, the world would be a better place for all.


K D March 25, 2023 at 3:16 am

Fortune favors the bold. I too hate to see things wasted. One time there were branches neatly cut and tied at a house a few blocks away. It looked like it would make perfect firewood but it had been put out for yard waste pickup. My husband asked the homeowners if he could take it and they said yes.

Back in the day when there were Box Tops for Education on cereal, and other, boxes I would occasionally rip that part of the box off of recycling material set out at the curb for pickup, while walking. Local schools benefited from those $.10 Box Tops.


Selena March 26, 2023 at 6:47 pm

I’d save Box Tops for Education (soup, cereal, garbage bags, storage bags – it seemed to be endless). NOW it is “scan on your phone” – sorry nope.


K D March 27, 2023 at 3:32 am

I don’t scan them either. I am app light, under the illusion that the world does not need to know everything abut me.


Mary in Maryland March 26, 2023 at 2:34 pm

We have hundreds of daffodils–all of which came from a house across the street that was being turned into a McMansion. I did haul a load of toxic waste the sellers had left in the back yard to the transfer station. But the neighbor who took all the shade plants branded our actions “guerrilla gardening.” The new owners put in a pool where all the bulbs had been. And I get screw on lids from other folks recycling.


Katy March 27, 2023 at 11:16 am

That’s great that you rescued the daffodils. All mine are from a single overcrowded clump I found in the yard when we first bought our house in 1996. I’ve been slowly dividing them ever since.


texasilver March 26, 2023 at 9:34 pm

Our new next door neighbor runs estate sales for a living. Anyway he had an ugly brown rattan chair & a tacky bronze colored vanity stool in his yard. I asked if I could have them. He said “yes”. I spray painted the chair lime green & the metal stool white. I recovered the stool seat & got a cushion for the chair. They are now in my condo. They look nice spruced up.
When I adopted my rescue cat the fee was 200$. I had just paid off a 2500$ vet bill from my previous cat who sadly died. I asked (nicely) if the rescue fee could be reduced & they must have taken pity on me after I told the rescue about the big bill. I paid 100$ for my new cat. (Maybe they thought if I would spend 2500$ to save a cat that I would be a good owner.) My new cat is a loving lap cat.
Katy do you still have your cats? You used to post pictures of them.


Katy March 27, 2023 at 11:14 am

I have one cat at this point, as one of them died at the beginning of the pandemic. She only seems to be getting stronger at fifteen years of age.


rebecca March 27, 2023 at 11:15 am

Great story. I would love to rehome garden plants in my yard. The more rehomed flowers the better!


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