How I Won The Wet T-Shirt Contest

by Katy on March 4, 2016 · 30 comments

It’s far from any kind of revelation to confess that I’m as cheap as they come. I fix instead of replace, I cook almost exclusively from scratch and I garbage pick for both personal use and profit. All without shame. So when I spied a sopping wet bundle of fabric in the Fred Meyer parking lot, I walked over for further investigation. (Keep in mind that in Portland, Oregon we’re pretty much always “sopping wet.”) The dripping item turned out to be an American Apparel T-shirt featuring a large key graphic on the front. My 17-year-old son was clear about how it wasn’t his style, (preppy jock) but it looked to be in perfect condition, so I flung it into the back of the car where it landed with a satisfying “thwap.”

I forgot about my moistened treasure until this morning when my son and I started joking about it might have been from a “wet T-shirt contest.” Sure enough, the shirt was still in the back of the car, and you don’t need to be told that it was still wet.

Wet shirt in back of car:

Wet T shirt

Result of wet T-shirt in back of car:

wet spot

It was no biggie to throw it into the wash. (I always have enough dirty laundry in the house to justify a load.) The shirt is now washed and ready for a new owner. I’ll give my son first dibs when he comes home from school, but it’ll likely go into the pile of stuff I’ve put aside for the consignment shop. Will I make any money for my efforts? Maybe yes, maybe no, but certainly more than if I’d simply ignored it in the first place.

Look how well it cleaned up:

Free shirt

No shame in my game, people. No shame in my game.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin March 4, 2016 at 11:59 am

I love this. I’ve definitely picked things up from along the road or in a parking lot. If it can be cleaned, why not? Saving the environment too.


A. Marie March 4, 2016 at 12:00 pm

I often pick up clothes abandoned at curbside in our neighborhood (the high school students who pass by here are fairly casual about shedding their duds and not coming back for them). I usually launder and donate, but DH and I have kept a few items. And, of course, there are all the things I’ve reused from university-area dumpsters, curbsides, and rental properties–but that’s a story for another day!


Katy March 4, 2016 at 12:08 pm

Now I’m intrigued!


A. Marie March 4, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Back in the day, DH co-owned quite a few rental properties near our local private university (an institution renowned for its basketball team, its citrus-themed mascot, and its party-school reputation; I say no more). The kids used to leave behind incredible stuff, secure in the knowledge that the Bank of Mom and Dad was always open. (Of course, they also used to leave places in a condition that would give you and Su Mama heart failure, since they were also immune to the threat of losing the security deposit!)


Kristin March 4, 2016 at 12:33 pm

A. Marie, let me assure you that those students have not changed a bit since your husband’s days as a landlord! I recently heard tell of a student with a $190,000 Mercedes. Mid- May is a wonderful time to trash pick in my neighborhood. And yes, we are talking about the same University. My husband has taught the renowned basketball team’s coach’s kids.

SU Mama would be appalled!


A. Marie March 4, 2016 at 1:25 pm

Yep, sounds like the same school. And for the sake of DH’s retroactive reputation, he and his partner were *not* two of those “scumbag university landlords” who get all the bad press. They ran themselves ragged taking care of the properties–which is one major reason DH is an ex-landlord.

Another Jennifer March 4, 2016 at 12:10 pm

It looks great and that weather tech liner in your vehicle is perfect for trash picking. FYI don’t forget to download your free Friday Downloads from Kroger. Mine was a delightful Lindt silky, yummy, chocolaty egg. Past tense because it was long ago devoured, lol.


Another Jennifer March 4, 2016 at 12:31 pm

And a free Redbox rental code RLK225RG when you reserve at, not valid at kiosk. Sounds like a date night to me.


Katy March 4, 2016 at 1:13 pm

Cool, thanks for the tip. It has now been downloaded!


Another Jennifer March 4, 2016 at 2:46 pm

I did not realize this until now but this is a multiple use DVD code. I was able to rent 2 movies using the same account and after a little research I found out that you can rent multiple movies with this code. Are they always multiple use codes and I’m just now figuring it out or what?


Another Jennifer March 4, 2016 at 12:13 pm

Oh and I forgot to say how much I enjoyed the title to this post!


Katy March 4, 2016 at 1:13 pm

I couldn’t resist!


Isabelle March 4, 2016 at 1:12 pm

It’s a nice shirt.
I found a pair of high-end shorts in the gym parking lot I was tempted to keep them but I brought it to the receptionnist inside It was a size waaaaaay too small for me anyways.
I would have kept that t-shirt of yours for my husband.


Katy March 4, 2016 at 1:19 pm

It’s a size small, so the only person it would fit in my family would be my son.


The Frugal Shrink March 4, 2016 at 1:43 pm

I love this post. You always make me think about what else I could be doing to save/make money. Thanks for keeping my wheels turning!!


AFS March 4, 2016 at 5:42 pm

Had you left the shirt at Freddy’s it most likely would have been run over by numerous vehicles and ended up in the land fill. Good for you.


Lindsey March 4, 2016 at 6:46 pm

Just today we were waiting at a stop sign and I glanced at the ground at the bottom of the sign—there were four canning jars, empty but with the screw on lid part. Snow on the top, so they were there for at least a day. It was not a busy street, so could get out and rescue them Brought them home, washed and disinfected them and they are perfect—no nicks or scratches. Looks like had milk or smoothies in them…some poor mother is probably wondering why her kids can’t be trusted to bring home the jars!

You know what I find with alarming frequency? A shoe or sneaker abandoned in the street or on the sidewalk. This is in winter, in Fairbanks, Alaska. Who kicks off a shoe and hobbles home in our temperatures? If they look old, I pick them up and throw them in a garbage can; if they look newly abandoned, I leave them in case the owner returns. One shoe isn’t much use to anyone in my family. I wish we had one of those places that larger towns have, where people who have only one leg can drop off the other shoe they don’t need when they buy a pair—one legged folks who need shoes can come by and find a shoe for their one foot.


Jane F March 5, 2016 at 2:09 pm

FYI – you can donate ANY textile as long as it’s not wet or mildewed to a major place (such as Goodwill or Planet Aid) even a single shoe! If it’s not resold in the store it will be sent to textile recycling to become industrial rags or padding for things like envelopes, boxing bags, and stuffed animals.


Lindsey March 5, 2016 at 6:57 pm

I didn’t know that! Thanks, I will start bringing home those shoes and sneakers and drying them out to put in my Goodwill box. Appreciate you taking the time to let me know that there is an option to throwing them away.


Cheri March 4, 2016 at 6:50 pm

You inspire me! I have yet to pick up a soiled at wet towel/shirt/jacket yet but I do give them a second look when I pass by. I just need a little courage. It won’t be long!


Alison March 5, 2016 at 5:01 am

A few weeks ago, I spotted a pretty nice fleece jacket on the side of the road in front of our house (we live on a busy street). I noticed it was dirty, but picked it up. Upon further inspection, I discovered the “dirt” was actually vomit. I had a moment (ok, several) of hesitation, but decided against leaving it on the street and/or throwing it away. I cleaned it and brought it to the consignment shop at our middle school where all proceeds benefit the town schools. I think about this occasionally (your post brought it back to mind) – my son used to get car sick A LOT, so I think I understand why the person might have tossed their jacket, but also has my recycling gone too far?


K D March 5, 2016 at 5:10 am

I am currently wearing a fleece my husband picked up and brought home many years ago. It is not beautiful but perfect for another layer around the house.

We have picked up abandoned towels and tee-shirts (wet, sandy, muddy) over the years. We wash them and if we don’t want them pass them along. I consider it recycling.


Mary March 5, 2016 at 5:21 am

I’ve found several nice roadside bargains in my life of walking everyday, weather permitting. Such things as a can cozy from the King Biscuit Blues Festival, a well fitting fleece headband, polypro liner gloves, $5.00, a long enough 2×4 to be useful, and skis and poles just my size. The skis had been in the snow for at least a week and the the headband and gloves at the roadside for that long as well. I’ll pick up anything but underwear!


AliD March 5, 2016 at 7:15 pm

My best road-side freebie was a massage table – no joke! My husband has PD so his back is always sore, and I frequently massage the cramps out for him. So much so that MY back was starting to get sore from bending over the bed or a chair to work on HIS back, lol. We started researching portable massage tables, and of course, I scoured Craiglist, Upcycle pages, etc. I had finally decided that I would order one from Amazon for $150 but for whatever reason (ok, because I am CHEAP) I hadn’t done it yet. Kid you not, we were driving down our street, stopped at the stop-sign about six doors down from my house, and looked out my passenger window… and there was a massage table with a FREE sign on it!! We were late for something so DH refused to stop… said that if we were meant to have it, it would be there when we came back. I fretted a bit but thankfully it was still there when we returned. It’s an older model of course, and has a few pinholes in the fake leather. But it works perfectly and even included the removable headrest. Now it lives under our bed, and I pull it out and set it up in about 10 seconds when he needs a really good back massage 🙂


Brennan March 6, 2016 at 8:11 am

I just picked up a pair of good Converse sneakers off the sidewalk in Brooklyn and sold them on ebay for $30 🙂 plus shipping!


Theresa P March 6, 2016 at 1:49 pm

I too saw a wet abandoned bundle near the parking lot at my work a few years back. I walked past if for days and finally commented to husband while I was on the cell phone with him as I walked past one day that they looked similar to shorts he owned. He said, “Hey, I think those ARE my shorts! I’m missing them.” Sure enough, they were his blue Patagonia (a high end clothing line, people!) shorts laying on the side of the road. He doesn’t clean out his car regularly so on occasion things have been known to fall out when he opens doors. We figured they must have fallen out a few weeks back when we were transferring the car seat at my office. Needless to say, I immediately rescued them. They were filled with earwigs so I VERY vigorously shook them out before putting them in the back of my car.


Anne March 6, 2016 at 4:46 pm

Theresa P, that is a pretty funny story.


Vickie March 6, 2016 at 6:57 pm

LOL! You are a hardcore picker, Katy!!


JD March 7, 2016 at 8:04 am

Just like Lindsey, I always see shoes in the road, mostly at intersections. What gives? This is Florida, but no one walks on boiling hot pavement without shoes any more than they walk in the snow without them. I can only assume they are tossed out car windows, but again, why?
My husband used to work at a place where the shop needed rags in large quantities as they worked on the heavy equipment. Some rag purchases were simply bundles of old clothes, bought as a “bale.” Several times, he brought home a nice t-shirt he’d picked out of a bale, for me to wash and then he’d wear right back to work. He’d find 2 or 3 shirts, unstained, in nearly every bale, although most of the clothes in the bale would be in bad shape. He was the manager so he approved that practice for all the employees, to be fair, but many of them weren’t interested in it, which I found funny. A laborer might refuse a perfectly good shirt from a bale, while his boss had no problem wearing it.
Good job on the t-shirt, Katy. I still can’t believe how people just discard good things!


Katy March 7, 2016 at 10:25 am

Again . . . no shame in my game, and I see your husband is a player.


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