MWF Seeks Dumpster Discards – Must Be Clean

by Katy on June 4, 2008 · 1 comment

Have you ever been embarrassed by an outfit your mother wore? Picture that outfit, but now imagine your mother climbing ass-over-teakettle into a dumpster outside the coolest department store in your town. That outfit suddenly doesn’t seem as embarrassing as before, does it?

My mother was a dumpster diver before it was cool, before it was called being a “Freegan.” There was no Oprah show lending its legitimacy, just mom climbing into dumpsters looking for carpet scraps and whatever else. Oh, sweet mortification! It didn’t matter to my teenage self that that she would pull out rolls of used carpet to take home, shampoo and re-sell for $250. To me it was agony, pure and simple.

Okay, 25 years have passed since the “carpet outside the downtown Meier & Frank” episode, and I’ve now got a bit of that mother in me. Perhaps I’m more of a genteel dumpster diver though. Ambling slowly through the neighborhood in my hoop skirt, parasol in hand. Bowing into a deep curtsy to pick up whatever it is that strikes my fancy. A stack of terra cotta flower pots? Yes please.

I’ve even turned my 12-year-old son onto the family career. A couple of months ago I noticed a neighbor had put out a tubular metal “Papasan” style chair with satin asian-style fabric. The seams had split in a few places, but otherwise it looked to be in perfect condition. Hmm. . .  I’d been looking out for a reading chair for my son’s room.

I ran home and brought him back with me, so he could make the decision of whether or not he liked the chair. “Cool mom!” was his immediate response, and he and I together schlepped it back to the house. I took out a needle and thread and it was soon as good as new. He now sprawls across it nightly, library manga books scattered at his feet.

Other items I’ve brought home have been:

  • Great ventilated pizza pan.
  • Darling wooden bench that looks very cute with a plant on it.
  • Many different plants people have divided.
  • Large paver stone.
  • Perfect Swiffer.
  • Bricks for a soon-to-be-built backyard patio.


Am I embarrassed to be bringing home other people’s garbage? Absolutely not! I just wish I could go back in time to make a quick $250 myself. Barring that, I’m going to continue eyeing strangers’ trash piles. You never know what you’re going to find.


-Katy Wolk-Stanley


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

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