What’s Your Best Curbside Find?

by Katy on July 9, 2012 · 37 comments

This post came in this morning from Crystal over at the Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group:

Total score this morning! While walking our dog (and picking up trash to help clean up the neighborhood), we saw a perfectly good plastic toy wheelbarrow set out by the curb with someone’s garbage. My husband and I had just been talking about getting one for when our nieces and nephews come to visit and want to help us in the garden. I told my husband to grab the wheelbarrow and we carried it home. Savings of about $20 over buying new…which we would never do anyway!

Interestingly, I just finishing reading an article about “treasure hunting” (aka trash picking) in The Tightwad Gazette, where Amy listed some of her best finds. It got me to wondering about other peoples’ best treasure hunting finds?

Great question, Crystal! Here, I’ll start:

My best curbside find was a set of eleven solid antique oak chairs from an old Carnegie library. They were piled with other household goods on someone’s porch with a hand lettered sign that read “ARC.” (Associated for Retarded Citizens, which picks up donated goods and sells them to for-profit stores like Value Village.) I was on a walk at the time, and by the time I got home I decided I would ask the owners if they would sell the chairs to me. My husband was appalled, as he felt I would be stealing from a charitable organization, but I countered that the owners would be welcome to donate the money to their charity of choice.

I walked back to the house and nervously knocked on the door, where the owner consulted with her partner to come up with the number of $75 for all eleven chairs, which I happily paid. (That’s $6.82 apiece.) She told me that her old boss had worked for the library system, and had saved the chairs from being tossed and brought them home, as well as an old library table, which she was keeping. (Needless to say, she was really excited to be getting money for something she thought she was giving away!)

These old chairs look perfect in my 1914 Craftsman-style house, and are sturdy as can be. We ended up using a few of the chairs for parts, as a couple of them were falling apart.

Of course, the chairs aren’t exactly a “curbside find,” as I paid for them. So I’ll share a list of actual favorite curbside finds:

  • Antique console table.
  • Antique chest of drawers.
  • Bag of clothing & miscellaneous stuff which I sold to a resale store.
  • Wicker plant stand which I sold for $15.
  • Small metal table which matches my patio furniture.
  • Countless terra cotta pots.
  • Black metal arbor.
  • Rolling cart of drawers.
  • Antique glass knobs from a broken dresser.
  • A few nicely framed prints.
  • A tubular metal papasan chair for my son’s room.
  • Fluffy yellow butterfly chair for my other son’s room.
  • Patio umbrella.
  • A pair of new-with-tags Levi’s which I’ll sell to Buffalo Exchange.
  • A pair of paint splattered Keen Mary-Janes, which I cleaned up and sold for $10.
  • Bent-wood chair which I painted & reupholstered.
  • Some cute throw pillows for the settee on my front porch.
  • Books which sold to Powell’s for $18.75.
  • Recent Sunset Magazines, which included a still-good coupon for free Benjamin Moore paint.
  • A bedside table, which I painted up cute.
  • Probably countless other household items.

Whew . . . that’s kind of a lot of stuff when added up together! It makes it sound like I’m a big-time hoarder, but I assure you that all of these items are in current use.

Now you, what have been your proudest treasure curbside hunting finds? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah July 9, 2012 at 9:55 am

Books, books and more books! I think people leave them to be found, because really, who wants to toss out a book? I also plan on writing a blgo post on the three things I will never have to buy, because I always find them along the way – picture frames, candles and plant pots.


Katy July 9, 2012 at 9:57 am

I never burn candles at home, (except in the fireplace) as I am too paranoid about fires.



AnnW July 9, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I never burn candles either. I have a few just to put in some antique candlesticks, but I think lots of money is wasted on candles.


Ellie July 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I actually like candles – there’s just something about the warm glow on a cold night – but I think they are actually one of the easiest things to find for next to nothing.

You can get them at yard sales and thrift stores for a few cents, or find them on curbs for free. (Sometimes they’re partially burned, but who cares? Once you light them the first time yourself, they’re partially burned thereafter, so what diff does it make who lit them the first time?) And I’ve found that if I’m buying something else at a yard sale, a random candle or two is exactly the sort of thing I can get a seller to “throw in” for free if I buy something else. And like anything else, even a grungy-looking candle can, in fact, be cleaned off.

I do think some people waste a lot of money on candles – because they buy them NEW, which is just silly!


MelissaInkDesigns July 9, 2012 at 10:09 am

My husband and I started “trashing” in March. Our first night, we found a rug in great condition (sold it for $50), a typesetter drawer (kept it, but could easily sell for at least $75), and a full-size footboard that my husband fashioned into an adorable bench (which we spent $60 revamping, have listed for $200 on CL, but are happy to keep). Just two days ago I sold an antique vanity with matching mirror and bench for $100. Last week, a tall chest of drawers for $55. Other items, a composted for $30, a seed spreader for $10, hanging pots for $10′ and many more $5 and $10 things. It’s been amazing! I rescued a pair of big, faded plastic pots, cleaned them and spray painted them – they look stunning on my front porch! Completely unrecognizable. Two similar new pots at Lowes would have cost $50+! I have also given away many items, and I have lots of frames on hand for whatever Pinterest throws my way! Ive taken boxes and boxes of thrown out books to my local book store for credit. It’s great quality time for us. We love keeping perfectly good stuff from the landfill and making some cash now and then is nice too!


Katy July 9, 2012 at 10:28 am

Awesome finds, I am inspired!



tonya July 9, 2012 at 10:17 am

That would be hard to call. I am going to call it a tie between the following items:

1) Dresser for my son’s room
2) Desk for my son’s room
3) Pair of chairs that I recovered and put in my tiny living room- the scale of the older age of the chairs made them the perfect size for that room. All the gargantuan stuff they sell now is crazy and would never fit in that room. `


Lindsey July 9, 2012 at 11:10 am

110 solid oak library drawers from a university dump site after they digitized the entire card catalog.


Katy July 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm

That is awesome!I am very jealous!



Pollyanna July 10, 2012 at 11:07 am

Oh, I am SO jealous, what a fabulous find. I’d be happy to pay for one if I could find it!


Queen Lucia July 9, 2012 at 11:58 am

The curbside picking in our town is pretty sketchy – mostly college kids setting out their 4th and 5th generation garbage. So I have never picked up anything (although I always crane my neck as I pass…). I also have the good luck to have wonderful family members who pass things on to me, so I usually have more than enough.

I did, however, set out some things on Saturday when my husband and I cleaned up the garage: some miscellaneous pool chemicals (for a pool that we used to death last summer), some track lighting lights (not the track itself), 2 VCR’s that I’m not sure worked and don’t know where they came from, a weed eater (given to us, of course) that definitely didn’t work, and a 20-year-old TV that belonged to my adult daughter (she just got a new-fangled, 10-year-old TV from a family member) – our neighbor happily snagged it, as hers just broke. My husband was SHOCKED that people took this stuff – and took it within the hour. But I knew better…..and I hope they are able to clean it up, put it to use, give it away or fix it up and make money!


Lynn D. July 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Lindsey’s comment about the university dump site reminds me that you can find fabulous finds at colleges when the dorms empty for the summer. You can find laundry detergent, towels, pillows, ramen, note books, and pens. A friend even found a working I-pod. Dumpsters outside wedding planners and caterers are also a great resource. I once found tons of candles (half-used and not used at all), flowers in perfect condition, unused paper napkins and plates. Even the cake looked like it was still good but I took a pass.


Marcia July 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm

“Fluffy yellow butterfly chair” — No! Pillows??? Even worse. You could be bringing bedbugs or who-knows-what into your home. Anything upholstered should be left on the curb. Especially nowadays, with bedbugs resurgent nationwide.


Katy July 9, 2012 at 3:25 pm

This was a few years ago, before bed bugs were an issue. Although the “fluffy yellow” part could easily be removed and laundered. And did you notice that the pillows are on my porch, not in my house.



Saving in the City July 10, 2012 at 5:45 am

This is why I’m pretty hesitant to pick up anything I find curbside. I’ve never seen anything that really made me want to take the risk either, though I usually do give a once over to the books I stumble across; I haven’t picked one up for years though, mostly because I never see anything I want.

I hope I made someone’s best find list though! The other day I regretfully put out a pair of red suede kitten heel shoes that I wore one time. They fit fine in the store and the time that I wore them. Then we had a mucky winter so I had to leave them in the closet for awhile. After that, they were tight; I guess my foot gained weight or grew slightly. I kept them for awhile, hoping I could stretch them out, but couldn’t so I put them out the other day. They were gone in a flash!

I’m a big fan of leaving my own useful stuff at the curb, even if I’m not such a fan of picking it up. I like to imagine that something I leave out turns out to be exactly what someone else was looking for.


Emily July 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I’ve found a lot of good things over the years that others have put out for the trash. Back in highschool my best friend and I started taking walks through our neighborhood on garbage day to see what treasures we could find. Memorable items include a large pink rug scrap that matched my room and a bunch of old curtains that we transformed into costumes for the little plays we liked to put on.

When I graduated from college, the graduating seniors stayed in campus housing a week after everyone else left. A friend and I realized that the departing students had thrown out tons of perfectly good items. I picked out trash cans that I currently use for the recycling (green and blue that match the locally issued bins for paper and containers), various items of clothing, and a spice rack. My friend found some treasures as well, and then we loaded her car with bags and bags of items that we took to the local Goodwill.

And finally, my most recent treasure was a large solid wood credenza. It was way too large to fit in my fiance’s car, so we rolled it on the road three blocks uphill to my house. This was Valentine’s Day, which certainly made it memorable!


Megyn @MinimalistMommi July 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm

The only thing we’ve ever taken in from the curb is a plastic playhouse with slide. It’s been great for our Wild Boys! Otherwise, I had a mom come up to me in Trader Joe’s a couple years ago asking if we’d like some toys (had our oldest who was 18ish months at the time and 6 or so months preggo). She had a slightly older son and were moving, so wanted to give some stuff away. We came home with clothes, books galore, toys abounding, and even a Cozy Coupe! Since we tend to keep few things, we were able to pass so many of the items on to friends. That was my best “find”…and most awesome interaction with a human yet 🙂


Renee CA July 9, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Not really a find, I guess, but I’m so thrilled. I bought an item at a “home party”, which I really try to avoid, but…… (family member, weak moment). It included a subscription to a weekly magazine. They notified me by postcard that I was getting a “free” subscription but if I didn’t want it, return the postcard and I would get a refund. That sucker went back by return mail and just today I got a check for $25!!

We did find a small bicycle in someones trash while on a walk. My husband put a new tire on it and the grandkids have been riding it.


AFS July 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Driving home from work, I found a rain-soaked sisal rug with a big FREE sign pointing at it. I took it home and went to the internet to learn how to care for sisal rugs. The first thing that I read on How.com “avoid getting sisal wet”. Well, I spread it out to dry on my covered porch just to see what would happen. What did I have to lose? It is now under the picnic table althought there are water stains it isn’t warped .


D. Savage July 9, 2012 at 3:36 pm

My husband’s the dumpster diver in the family. He came home with two golf carts from two separate dumpsters; one was from a school remodel. He painted them up, added new batteries and used them for many years. When we needed to down-size for an eventual move, he sold them for 400.00! Before the sale, we used one to pull home a huge, homemade metal toolbox on wheels that had a free sign on it. We looked the the Clampetts coming down the street. The toolbox was painted, used for many years and sold for about 300.00. In the U.P. of Michigan everyone really uses what they have; no more good diving for us! (sigh…)


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land July 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I found an estate property where, instead of holding an estate sale, they rented a Dumpster, which was placed in the road. I got an antique radio which I sold for over $200, lots of antique yearbooks going back to the 1890s which I sold for quite a bit, a jar of change, a beautiful handmade sewing cabinet, lots of books and antique household items which I sold in my antique booth and online. That Dumpster was a goldmine.


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land July 9, 2012 at 4:14 pm

When you go on foot or on a bike, you’re much more likely to find stuff, because you can investigate things that would be too much trouble if you were in a car, and there’s time to notice things you wouldn’t notice otherwise.


rewetzel July 9, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I recently found a library card catalog at the side of the road. The guy came out and helped us load it up in our van even. It’s a big sucker (5ft tall and a bit over 3 feet wide with 60 drawers all there and nice pine wood construction. I know the local library it came from which was opened in the 1980s so it wasn’t particularly attractive or vintage but it was of sound structure mostly and had all the drawers. It had been sitting in the guy’s metal barn so the metal bits inside the drawers had rusted. I removed the rods and the metal pieces which I’m sure takes away most of the value but as I got it for free I’m not crying buckets. I kept the rods but scrapped the rusty card holders. While taking out the drawers to load it up we found some drill bits and a gold ring which we gave to the guy. He said it definitely wasn’t his as the card catalog had just been in there from the previous owner so in the end even the guy giving away the thing got a good find. It’s still in the process of being cleaned up. Google tells me people pay good money for these things so I’m glad I got mine for free. I don’t have a picture but its the same model as the one in this picture:


Bellen July 10, 2012 at 4:44 am

I’m envious of all the great finds. We have those mechanized garbage trucks that pick up & dump the garbage can so you can’t put out anything that doesn’t fit in the can. If you do have something large you must call and they will give you a pick-up date which is random. And, to make it worse for us pickers, most areas have HOA’s which forbid leaving things at the curb even with a FREE sign. I always think of what a waste of good recyclable items are out there.


pat July 10, 2012 at 5:36 am

Last year I got this awesome dresser that the veneer was peeling off. I sanded it down, painted it and then sold it for $40! I’ve gotten lots of plant pots and in the spring someone always has free plants to give away. Last week my daughter and I were at an auction and this fellow did not want the 2 chairs that had been lumped together with a desk he did win. So he left them, but told daughter (since she was sitting near him), if she wanted them she could take them home. She is busy stenciling them for her new home and is thrilled since they are solid wood and very comfy and a nice addition to her diningroom.


Lindsey E July 10, 2012 at 6:00 am

I love how I read posts and run into the same thing that day or the next! Today is trash day in our lil town and I found a cute lil, and old, rocker chair setting on top of our neighbors trash can. So I immediately call my husband knowing he was leaving for work in 20 min and have him pick it up for me! Eeek! How fun!


Kimberly July 10, 2012 at 6:11 am

The nightstand that sits to the right of my bed was dumped alongside the road next door to the donut shop. I cleaned it up, and while it’s imperfect, it gets the job done and didn’t cost me a penny.

My dad once rescued a piano that was headed for the landfill. He took months of time lovingly putting it back together. It’s gorgeous now, and one day, my son will inherit it.


Bonnie July 10, 2012 at 10:51 am

My husband built houses for years for a higher end company. He grabbed all sorts of great lumber and building materials out of the dumpster most every week. Our full view back door is a dumpster dive find. It has worked well for over 10 years. Apparently it was discarded because of one little flaw in the glass which I have to really hunt for. Even though he no longer builds houses for that company, we are still using many of the items he brought home for free!


Pollyanna July 10, 2012 at 10:53 am

I don’t browse enough for this type of jackpot. Probably the best find was when my husband spied an old gas grill sitting out on the curb up the street, which was same make/model as our old one that was in need of repair. He wheeled it down to our house, used it for parts and put the balance out on our curb. Worked out well. On the flip side, I once put out an old fake ficus tree on our curb, it disappeared, and then six months later I saw it in the driveway next door during their garage sale!!


Ellie July 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Let’s see…

– My comfy platform rocking chair.
– A nice, sturdy wooden nightstand, that looks really good and matches our other bedroom stuff after sanding and staining. (We bought the stain, but having the nice matching nightstand was worth the cost of the stain.)
– The two wicker chairs on my front porch – seperate finds, but they’re similar enough that they essentially “match”.
– A cute vintage lamp, with an intact shade, that’s in my entryway.
– Several plants, all still thriving; some pots; and a metal plant stand.
– A paint-covered wooden bookshelf that’s currently in the basement, awaiting refurbishment by me at some point.
– Some shabby-looking but servicable shelving that we use for storage in the basement.
– Little things like candles and small kitchen things, including a nice collander and a big serving platter in perfect condition. (With kitchen stuff, I just wash it really well, and then wash it AGAIN, to get past the “cooties” factor – cooties can’t survive a SECOND washing, LOL!)

And probably a few other things I forgot…


Marguerite July 12, 2012 at 12:11 pm

My best curbside find was a swingset! I was driving to the grocery store, and on my corner in NE pdx I found a young kids swingset. It was faded and gross looking, and covered in spiderwebs. I parked my car and grabbed it, then just carried it home (not too heavy). It now sits in my front yard, where my 2 yr old and 4 mth old use it, along with the other 2 yr old neighbors.


Darla July 14, 2012 at 7:56 am

I’ve found many things on the curb, especially when I lived in NYC, but the best ever was a full set of Wedgwood china – Amherst I believe. I sold it for about $600. Now if I could only find another!


Katy July 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Great find!



eemusings July 14, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Probably a brand new pair of shoes, or the foldout couch we scored!


Linda from Mass July 15, 2012 at 11:38 am

Antique Cookbooks, book shelf for my office, bike for my kids which we later sold for $10 after my kids were too big to use it, crock pot that I gave to my mother. These are only some of the items I have gotten for free on the curb. I know that I have gotten more, but I just can’t remember them all. I also have picked up countless items at yard sales for really cheap prices.


EssexFish February 18, 2022 at 11:40 pm

I know this is an old thread but I just recently discovered this wonderful site. I’d always wanted an antique steamer trunk, and about a year ago when I was going to my mom’s for dinner I found a parking spot a few blocks away right next to, yes, an old trunk left curbside. Since I was already running late and didn’t want to spend time loading it into my car, I figured if it was still there when I left I’d take it, and if not then, well, it found a new owner anyway. A few hours later, there it was, so I grabbed it. When I got it home and looked it over, I found it was an Au Depart (one of the Big Four trunk makers in Paris in the late 1800s, along with Louis Vuitton, Moynat, and Goyard). I had a few free online appraisals done and they averaged $3500 at auction. Better still, when I was cleaning it up I found a handwritten note giving a name and address. I looked those up and found a match to the monogram stenciled on the trunk among the former homeowners, and traced that family to a woman, now in her 90s, living in NYC who’s an artist with a public website. I reached out to her about the trunk, and she replied that she remembered it arriving at her family home when she was a little girl. It was her aunt’s, and before that her grandmother’s (they share the same initials, which match the monogram), purchased in Paris in the 1890s. I told her what I found when researching the trunk’s provenance, and how I read that her aunt, born in Paris, married an American army officer wounded above the heart at Argonne in World War One. She knew her uncle was wounded in service but did not know the details! She was not interested in getting the trunk back- had too many antiques already, she said- but was happy it was rescued and cared for, and so it remains with me as one of my favorite found treasures.


Katy February 20, 2022 at 10:59 am

Wow, that was an incredibly find! Good for you for reaching out to the woman in NYC, This sounds like the beginning of a book that I would totally read.


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