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Tuesday’s Resourceful Little Idea

April 5, 2011

How to Scavenge for Free Stuff

Sometimes, it really pays to keep your eyes open and take a good look at other people’s rubbish.  Sometimes, you can get things for free that you thought you’d have to go and buy.  Sometimes, you can find second-hand things for an absolute bargain that you’d never be able to afford new. How could anyone resist that?

I thought, after finding that brilliant old trunk in a skip on friday, now would be the perfect time to mention a few thrifty ways of acquiring free and cheap things:

1. Skip-Diving. Get into the habit of looking into the contents of every skip you ever pass, even if you’ve never done this before, open your eyes, and you never know what you might find. In amongst the building materials and rubble there could be all sorts of hidden treasures. A few things to consider when skip-diving:

  • Remember, the contents of the skip belong to whoever hired the skip, so always ask, if there is the opportunity to. If it’s the middle of the night or no one is answering the door I would still take the items, but be ready to deal with any confrontation, in a polite cheerful way, should someone approach you. I have never had anyone say anything to me or get cross, and when asked, people are always more than happy for me to take some of their rubbish. If you spot something in a skip belonging to a shop or business, be prepared to say you are just looking for boxes if someone asks you what you are doing, and then walk off. You can always come back later.
  • Be careful. There could be sharp, dangerous and dirty things in the skip. Use your eyes before you use your hands. Take a friend if you’re on the hunt for large items of furniture. I lot of skip-divers recommend getting into the skip to have a better root around, but I’m not sure I’d do this myself.
  • Do leave the skip as you found it, making sure nothing is poking or hanging out as a result of your scavenging.
  • Sometimes there might be a good reason something is in a skip. I would be wary of things like carpets and rugs, they could be thrown out because of moth or flea infestations, yuk.
  • Look at things with an open mind. It may look like nothing in the skip, but could you transform the item into something beautiful? The answer is probably yes. A nasty piece of yellow-veneered furniture could be transformed with a few coats of paint, for example.

2. Take a trip to your local dump. Oh the treasures you can find! Quite often you will have to pay some nominal amount to the dump for larger items (especially electrical items like washing machines and Hoovers) but you can also pick up things like chairs for free. It’s always worth a look.

3. Look out for items people have placed on the pavements outside their houses for people to take away. This happens a lot in the big cities, and I have got a number of items off the pavements of London’s streets late at night this way. My siblings who live in London have acquired a number of lovely items of furniture this way over the years. Keep your eyes peeled, look at everything you pass.

4. Join Freecycle and scour free-ads, Gumtree and eBay for items you need. Quite often you can pick up things for free this way, or for nominal amounts. If you need a new wardrobe and have a budget of £100, why buy a mediocre-quality wardrobe from Ikea or Argos when you could get a fantastic-quality wardrobe for the same amount second-hand?

5. Lastly, don’t forget charity shops, car boot sales and auctions. Always worth a good old rummage.

Car Boot Sale cartoon by Royston Roberts.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 11, 2011 10:32 am

    I *love* charity shops. I’m a book fiend and there’s one just two blocks from me which sells off their sizeable collection of hardbacks for 30p. I’ve found some real gems there. But it’s been so long since I last went to a car boot sale!!!

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