Dumpster Diving and Curb Crawling

Dumpster Diving by joshuawillis (Flickr)

Dumpster diving: The art of seeking out items found in commercial or residential dumpsters that are still perfectly good and why would anybody throw this away?!

Curb crawling: The art of driving slowly down residential streets in search of discarded furniture, TV’s, or even large boxes or broken lumber to be used or repurposed elsewhere.

Would you stop and pick up an interesting metal item from a sidewalk? Would you hesitate to snag a broken lamp or busted VCR from the curb? Would you go so far as to reach into a dumpster behind a store and remove something from it?

Opinions vary, but it all comes down to the same idea: if you would reach your hands into a dumpster and take something out of it for your own personal use, you’re probably at least a little crazy. But those who take the plunge (so to speak) often find that it’s worth it.

I’ll admit to having gone diving a few times in my life, and I came away with quite a haul. Of course, I checked with my local laws first to make sure I wasn’t breaking any rules (I wasn’t), and I made sure I was dressed in light-colored clothing. Even so, I felt oddly criminal, sneaking around behind buildings and lifting lids, peeking in with my flashlight to see what treasures could be found.

I’ve shamelessly removed items from curbs while the owners were still in the front yard, which absolutely humiliated my husband. The experience emboldened me, however, and the chicken wire went to good use on some tomato plants. The tomatoes failed, but my passion for found objects was only heightened.

Then there’s the story of the broken metal ruler that sat on a sidewalk for more than a full year before I finally got the courage to just pick it up. Turns out waiting was a great idea, too, because all the exposure it got made it gloriously pitted and weathered. It has the loveliest patina now, and I can’t wait to find the perfect use for it.

The whole purpose of the argument, of course, is that “one man’s trash really is another’s treasure.” But the object itself is neither. It’s just a thing, an item, an inanimate bit of stuff that sits there and is either used or unused. “Trash” and “treasure” are names we assign to it, based on its usefulness in our own lives. Since you are a unique individual, your mileage with any one item may vary. And the lengths to which you will go to secure such treasure depend on your own unique limits. Some of us venture out into the world seeking new and unusual items to craft with, getting our hands (very) dirty in the process. Some of us prefer to stick a little closer to home, crafting only with the “trash” we generate ourselves.

Darling readers, how do you feel about dumpster diving, curb crawling, and picking up items from the street? Is it part of your normal daily activity, or does it push your limits?

Written by Beth Holmes

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