Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Dumpster diving

Stuff I've found in or near the dumpsters after the college kids move out of our apartment complex between semesters:
  • Brand new HP printer, all cords still attached
  • Tall oak computer-printer stand on wheels
  • Blank computer discs and CD-ROMs
  • China tea set
  • Funky 1950s plates and saucers, left in a box beside the garbage bin
  • Unopened bottle of semi-expensive champagne (still in my fridge)
  • Nearly full bottles of expensive shampoos and conditioners
  • Leather camera bag
  • Replacement car antenna, still in unopened package
  • Framed movie posters

One of my students told me about one of the rare perks of being a resident assistant in the dorm. She really made out bigtime with stuff left behind. One girl moved out and left all the dresser drawers loaded with clothes (and not by accident...she just didn't want to pack the stuff). Lots of students abandon bicycles, stereos, VCRs, TVs, sofas and futons. Best days for scavenging are during final exams and right after.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was very frustrating to watch other students abandon and trash such items when I was barely scraping by.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm at the school the Prof used to teach at, and she's not joking. It's even better when you get a rich roommate. Then you get to see the "junk" before anybody else does.

When my roommate last year upgraded to a new laptop, I inherited a 19-inch monitor that was less than a year old. Of course, he wouldn't give away the computer that went with it. That would be wasteful.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Jeff the Baptist said...

Yup. I have no idea who actually sells cinder blocks. That is what under-classmen were for when I was in college.

Furniture is especially good. Nothing will match, but who care?

1:16 PM  
Anonymous Nancy in Boston said...

Oh, man, this hits a nerve with me. Living for the past 25 years in the Boston area, I always intended to hang around Harvard at the end of the semester to scoop up the designer baubles rich kids would leave behind. However, as a non-Harvard person, I was always afraid I'd be run off the campus in shame and humiliation.

That was in my early years in the area. Now I'm middle-aged, but still not rich, and still thrifty. Maybe, seeing my grey hairs, the guards wouldn't humiliate me, but then again they might hand me over to Social Services instead!

One way or another, I missed my chance to benefit from the profligacy of the rich.

1:41 PM  
Blogger theprofessor said...

A friend of mine jokes that his furniture is from the "Freegood Collection." As in, a table by the curb with a handwritten sign saying, "Free good table."

My brother is king of the dumpster divers. He finds paintings, CDs, videos, books.

Nothing wrong with recycling, right?

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know people who furnished their apartments by picking up furniture off curbs in West University Place (the Houston equivalent of Higland Park) on heavy trash pickup day.

7:57 PM  
Anonymous Lindsay Kaye said...

Ooh nice... I'm supposed to be an RA at SMU next year... hopefully I'll get some girls who want to leave their clothes behind... now if only I could fit into their size zeros... Maybe I'll score a designer purse that is actually authentic and not bought from a room in some guy's house! SMU girls are so wasteful... it makes me sick and somewhat jealous at the same time!

8:43 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

We live one block away from West U. Some of our finest furnishings and accessories have come from what my husband lovingly calls his "Curbside Shopping" trips. His latest score is an original oil painting, signed and framed, and absolutely perfect for our dining room.

He even got a Christmas present for his sister in Michigan on a Curbside spree back in October. Now if we can just figure out how to ship stuff for free, we'll be all set!

8:10 AM  
Anonymous hillabeans said...

Oh I'm amazed too at some of the things people leave behind! I found a yellow hoover vacuum out by the trash (it was beautiful but alas did not work). I also took in a huge box full of dried flowers for decorations and a pair of roller skates.
For Christmas I was getting really cheap so around here I looked through all the trash piles. I found a bunch of fancy gift bags I could use. GOLD.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At my brother's university, the school chooses several deserving charities. These charities are each given a section of campus on move out day. All items destined for the trash bin had to be run by the charity, who usually stationed themselves by the trash bin. I like this method because these items you refer to are given to people who need it, rather then being thrown out. I wish more universities did this.

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just fancy private schools....I went to a tiny public school in Southern Maryland. The summer I stayed on campus I scored big with all the stuff people left behind who didn't want to pack entire apartments/townhouses into their cars. It may not be anything designer, but I love my three funky bookcases. It's not just rich college students. It's lazy college students. Which, unfortunately, is a much larger demographic.

7:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


When will you be selling your book?

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


When will you be selling your book?

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have any advice for someone who will be attending the university you formerly worked at?

1:23 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

Anyone know what a boo-hoo-whoo-hoo is?

They are the Freshman girlfriends dumped by departing Seniors of both sexes.

Boo-hoo can turn to whooo-hoo pretty quick.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dumpster diving? Icky-Poo!! No wonder my parents dissuaded me from a career in journalism....

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where do you live...I don't mind dumpster diving!

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm currently and undergrad student. Last year I was one of the last people to move out of the dorms. It was awesome. I got so much free stuff that was just left. I still have enough laundry detergent for many months (I do my laundry weekly and acquired all of this soap 10 months ago)!

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Denise said...

My school and several others have a Trash to Treasure program in which usable goods are collected during move-out by volunteers and sold in a giant garage sale at the basketball arena a couple of weeks later. Our school is big enough relative to the town that having charities handle it would overwhelm all of them. Students still toss good stuff, since they have to haul it to a different place (not usually further away, just a different direction from) the trash collection point, but it's a lot less. My undergrad university had no such program, and I was continually appalled at the amount and quality of stuff people threw out.

2:54 AM  
Blogger Chas S. Clifton said...

A friend used to work for the University of Colorado physical plant crew, and he said that a perk of his job was cleaning dorm rooms in the spring.

You have your "Ashleys," but he said that American Indian students were among those most likely to just walk away and leave everything. Go figure. The nomadic cultural past (of some)?

9:09 PM  
Blogger Lia said...

Think of the eBay possibilities. It's a full time job, twice a year.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous highschoolkid07 said...

MAHA! Hehe, all those rich kids throwing cool stuff away! *__* Its a dumpster diver's dream.

I can't wait to begin purging on other's trash. :D I hope I'm lucky enough to find a whole drawer of clothes! I love free/cheap clothes!

3:38 AM  
Anonymous Princess said...

I had entreprenurial friends when I was in school who would drive their beat-up pickups around immediately after finals, loading them up and hauling it away. They stored it in an apartment that was subleased from out-of-town students for very little money, thanks to the seasonal nature supply and demand in a college town. When classes started up again, they'd have yard sales and haul the bunk bed lofts right back over to the same freshman dorms from which they were unloaded a mere three months earlier. Some even made enough money this way to cover their rent for the entire year.

6:56 PM  
Anonymous curiousgyrl said...

My SO and I still eat off the dishes he inherited when his roomate didn't want to wash them, even that once, so he could pack them up adn take them away...

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my girlfriend attends one of the countries largest universities...at the end of the school year I went to help her move home and decided to check out the dumpsters and found tons of nice stuff including a brand new, never opened microwave. They did have boxes in each dorm where you were supposed to put your unwanted items to be donated to charities...well I dug thru those and found tons of food and other neat stuff. I would've gotten way more but my car was full and I was only there for one day. This year i'll be taking time off of work and spending at least 2 days going thru everything. The nice thing was that other people were digging thru the trash too so I didn't feel embarrassed at all.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Learned Hand said...

This practice is so widespread that there is an ettiqute to it. The reason PhantomProf found the dishes next to the dumpster is that is the designated area to leave stuff that you do not want but hope someone else will take before the trash is picked up.

I have participated in both sides of this exchange. I have gotten everything from furnature to bicycles from the next to the dumpster zone, and I have left my share of stuff there as well.

I think of it as the low effort, apartment dwelling, version of recycling.

12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At my school, all our drawers are checked throughly before we can officially check out of our rooms.
People don't tend to throw many 'valuable' things in the dumpster, with the exception of chairs or sofas (which mostly look a little bit seedy to me)
Inside the dorms though, one floor decided to have a 'garage sale', and a lot of the girls on my floor just put a box outside their room during the last week of school with a sign that said take whatever you want.

6:13 PM  
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