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Making Over $1000 Selling Trash Finds Found In One Dumpster 

This is a story about our unorthodox adventures in side hustling by selling trash finds.  It all started when Ms. Panther and I moved into a luxury apartment building in early 2015.  We’d received a deal from a guy who wanted us to take over his lease, and as a result, we were able to move into a luxury building paying less rent compared to what we had previously been paying in our “normal” apartment.  It was a deal too good for us to pass up.

After getting our keys from the leasing office, we walked out of the building through the garage.  And there I saw it – a perfectly good coffee table sitting right by the dumpster.  On a whim, I grabbed it and listed it up for sale on Craigslist.  It sold just a day later to young couple for $25.  In my mind, it felt as if I had just found $25 in the trash.

trash find coffee table
The trash coffee table that fetched us $25.

I initially thought this sweet trash find was a one-off thing.  Probably someone moving out that didn’t want to take their coffee table with them and was too lazy to give it away.  I really didn’t expect more of this type of trash to appear.

On our second trip past those dumpsters, Ms. Panther spotted a large L.L. Bean backpack wedged in a trash heap.  It took a little work to fish that trash find out of the dumpster – there was stuff on top of it – but the reward was worth it.  The backpack was in perfect condition!  And within that backpack were three more backpacks – a smaller L.L. Bean backpack, a North Face backpack, and a sweet North Face messenger bag.  We kept the two North Face bags and gave the two L.L. Bean bags to a family member.

From that point on, we were hooked.  The lure of the trash drew us in, and almost every evening, Ms. Panther and I would saunter our way down to the garage of our new luxury apartment building and peruse through the trash.  What sort of treasures were out there?  We were amazed at what we found.

Entire bed frames.  Expensive bar stools.  TV Stands.  We once found an entire bag of clothes in perfect condition, with the tags on most of the clothes.  Another time, we literally found a mug with around $5 of change in it.

People in this luxury apartment were tossing out tons of awesome stuff!

*I’ll note that when I say say dumpster, this wasn’t literally a trash dumpster.  Instead, this was a recycling dumpster, so there wasn’t really any gross trash in it.  No food or anything like that.  It was mainly just cardboard, paper, and cans.

Making Money Selling Trash Finds

And thus began our funniest side hustle to date – selling trash finds.  If you don’t think there’s money to be made selling trash, you should check out some of the blogs out there in which folks are making significant money selling their trash finds.  A few blogs that come to mind include scavengerlife.com, recraigslist.com, and garbagefinds.com.

For myself, I obviously wasn’t trying to make a full time living selling trash.  I don’t have the time or inclination to do that.  But after that first $25 sale, I thought, maybe there was some money to be made here.  Sure, $25 in itself wasn’t a ton of money.  But if we were able to find trash consistently, a few bucks here and there would add up, right?  And since this was trash, it cost me nothing to acquire my wares.  I could sell my trash finds at any price point I wanted and reap a complete profit.

How Much We Made Selling Trash Finds

I had no intention of starting a blog or documenting any of the interesting things I was doing when I began my trash finding adventure.  But I did happen to keep a spreadsheet of my trash earnings from that dumpster.  Unfortunately, I didn’t write down what type of trash it was that I sold, but you can still get an idea of the quality of goods I was finding from the below spreadsheet:

trash find spreadsheet

On the left is the price at which I sold each trash find, starting with that first $25 coffee table that started this whole trash finding adventure. Unfortunately, the spreadsheet is really long and I couldn’t figure out how to put the entire spreadsheet into a single screenshot.  It goes down 76 rows, so that means I sold 76 things from that dumpster.

The part of the spreadsheet that you can see does give you an idea of the type of trash finds we were selling.  From that single dumpster in our apartment building, we managed to sell $1383.27 worth of trash!  We lived in that building from April 2015 to January 2016.

One thing you can probably notice is that we weren’t commanding huge dollar amounts for a lot of this stuff (which is probably part of the reason that people felt these items could just be thrown away).  What we lacked in price though, we made up for in volume.  We were pulling trash out of that dumpster pretty regularly.  It was a lot like saving money in a way.  A little bit here, a little bit there, and before you know it, you have a huge chunk of money just sitting there.

A lot of people thought that it wasn’t worth our time to list things up that weren’t worth much.  My thinking was this: if I saw $5 or $10 on the sidewalk, would I pick it up?  That’s what it felt like to me, as if someone had just left $5 or $10 on the ground for me to pick up.

Where To Sell Your Trash Finds

The great thing about technology today is that you don’t need to hold a garage sale to sell stuff.  You can instead just take a few pictures, list it up, and people will come from all over to pick up your trash.  We primarily sold our trash finds using Craigslist and another app called OfferUp.  The process to list things for sale is pretty straightforward.  You take a few good pictures, write up a description of the item, and post it up for sale.

With OfferUp, people who are interested in your item communicate with you directly through the app.  No phone numbers or anything have to be shared.  With Craigslist, you’ll want to put a phone number so people can text you or call you if they are interested.  Since I didn’t want to use my own phone number, I instead used a free app called Flyp, which allows you to make a fake phone number that people can call and text you at.  They never have to know your real number.

I found that I had a pretty even split of sales between Craigslist and OfferUp, with a slight edge to Craigslist  If an item was smaller, I’d also list it up on eBay to try to generate additional sales.  If an item never sold, I would eventually donate it to GoodWill.

Some Of The Things We Found

You’re probably wondering about what we found, so I’ve compiled a few of our bigger money items that we sold.  We found so much good stuff in the trash during the year we lived in that luxury apartment, things that I never thought someone would just throw away:

Coffee Maker
This Keurig was used, but still in perfect working condition.  Sold for $40.
trash find barstools
These barstools were a little wobbly. After we tightened the screws, we sold them for $160.
trash find speakers
These speakers were in perfect condition.  Sold for $60.

Trash Finds Continue Even After We Moved Out

We moved out of that apartment at the beginning of 2016, and with it, our access to that awesome trash disappeared.  But if anyone reads my side hustle reports, you’ll notice that I still seem to bring in around $50 per month from trash finds.  That’s because we moved into a college neighborhood and college kids throw away furniture like crazy!  We have a dog, so we’re often walking around the neighborhood.  And when we do, we keep our eyes open for anything that looks like it could be sold.  It’s not as readily available as that magic dumpster, but there’s still trash to be found out there.

Ms. Panther has a liking for office chairs for some reason.  I don’t really know why.  I’ve never thought of office chairs as a good trash find.  She also has a big thing for finding Sterilite storage containers, which surprisingly, always sell quickly.

trash find sterilite
Sterilite storage containers like this one are plentiful.

For myself, the things I like to grab are side tables and TV stands.  I find these quick and easy to take, and they sell quickly.

trash tv stand
TV stands like this are a quick and easy sell.

What I Learned From Selling Trash

I have a couple of things that I learned since I’ve started selling our trash finds.  First, there are more ways to make extra money out there than you think.  You just have to think outside the box.  I literally made over $1,300 from things I found in ONE dumpster.  If I told you that there was $1,000 in a dumpster, do you think you would go and take a peek in it?  Take a chance.

Instead of selling or donating this bed frame, someone instead just threw it out.
Instead of selling or donating this bed frame, someone instead just threw it out.

Second, I’ve learned people are wasteful.  This dumpster was not an anomaly.  We live in a transient society and people are constantly moving all the time.  If you live in an apartment (and especially if you live in a nice apartment), find out where people dump their furniture when they move out.  I guarantee there is some spot in your building where trash is building up when people move out.  Even after we moved out of that apartment, we are still regularly finding trash on the street.  People are lazy.  They throw things away, rather than sell it or donate it.  I know I’ve done that before too.

Finally, there’s more demand for things than you think.  I think we all live in our own bubble and assume that everyone wants the same things as us.  Since beginning this trash finding adventure, I’ve sold things that I never thought anyone would buy.  Early on, for example, I saw a bunch of used Voss bottles in the trash.  If you don’t know what Voss water is, it’s a fancy water that comes in a really cool looking bottle.  I thought that these might be worth something, so I picked them up and listed them up on eBay.  They sold right away.  This was literally trash, but someone wanted it.

Tips For Selling Trash Finds

Here are my general tips for everyone who might be interested in flipping their trash finds and making a few extra bucks, like I did:

  1. Keep Your Eyes Open.  A friend of mine recently told me that maybe my city is just loaded with trash because he isn’t seeing trash anywhere.  I told him this simply isn’t true.  He lives in a college town.  It’s not that the trash isn’t there.  It’s because he isn’t looking for it.  Trash is literally everywhere.  You just have to keep your eyes open.
  2. People Will Buy Things More Than You Think.  A lot of the time, you’ll see something and wonder why anyone would buy it.  The thing is, people are always buying stuff.  Some of our best and easiest sales come from selling Sterilite storage containers that people often toss out.  We’ve sold random suitcases we’ve found.  We sometimes find pet crates and these are an easy and unexpected sell.  People need these things and if you’re finding one for free and selling it for cheap, someone will come get it, guaranteed.
  3. You Can Still Make Money Selling Low Dollar Items We sold a lot of our trash finds for as little as $5 to $10.  A lot of people thought that wasn’t worth our time.  The way I thought about it, if I found $5 or $10 in the street would I pick it up? If you pick up enough $5 or $10 bills off the ground, you’ll have $1000 before you know it.
  4. Platform Stack.  I’m a firm believer in platform stacking whenever the opportunity is available.  The best platform to list your trash finds is on  Craigslist.  That’s probably the first place people look to when they want to buy something.  But don’t stop at Craigslist.  List your item on OfferUp also.  If it’s something that is small and can be easily shipped, list it up on eBay.  You want to get as many eyes on your trash as possible.
  5. If You See Anything That Could Be A Brand Name, Pick It Up.  Anything from Ikea will sell quickly.  People that need furniture will almost always search for Ikea stuff first, so if you have an Ikea table or chair or whatever, you’ll get a ton of people asking about it as ssoon so you list it up.  I’ve had similar success selling things I find that are from Target.
  6. Do Not Meet Anyone Anywhere.  People will ask if you can meet them halfway or meet them at some random location.  Don’t do it! Inevitably, you’ll arrive somewhere and the person won’t show up.  With selling trash finds, you want to avoid wasting as much time as possible.  When I lived in an apartment, I told people they could come pick it up from my building.  Now that I live in a house, I tell people to meet me at a gas station a block away from my house.  I then continue on with my day.  If they come, then great!  I meet them and complete the transaction.  If they don’t show up, I don’t waste any of my time.
  7. People are flakes.  This goes back to point 6, but remember that people are flakes.  If someone says anything, don’t believe them!  I won’t hold anything for anyone and I sell any item to the first person that shows up and puts cash in my hand.  Don’t ever hold an item for anyone because majority of the time, they won’t show up.
  8. Keep the trash that upgrades your life.  Not all of the trash we find gets sold.  We’ve upgraded tons of stuff in our house because some trash we found was better than what we already had.  When that happens, we sell our old furniture and keep the new one.  Our latest find was an end table we found from a store called CB2.  When I picked it up, I knew it was a good end table because of how heavy it was.  When I looked up the end table, I found out that it sells for $200 new!  Someone had thrown this amazing piece of furniture away.  It’s now my most prized piece of furniture.
  9. Have no shame. Or don’t get caught. One thing that will hold you back from looking for trash is the great shame that it can bring you. It’s embarrassing if you are spotted. Your choices are either don’t care what anyone thinks or don’t let anyone see you. In our luxury apartment, we didn’t want to be embarrassed, so we kept watch to make sure we weren’t caught. In our current college neighborhood, we just don’t care what anyone thinks.

Addendum: Added Tip #9. “Have no shame. Or don’t get caught.”

28 Comments

  1. This is insane! Well done by you and ms Panther in finding all these items and then turning around and selling most of them. Crazy what people not only leave behind, but literally dump into the trash!

    • We’ve been shocked at what we’ve been able to consistently find. The crazy thing is its not like we were going out of our way to find this stuff. I never dove into the dumpster or anything! This is just stuff we were able to find poking around in the building’s garage.

  2. I love this! I wish we had a dumpster like that close to where we live! An apartment complex would be the absolute best place to find that stuff. I may have to find an apartment complex and start searching! Great post!

    • It’s crazy how much stuff is out there. Keep an eye out. If you’re looking you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll see just walking around.

  3. A very unorthodox way to make a little extra cash, I love it! Pride and shame may cause someone not to do this but I think it’s a great idea to earn, recycling the tossed product also isn’t half bad 🙂

    • That’s another reason we flip our trash finds. It makes us feel good knowing that we’re saving something from going to the landfill. We’ve even grabbed things that we know won’t sell and just donate it to Goodwill when we have the time. This whole experience has definitely taught me not to just toss things out.

  4. I’ve pulled stuff out of the trash. But I have no shame lol I’ve pulled the warmest sleeping bag ever. Just stitched it up and washed it with bleach.
    One mans trash another mans treasure

    • That’s great! I love finding stuff that upgrades my life like that!

      There’s definitely a stigma in grabbing trash off the street, so definitely requires a lot of self confidence. I see people looking at perfectly good stuff but hesitate to grab it because of what people might think.

  5. You should see student neighborhoods in college towns right after finals! It is INSANE what gets left behind.

  6. Craigslist is indeed a wonderful thing in that you get random people who show up, pay you cash and take the stuff away for you. I always assume that people who throw away good stuff do so because they lack the time to sell it, but I’m sure a ton of people do it out of laziness too.

    It reminds me of living in Boston (and any of your Boston readers will be very familiar). Almost the entire city runs on September to September leases to accommodate the student population. EVERY year right now (late August), you can drive around town and find all kinds of great treasures. It’s almost like an annualized city-wide furniture and household items swap. I’m sure there are plenty of people who scoop up the treasures only to sell them later to college students.

  7. Very unique way of making some money! Whenever I walk around DC I always see things on the sidewalk that people throw out and they are in great condition. Maybe I need to start selling it!

    • If it’s something you can grab pretty easily, you should definitely do it. Try out anything that looks like it’s in good condition and has some use to it. You’ll be surprised at how much stuff people will buy. Just think, when you see something on the street, it’s almost like the equivalent of money sitting on the street!

  8. Great Article!

    I’m constantly impressed by the items we thing as “trash”, but have a value for others.

    Once I sold on Ebay a broken Dell laptop for US$220. Easy peasy.

    Keep the SALE on!

    • That’s great! I’ve sold broken electronics as well. There are a ton of people put there who are handy and fix things up like that. I once sold a broken PS2 that I found in the dumpster for $20. The guy I sold it to told me he fixed it and it worked perfectly. He gets a new video game system and I basically find $20 in the trash! It’s a win-win. If I was handy I would definitely try to fix electronics up myself, but I don’t really have the time or inclination to figure that out.

  9. This is exactly what it’s like right now in my neighborhood. We’ve been scooping up everything we see.

    It’s definitely a combination of laziness and not understanding the value of your stuff. Also, failing to plan ahead. These college kids know they are moving now. If they had listed this stuff a month ago, they could’ve made their packing time easier and recycled their furniture, rather than trash it or destroy it.

  10. Dub Dub

    I really enjoyed this article. My first piece of furniture after moving to Dallas was a Futon frame that I found by the dumpster at my new apartment complex. I wiped it off, bought a mattress from Wal-Mart, and held onto it until I had to buy a real bed prior to getting married. My Wife and I will be cleaning out our storage next month when we visit Dallas (currently expats in Bulgaria). We’ll try out OfferUp.

    • Awesome! I’ve been seeing a ton of futon frames in my neighborhood this past week, but just don’t have the space to store it. Hopefully someone else grabbed them instead of it getting taken to a landfill.

  11. College move out day! There is more perfectly good stuff thrown away on that day than any other day of the year. Find out what day it is at your local college or university and bring a trailer.

    • It’s crazy. I’m probably going to have to write up a post about everything I found this past week. My garage must have $500 worth of trash in there!

  12. This is my first visit to your blog.

    Wow, I didn’t have a clue that you could make ~$1000 within a year just selling trash as a side hustle.

    Very interesting post, you’ve given some great tips!

    –Michael

  13. It’s amazing what kind of stuff people throw out. I find more people then you think will toss items, rather then go through the hassle of selling. This creates the perfect instance when side hustles are born.

    • It’s like a little treasure hunt. Super fun, but it can also be addictive since you know there is always more trash out there.

  14. You have found some FAB stuff, I love that you have documented it all – I need to do this! I have found and sold on some great stuff that neighbours have been getting rid of. I always knock on the door and check that they aren’t leaving it for someone else to collect.

  15. Absolutely epic! It is disturbing so much perfectly usable stuff is simply discarded. We live in such a throw away society. Every time I put something in the trash I imagine it floating in the ocean somewhere in a sea of garbage – helps me determine if Ii can donate/recycle/re-use.

  16. I usually go thrifting each Saturday to find items to re-sell. I need to start riding around different neighborhoods to see if I can find some old furniture.

    • Thrifting is something that I haven’t purposely done, but I should consider it. I was biking around a few months ago and stumbled onto a yard sale and found a little Kevin McCalister doll from Home Alone that I thought looked pretty decent. The guy sold it to me for $1. Just recently sold it for $15 on eBay. Yeah, it’s not a lot of money by itself, but I did turn $1 into $15 without doing very much work at all.

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