Being low income and depending upon curbside shopping before "city pick up days" arrive, I drive through my neighborhoods, rather than the main road, en route to any place. I keep a sharp eye open for whatever is being tossed that is:
Clean free packing materials are the most common to find, usually in freshly opened, clean, often sturdy boxes, peanuts and bubble wrap being very commonly found. Cardboard is always in abundance. Owners are most happy for you take whatever you need IF you do not disturb their stacks and sacks, leaving the area as you found it or better.
I have found most every single item I need and much I have wanted by doing the only shopping I can afford there. There is a slight risk when taking clothes curbside, not knowing their history. I have a rule to not take any that are very worn, preferring those that still have tags and unwashed labels. I consider the location, the condition of both the home, the items came from, the condition I find them in, and how many neighbors are outside at the time, preferring evening drives. But these don't often coincide with appointments and visits to my mom's group home near my church.
I carry a small vinyl zippered bag of simple tools for screws, hardware, parts removal if needed, and a 50 ft. nylon rope for anything too big that must ride on the luggage rack on top of my van. I also carry a new section of recycled newspaper in case of ground soil on dying potted plants I've always been able to nurse back to health.
If I'm not too picky or prideful, I am pleasantly surprised at what wasteful Americans toss, one reason we're in the mess we're in. However, if every one of us tried to find a second and third use or another user for every item we don't need or want, the world would begin to heal, regardless, and the landfills would not be a hazard to the Earth and our health.
Another rewarding thing to this sort of Green Living is that it draws on all of my talents, skills, experience, utilizing both my body and muscles, as well as supplies that might have been unused otherwise.
When I find good ceramic tiles being tossed, I collect them and use them instead of shelf paper beneath my sink, hot water heater, closets, on picnic table, crafts, and even as hard ground cover in my potting bench area outside if they are outside tiles.
Often times, there are brand new gift items someone didn't want for whatever reason, and I pass them on as gifts I could not otherwise have bought to whomever I believe they "fit".
At one time there was a stigma attached to the practice of curb shopping, but no longer. The competition is picking up and gets as busy as a bargain basement "fire sale" sometimes.
I practice standard courtesy, which I cannot say for all I meet there. However, if someone else gets to something first, I walk up slowly and just look from a short distance to determine if they've made a "this is mine" pile for themselves. If they don't look up, I know it's not a problem if I look at the same time, otherwise, I stay aside or in my van until they have taken whatever they found first.
I am careful not to block driveways or traffic, to turn off my headlights, turn on a blinker and park correctly. I do not speed off, race, not leap frog, but rather just drive slowly, look carefully for children, walkers, pets, and homeowners, to whom I wave.
Only one time in all of the ten years I've done this have I had someone to be angry that I stopped to recycle what they were throwing away. I left promptly.
I thank God for His provisions anyway they come to me, and I do all I can to take care of what He helps me to find. Considering what I've found, I feel it is one of His miracles for those less fortunate. I am frequently reminded of the verse, "Freely you have been given, so freely give.", which I do.
By Lynda from Texas
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Keep an eye out when you see a "For Sale" sign. There is a good chance there will be plenty of usable items at the curb that the owners will not be taking with them. I found a very dirty Cozy Coupe and child-sized picnic table. I used blue Dawn, Barkeepers Friend, a scrub brush and a Magic Eraser to clean these up beautifully.