Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dumpster Diving in Seattle: The Search for Free Shelving

I know you are thinking "Ewwwww, gross.  Dumpster diving!"

Well sorta, but not really.

I'm not actually touching a dumpster or sifting through anything in a dumpster.  I'm looking for small bookcases or shelving units set next to the dumpster.

It isn't as if I make a habit of this, I just occasionally take a circuitous route to my destination.

You won't see me in a back alley dumpster trying on a bright red Christmas sweater in July.

There is seemingly an inconsistency in me.  I have money to buy baseball cards here and there, but don't have money to buy shelving?

The way I see it is buying baseball cards brings me pleasure.  Buying shelving is like buying groceries; there's no enjoyment involved.  Shelving, like food, is a necessity.  But I won't starve to death if I don't find shelving immediately.

People move.  They upgrade.  They run out of room.  And usually they know their shelf thingy is perfectly serviceable so they set it aside instead of heaving it in the dumpster.

There are certain rules I apply which makes finding the right piece very difficult.

First, the shelving unit must be pretty clean.  I certainly clean it thoroughly anyway, but it has to look reasonable to begin with.  If it's been outside for a week, forget it.

It also must have actual shelves.  I am not interested in cobbling together some kind of makeshift system.  And the shelves have to be wide enough to accommodate binders, yet the unit can't be so wide that it doesn't fit in my baseball card closet.

See this unit here is what I most commonly find.  I think this had drawers at one point.  If this had just one shelf in the middle it would have been perfect (perfect as defined in the universe of assessing garbage).

Another thing is that I don't have a car so the unit has to also be close to my home and fairly light.  Fortunately I live in a highly populated area.

This one has a few shelves.  The shape made me rule it out.

Oftentimes people feel the stuff they are throwing away is so desirable that they won't even put it out back by their dumpster.  Instead they cart it to the sidewalk.

This piece is huge.  I couldn't move it even if I wanted to.  It's also too long and wide, and of course the drawers/shelves are missing.

After wandering aimlessly I happened upon this potential jackpot.

I wasn't first on the scene though.

Despite this gentleman's wizard look, as I approached it occurred to me he may just be moving.  His outfit is not out of the range of how people appear in Seattle.  I mean you saw that car.  It's a strange city (and I fit right in).

Ah-ha!  It IS free stuff.

I have never lived in a city that puts out more stuff marked free than Seattle.  I think it's a decent gesture since it takes more effort than just throwing it in the dumpster.

Those are Pioneer speakers.  Huge.  That green shelf thing is almost a winner, but it's not quite right.

Notice the big white box isn't in this picture?

After we spoke for several minutes (he was cool), the Wizard carted off the whole box.  It was full of clothes and cd's.

He did leave behind the small container.  Um...that's a Soul Asylum cd.  I didn't want any of that junk though.  I wanted other junk.

My twenty minute search today didn't net me a new shelving piece.

However there are other options just up this ridiculously steep hill.

There's a store that sells shelving.

This one is $40.  

This is just $18 and would be perfect if it is wide enough (I didn't check).

But I have had past success using my free stuff strategy.  This one I actually found in front of my building last summer.

I don't remember where I found this shelving unit.

The bottom shelf is cracked and weak so...

I propped it up with baseball cards, of course.

So tell me, should I continue my bizarre search through the city when the mood strikes me, or should I just buy shelving at the store and be done with it?

I need three shelving units I think.  I guess ultimately it's not about money so much as some twisted principle (and my hatred of assembling things).

There's no urgency yet since I have a lot of cards to put in binders still.

Would any of you out there consider doing what I did today?

I may be crazy but I'm harmless.  I'm good crazy!  Honest.


  1. I have my binders 'standing up'. Have I been doing it wrong?
    Oh yeah, keep looking for free stuff.

  2. I recognize those cleanScapes dumpsters. That's my company. Just be careful, if you see the big green truck make sure you aren't in there or we will dump you. HAHA

  3. sewingmachine,

    Ah the great debate: To stand or not to stand. I guess both work. I know if I stood mine they would take a up lot less room and be much easier to access.

    But I had bad experiences with standing them. When I was a kid I worked in a baseball card store called the Hot Corner. The owner had all his binders standing and the pages became so bent and disturbing looking that I always have that vision in my mind.

    Yours sound like they are fine though so I dunno.

  4. Mariner1,

    Ha ha! It's a small world!

    Please tell your drivers to turn off their safety beepers and to try to quietly lift the dumpsters when emptying. They wake me up all the time. Just kidding! They do a good job. Fast.

  5. nothing wrong with that. I thought about a mattress I saw near the apartment dumpster, but then thought how nasty it might be and passed.
    I certainly wouldn't mind a 50" HDTV set sitting next to the dumpster if all it needed was a new bulb or easy electronics fix! ;)

    Do you have a freecycling mailing list in Seattle? you might want to try that if you do and see if you can find someone close by who wants to get rid of shelving or might also be willing to make a short drive to get the item to your place if it's too heavy for one person.

  6. Two Packs,

    I hadn't heard of Freecycling but it does appear Seattle has a program. Maybe I'll look into it. I'm so picky about the shelf size and overall size though.

    With Spring coming there should be a lot of city sidewalk tag sales. Maybe I'll check those out too. Hopefully I can take pics and maybe I'll come across a shoebox of 1950's baseball cards (riggggggghhhhhht).