Furniture Donations and Curb Finds: One Man’s Trash . . .

Furniture donations are usually for people in need, but there are plenty of regular folks who would be thrilled with hand-me-down furnishings others have grown tired of. Dumpster diving is one little way to score these items.

Furniture donations are a great way for New Yorkers to get rid of household furnishings that they no longer want but that are still in good condition. Donating is also a great way to get rid of something in a way that’s not wasteful. Sometimes, however, people don’t have time to donate their goods. In those cases, they may try to unload their stuff on Craigslist or give it to friends. If neither of those ideas work, they may just put the furniture out on the curb or throw it out to be picked up by the sanitation department. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why dumpster diving was born.

What Is Dumpster Diving?

There’s dumpster diving, and then there’s hardcore dumpster diving. Hardcore dumpster divers look for everything from fresh food to blankets that people have thrown away. We’re not talking about that type of dumpster diving. We’re talking about regular dumpster divers, people who roam the city looking for unwanted furniture that residents have put out on the curb. It may sound unsavory to the uninitiated, but dumpster diving is a time-honored, NYC tradition. The ultimate goal is to see if anyone is getting rid of anything of value. Everyone from antiques dealers to interior designers to students extol upon the virtues of dumpster diving. Once they see something they like, they simply pick it up and walk off with it. Many people put furniture out with the distinct knowledge that someone somewhere will come along and give it a new home. That old adage, “Another man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” is completely true in this case.

How Do I Score Real Gems?

One of the first rules of dumpster diving is to hunt in upscale areas. Some divers actually rent trucks and ride out to top neighborhoods throughout the city. The idea is that naturally, a better quality of furniture will be dumped in areas where people tend to have a lot of money. It’s not just residences that unload unwanted items, though. Commercial businesses and hotels frequently unload things like desks, tables, chairs, and paintings as part of their furniture donations. When The Late Show with David Letterman ended, people descended upon the area outside the studios to roam through the furnishings, art, and curios that were being thrown away. Be creative about where you look for hidden treasures. Companies going through renovations are another great resource.

What Should I Be Looking For?

If you see an upholstered item, you have to decide if it’s worth risking. With bedbugs being a genuine issue in even the most upscale hotels in the city, you should just assume that every upholstered item that you see down at the curb is riddled with bed bugs. It may be hard to pass it up, but it’s probably not worth the risk. On the flip side, look closely at items like tables and chairs. A simple wooden seat could turn out to be a Herman Miller Eames chair.

When Should I Go Diving?

Bulk items that are being discarded like sofas and tables are picked up on regular garbage pickup days. Some areas of Brooklyn and Queens have bulk item pickup on Saturdays, so figuring out the pickup days in the areas you’ll be diving in will help. Another tip to remember is that moving days are around the first and the last of the month. Diving during those days could net you some incredible scores.


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