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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”