Confessions of a novice skip diver

Last week, in the pursuit of the frugal life, I entered unchartered territory. Frankly, it’s something I should have engaged in long ago but, surprisingly enough, the opportunity had never really arisen until now. I was walking home after meeting a friend for a coffee in town and, typically, it was pouring with rain. As I wandered past a row of houses, carrying my dripping umbrella, I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. It was an enormous hardback copy of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton and it was sitting in a large skip in somebody’s front garden.

Often when I walk past skips, I have a quick look inside them out of sheer nosiness. Friends and relatives have been telling me for years that they have harvested all manner of things from skips in their neighbourhoods. One couple I know pretty much furnished their home with reclaimed tables and chairs. But until now, I’ve never spotted anything worth nabbing, besides broken filing cabinets and random pieces of wood from building sites. Plus I have always felt a bit awkward about taking things from them. From a legal standpoint, you must ask the permission of the person hiring the skip before you help yourself to anything – someone DJ knows was once arrested and bundled into a police van for helping himself to a kid’s colouring book from one – and I guess there is also a bit of social stigma attached, although it’s ridiculous really when all you are doing is recycling something that somebody else has discarded.

But next to the copy of Jurassic Park I noticed something I did want for a change – a copy of The Victorian Flower Garden by Jennifer Davies. It’s the book from a lovely BBC series which was broadcast in the 1980s/1990s featuring the late gardener Harry Dodson. DJ and I loved the DVD series, along with the other ones – The Victorian Kitchen Garden and The Victorian Garden. He managed to track down the books from the series in various charity shops and this was the only one missing from his collection. Next to it in the skip were at least twenty other books which had been thrown away, despite all being in perfectly good nick, and were now being ruined in the rain.

I was torn between anger that these books which could have been taken to a charity shop were now destined for landfill, and a terribly British feeling of awkwardness about pilfering from a skip in broad daylight. I tried knocking on the door of the house but there was no answer, so in the end I just helped myself and went on my way. By the time I got home, both myself and the book were pretty soggy. However, after a spell in the airing cupboard it recovered and DJ was really chuffed when I presented it to him, so I have no regrets and just might get up the courage to do it again some time!

Have you ever reclaimed items from a skip? Leave a comment and let me know as I’d love to hear about it.

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10 Responses to Confessions of a novice skip diver

  1. Bill says:

    Good on yer, girl. I have oft had good pickings from skips. Driving a 45t bin wagon alone, on "Trade Waste" at the NEC yielded all manner of new, unused golfing kit, office furniture etc. All in original packing, simply written off by large companies, for the landfill!Such criminal waste.I am still yet looking for the new, unused Ferrarri, Bugghatti, or Bentley. I also take micro-waves & computers for spares. When I was with a large city corporation, delivering refurb materials to tradesmen working in council flats, I also collected their waste every afternoon. The bulk of their waste was extreme heavy blockboard kitchen units, which are never successfull second hand, but the door hinges, handles & other fittings are extremely useful on home-made furniture made from genuine timber. I almost always carry a small tool kit, just in case I see something useful going spare. By sheer coincidence, I also drive a large 3.5t ex post van!The skips are emptied on the landfill by weight, therefore we are doing these people a great favour when we reduce the weight that they would otherwise have to pay for.

  2. Vix says:

    Ooh toptastic find! I haven\’t skip dived (dove?) before as I don\’t get a lot of opportunity. However I did get the girls a fab seasaw thing from the dump once, why someone would dump it is beyond me as it was in perfect nick and the girls adore it! I would have nabbed the slide that was with it only Paul put his foot down and it wouldn\’t have fit in the car anyway. I always have my eyes out for more garden stuff as it is always well loved here!

  3. Christine says:

    Daughter and husband furnished most of their first flat from skips in their area when they came back from working abroad with no cash at all, no jobs and a new baby due any day. They\’ve still got an oak cabinet under the television from the time seventeen years ago – they\’re handy and stripped it down before treating it. You\’d never know that it came out of a skip. The kitchen table that is still in use came from the same source and was stripped and treated by themselves.I know some gardeners who have built all their raised beds from wood out of skips and said daughter and husband who have run their little wood burning canal boat stove that is installed in their house from wood that has been skipped some winters. Never turn your nose up at odd lengths of wood. Even if it\’s only good for firewood, it\’s good for something.

  4. Kerri says:

    I remember many years ago my mum being aghast when my dad turned up with an old bike frame he found in a skip…followed shortly after by wheels from somewhere else and eventually a bike was built. I haven\’t skip dived for ages, when I was living at home my mum would\’ve had a canary fit at anything from a skip (it was a job for my dad to be allowed to keep his bike in the garage) but one night when I was drunkely wending my way home I do recall diving into someone\’s skip and retrieving a number of things…most of which I can no longer recall but I do remember there was a pale blue wool type coat with some rather cook fur (hopefully fake) pockets on the front. Not sure what happened to it in the end – think it got thrown out without me wearing it but do wish I still had it. Did pay a visit to our local tip recently in hopes of finding something but it seems ours is the kind of \’all waste in it\’s place\’ and is manned to separate out what you are bringing in and I saw nothing of any use 😦 need to take an old hoover down there at the weekend (no one seems to want it even though I have advertised it on Freegle etc) so might have another look round then – perhaps I was looking in the wrong place.

  5. Bill says:

    Thinking about it, my now 9 year old van, was binned by the post office at 6 years old, with only 35,000 miles on the clock. It now has 60,000 miles, & only cost £1,000 to purchase, with minor cosmetic blemishes, which are not worth fixing. It has not been washed for at least two years, but still has another 200,000 miles left in it, & has only cost me two MOT, & a set of 4 tyres, @ £200, for the last one. They will do another 5-6 years, possibly a further £60,000 miles.She would have cost at least £20,000 new, complete with 3 years free MOT, service & maintainance. Joke is, there is nothing to service/maintain in the first 3 years, with the exception of a £20 oil change every year. I can do that mesen, for half the price. They are booking 10 minutes labour @ £1/min!Does a £19,000 (95%) saving count as skip diving?We need to excercise some skill, & caution, when choosing/sourcing a vehicle, therefore a boiler suit is far better dress sense than a Sunday suit.

  6. Bill says:

    ps.Still yet looking for the Bentley, maybe an ocean yacht worthpatching to match it!

  7. Pauline says:

    I\’ve never skip-dived, but I did get my breakfast bar chairs from the dump. I\’d just bought a house and was moving in the next week. A friend\’s Mum went to the dump to get rid of a broken tv and there was a woman there who had just thrown in a pristine, stainless steel and black leather breakfast bar chair that swivelled and was about to throw in the second one when my friend\’s Mum stopped her. They also got a guy to pull the other one out of the skip. After a bit of a clean they were both as good as new and I am still happily using them 3 years later. I have no idea why people would throw things out that are perfectly usable: I got rid of my 1970s furniture to a charity. It was good quality though dated, and they assured me someone would be happy to have it.

  8. Ziz says:

    Yes I skip dive and am proud of it. You will be amazed at what you find in them. Got a original first edition by Field Marshall Montgomery. It was signed and had a personal inscription in it to the person he gave it to. How any one could just throw that out is beyond words. Loads of wood for the garden and I\’m just about to rebuild the front fence all arty like out of reclaimed wood….. Office/Studio chair was saved from land fill some very rare Elvis Presley records on the HMV label. New back door…. First car was not found in skip but was about to go for scrap and that lasted me 3 Years…. Various bits of HI FI equipment….. Especially a Pair of the nicest speakers you would ever hear…… So keep on diving….

  9. Suz says:

    Go for it , there is so much good material chucked out, better it is used. I have obtained a bedroom carpet (that a whole square pre the invention of fitted carpets), wooden boxes as bookcases, loads of timber for raised beds, the fire, making a fruit cage…. Pots n pans for my first house, tubing for a syphon system between my water butts (don\’t bother buying those connector kit things) and most recently 2 x 6 packs of walkers crisps from our local supermarket (just out fo date life) and a packet of toilet rolls !! On the other hand I have given away via Freegle (formerly freecycle) absolutely loads ofstuff at work, desks, folders, files phew and lots from my loft. I have also gained loads from Freegle including my wine making kit., rhubarb plants and 2 wheelbarrows. It\’s an abundant world ! I like the idea of having plenty to give away and therefore being happy to recieve. Have you been saving seeds from your garden produce ? That is a whole wonderful territory for being frugal (no need to buy seeds) and being bounteous and able to give them away. We have been doing seed swaps on our local farmers market and they are so popular, also means that you get a fair chance of success if the seed donating plants have been grown locally and suit the soil. And lots of opportunity for chat and exhange of gardening tips for your favourite plants. I got an envelope of purple runner beans 3 years ago at a seed swap and have grown them each year, eaten goodness knows how many purple beans and given away saved seeds and seed pods for 2 years – how about that for a freebie !

  10. mark says:

    Diving in skips is all very well – but – really, get a grip. This is a slippery slope, before you know it you will be saving your urine in plastic milk containers (just in case) and kim and Aggie will be paying you a visit. If you feel the urge to go hoaking in skips you need to take a long hard look at your life. A simple lesson – get a job, earn money, buy new stuff, chuck out the old tat. If you really worry about rising sea levels and all that nonsense – plan ahead, move to higher ground!

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