Our Recycled Basement


I’m feeling very earth-friendly and “green” tonight!  My husband is down in the basement, pounding away, finishing off a family room with recycled material.  2×4’s, doors, plywood, railings, oak boards for our “rustic look” walls…  all of it found in dumpsters or given to us by kind friends and relatives.

“Um, sure!  You can have our trash!”  is what they said.  Most people were probably thinking, “Oh, maybe we should buy them groceries too, that poor, poor family.”

Hey, we just like being resourceful!  The oak boards for our walls had to be ripped off pallets, and took Derek hours and hours and hours.  One dude said, “Just BUY boards!”  Dude, that’s not how we roll.  We do it ourselves if we can, so my sweet husband can buy stuff like, say, a brand new $549 vacuum for his wife ’cause he wants her to have a nice one.

(Does it make me want to clean?  Nope.  Sorry honey.)

I just googled the laws on dumpster diving, because someone recently told me it was illegal.  Turns out, it all depends.  Dumpsters are usually on private property, so the biggest issue is trespassing.  But most people don’t care if you take junk destined for the trash heap!  Besides, dumpster space costs an arm and a leg, so binners save people money.

“Binners,” by the way, is a term for people that dive into dumpsters for trash.  Side note, did you know that Americans waste 40-50% of their food?  Sad.  Our dumpsters would feed a lot of hungry people, and sometimes do!

Rag and bone man, waste picker, junk man, and bin hoker are a few more, but these are terms for people who actually make their living by sorting and trading trash.

Some other random facts from wikipededia…

In Italy, dumpster-diving is completely legal!  Declared so by the country.

A “garbologist” studies the sociology and archeology of trash in modern life.  For real!  I say, if they get a title, we deserve one too!  All of us moms that study poop and puke… we’ve got just as much going on as those scientists.

Oregon frowns very sternly upon dumpster-diving, and Wisconsin considers dumpster-diving “very” illegal.  (Haha!  This cracks me up!  So is something that’s just “illegal” a better crime?  What do they call murder?  “Very, very, VERY” illegal?)

In Michigan, dumpster-diving is “generally” illegal.

In Iowa City, dumpster-diving is…. LEGAL!!!  Iowa city police say once its in the dumpster, its free game. Even if it’s a business.  They can complain, or put up a sign, but you can dive anywhere, anytime in Iowa city

In Texas, you can take the trash.  Just don’t get caught!  More from my googling:
Stealing trash is not illegal.  The Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that once an item is left for trash pickup, there is no expectation of privacy or continued ownership.
 “By definition anything in a dumpster is waste and therefore not needed and abandoned by the owner. So you can recover anything from the trash that you want.”  
The problem is the location of the dumpster. If the dumpster is on private property then you can’t access it without trespassing.

(All of my info came from wiki.answer.com, so don’t quote me on anything!  If anyone moves to Iowa City to steal trash, I will not be held responsible!)

Back to OUR dumpster diving.  It’s really fun!  If you’ve never tried it, give it a whirl.  We even made dumpster-diving a family affair this summer!  I asked Dee how much “money” he’d pulled out of dumpsters, and he said, “Oh!  Thousands and thousands of dollars!”  He drives truck for a roofing supply company, so he’s around construction site dumpsters every week.

I’ll post pictures of the finished basement, but this is what it looks like right now…

Dee built this railing yesterday, so I don’t have to worry anymore about my babies falling down and cracking their heads on the concrete floor.  Plus it just LOOKS cool!  Doesn’t it look great with my purple stairs?

 Free stuff!

framing up…      

Wall before…

And AFTER!  Doesn’t it look awesome?

In our really cool, barn-looking basement, we have a full bathroom and a kitchen.  We will also have, in the future, a pool table.  Ping-pong too, if I have anything to say about it!  So if you need a place to hang out, come on over!


About patchofheaven

"Mom" sums it up quite well! I cook, I clean, I homeschool, and yes, I do still ride a tricycle. I love to read books to my kids, and every once in a while I manage to read a book "all by my big self." I journal about my life, here at patchofheaven; hoping to remember, grow, love more, and entertain my mom and other readers!

10 responses »

  1. Ruth, that is how we re-did our living room! Almost everything we used was from old job sites, even the windows were donated!! We even have left0ver insulation for the next project. God is good and supplies our needs, sometimes we just have to pull a few extra nails. 😉

  2. Hey Ruth! This is great! I worked retail and we had NO problem with people dumpster diving from our two dumpsters out back (one was only cardboard). What we HATED was the people who thought that they could come dump trash in our dumpsters when they ran out of room in their town supplied trash bin. It was so frustrating to have garbage to discard and find our dumpster (which our store had to pay for) filled to overflowing with garbage from the neighborhood, left in the middle of the night. So I say… Go dumpster dive and make cool stuff with the proceeds!!!

  3. Ruth, tell Derek that we all think he is amazingly talented! 🙂 I love the way your basement is looking. Can’t wait to see the finished product! I am totally with you when it comes to recycling. Jonathan got his LEED cert. and is next hoping to get his LEED AP cert. This means, he can design buildings with green energy. He is really interested in Biomimicry, which we both think is really cool. Again, go for the “green”! 🙂

  4. I live only about 1 hour from Iowa City (actually we’ll be driving through there tonight on the way to my parents’) 🙂 My brother has made hundreds of dollars ebaying stuff that he has pulled out of dumpsters..

    • Wow! That’s really funny! Maybe you should stop by some dumpsters on your way through Iowa City? Might find some nice last-minute Christmas gifts! 😉

  5. Can you believe that this was your first apartment? Your first Christmas tree was here! It looked great then and looks really, really nice now. Glad to be here, thanks for having us. Hey, 10 years down the road or so, perhaps Dad and I can make a reservation to hang out here for a while!♥

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