In the area I live, (near The Empress State Building), folks often leave high quality items out on the street for collection by the bin-men.

However, as I live in a fairly basically-furnished student flat, I steal them whenever possible. Some recent successes include:

Wooden planks: These were just left out by someone's front fence, So I took them and used them to shore up my somewhat wobbly bed.

A sofa: Our existing sofa was a nightmare, manky and horrible. One afternoon, my room-mate arrives in describing one he saw on his way home, once again, left outside someone's house. "Let's go get it." So we did. Pausing first to try it out, then to try to find out if it's owner really didn't want it, we then carried it home, and man-handled it into the sitting room.

A video cabinet: Our VCR and TV once stood on a broken chair. Not anymore. They now stand resplendant on a very solid and neat cabinet, curtesty of an unwitting waster between my flat and the high street. I collected it on the way back from the shops.

A lawn mower: This device required some repair, and a new plug, but was otherwise fine. Now our fledgling lawn in the backyard has faint stripes!

A bisley filing cabinet: Potentially our only mistake so far. Unconfortably heavy, awkward and with a funny smell, it now sits in the backyard waiting to be cleaned out.

A grill pan: Yesterday, I spotted a gas oven sat outside a hotel. Could it contain a grill pan? Would we no longer have to grill our potato waffles directly on the oven shelf? You bet-ya.

You too can live a better life through pinching stuff left out for the trash!

Update! We now have a delightful little three-legged, leather-topped table. Perfect for chips and dips. Once again, lying on the street. Admittedly, some assembly (five minutes with a leatherman and some glue seemed to do it) was needed.

Caution: This is kind of icky.

When I was recently married, some people threw out an entire living room set of couches (a big couch, a love seat, and a matching chair).
We were thrilled, and waited for cover of darkness to move them all into our bare tiled livingroom. There were kind of damp, but since it had been a very humid day we weren't too worried about it.

We got them inside, and noticed that they smelled bad. No big deal, some carpet cleaner or something would help out.

We left them there over night, festering...
When we got up the next morning we went to the living room to check out our new furniture, only to discover that bugs were all over it, and under it, and in it.
And now they were all over our house.
We didn't know it, and didn't find out until several weeks later that the landlords had thrown the furniture out because they evicted the owner. Evidently the place was so filthy they weren't able to get work crews to come in to fix the place up until they had torn out most of the walls and flooring. (I wonder what that guy was into to this day...)

Moral: One mans trash is another mans treasure. But if it is already in the trash, you can have a pretty good idea of what it is supposed to be...

An excellent way to furnish an apartment.

When I was living in Cincinnati, I took my Toyota Previa to Muncie, Indiana to see a friend that had recently moved there. The weekend I visited, all the super-rich Ball State University kids had cleared out of town for the summer, carelessly leaving piles of treasure in the street for the garbage collectors. When I arrived in Muncie, Spencer was waiting on his front porch with a wicked gleam in his eye.
"Oh, good. You brought the van."

Spencer had been living in Muncie for two months but barely had two sticks of furniture in his lovely, falling apart, two-story victorian dollhouse of a punk rock dream home. Spencer, his friend Rich, and I piled into my van to remedy this situation and help clear the streets.
We had to return to this house to dump out booty not once, not twice, but three times before we decided we were finished.

Our total haul:
Five victorian living room lamps in varying heights and degrees of swirliness
Two brushed steel desk lamps
Two matching crushed velvet lime green paisley loveseats
One complementary velour armchair in lemon paisley
One complete black and beige striped lawn furniture set, including glass-topped table
One 4 foot tall antique milk can that my mother adores
One black and yellow dart board with five darts stuck in it
One very clean twin-sized bed frame in cherry (before this I'd been sleeping on a twin-sized mattress on the floor)
One 3-drawered dresser to match the bed frame
Two dorm-sized refrigerators
One computer printer that Spencer took apart and used for parts
One kitschy pair of plaster owls that Rich insisted were cool

This was a major reason that my nickname in Cincinnati was 'Ghetto Martha Stewart.'

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