Tag Archives: re-use

Free stuff, Craigslist, and The Side of The Road

So I’m really thrifty, and I’ve been really thrifty since forever. There is something about scavenging for deals that is really satisfying. Most of my thriftiness and frugality has led me to rely on used or second-hand everything – clothes, shoes, building materials, furniture. I really truly do prefer used items to new ones – I love a soft, worn t-shirt, vintage furniture, and old things (they were built better back then than the crap at the mall today). I’ve gotten really good at finding just about anything for free or really cheap. I always say, ask the universe, and the universe will provide!

Here’s some of the free stuff I’ve found so far for The COMET specifically:

Gorgeous hardwood flooring still in the box, free on the side of the road

Vintage Formica countertops with aluminum trim, free day at the Re-Store in Springfield when they moved

Fabric for curtains, given to me from friends

Textured glass for windows in the exact right sizes, free day at the Re-Store

Bamboo boards and lumber for kitchen, free on the side of the road

Vintage wallpaper, free box somewhere

If I had more storage space, I’d pick up every door and window that I saw on the side of the road and build a house out of all the free building stuff I find. Seriously. If you’re interested in this stuff, Derek Diedricksen over at relaxshacks has some great tips for dumpstering and hunting for free building materials. He’s the master of re-using free found objects in build projects.

And though I think finding great used stuff for free + cheap is mostly luck, it’s definitely good to know where to look and what to look for when you’re on the hunt. I want to give you all some tips and resources for finding free stuff and cheap used building materials or salvage.

Craigslist: let’s start with the most obvious one. Craigslist is a great place to start looking for free or cheap architectural salvage or materials. Check out the Free Stuff section first, then look more specifically for things you are interested in. I also always look for campers on Craigslist – they’re cheap and you can find a lot of fixer-uppers there. And free stuff is great, but remember to factor in how far away that free thing is and how long it will take you to get there + gas costs.

The Habitat for Humanity Re-Store: I can’t really gush enough about how much I love the Re-Store. Besides the fact that it supports a fabulous cause, it’s really wonderful because you can find just about anything for reasonably cheap. They sell used (or new, but always donated) building materials and appliances/other house items. If you’re into old house stuff like I am, you’ll love the stacks and stacks of 1950’s teal sinks and matching toilets. Sometimes they have great NOS items from the past, great place for vintage nuts to score some original decor for their homes. They have windows, doors, showers, hardware, paint, flooring, just about ANYTHING you can imagine. There’s a Re-Store in Worcester that I frequent, and another really huge one in Springfield, MA that is now called Eco-Building Bargains (they just moved into a gorgeous new eco-friendly building designed by my professor!).

The Side of The Road: My first word of advice for this topic is “don’t be embarrassed!” If you’re like me, you don’t think twice about pulling over, jumping out of your car, digging through some junk, and strapping a few windows onto your roof rack. But if you’re not used to it, it can be a little funny at first. Just remember you are doing the people getting rid of the stuff a favor! And you’re recycling that stuff so it doesn’t have to go into the trash! Some people say they go out looking for free stuff at night, but I think that’s maybe more suspicious? Anyway, however you do it, don’t hesitate. Free stuff on the side of the road is the best. I’ve found brand new items and totally useful things out on the side of the road. It’s just unbelievable what people throw away.

*I like to go to yard sales and flea markets late in the day, when people just want to get rid of everything and most everything is for free. Of course, all the best stuff might be gone, but you never know, you may find a hidden treasure. I once found a great set of skeleton string lights (perfect for the awning of a super badass camper) at the end of a yard sale, free for the taking.*

Dumpstering: I don’t know of any local dumpsters that are good for building materials, so I’m not too experienced in this department. (I used to dumpster dive more often, but never found any lumber). However, dumpstering behind a building where there is a business that sells building materials or anything you may be wanting is a good idea. This is one of those activities you want to do at night. And be careful! You don’t want the cops to hassle you, so be kinda stealthy.

Freecycle.org: This is a website where you can become a member of a Freecycle group in your area and trade with other members for stuff they are getting rid of. It seems like a great idea, but I don’t really know much more about it. I should really join up! I think the only reason I haven’t is because my local group was run through a yahoo group and I just couldn’t do another email address…I’d recommend looking into it though and seeing how your local Freecycle group operates!

I hope this was helpful! Please contact me with any questions, and tell me about the best thing you ever found for free in the comments!

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Sustainability on Wheels: Campers and the Tiny House Movement

“Vintage campers will save the Planet.” That’s a pretty bold statement. I do think vintage/used/old campers can play a role in the way people begin to think about their housing in relation to the environment, social responsibility, and sustainability. Vintage campers make ideal Tiny Houses. First of all, they are tiny (of course) and on wheels – two basic characteristics of most tiny houses. Even a large camper is a tiny house! Also, I think it is always better to re-use an existing structure than it is to build from scratch (the exception being if the existing structure is unhealthy or toxic in some way…moldy, asbestos, etc.) Using an existing trailer camper cuts down on waste and keeps these usable little homes out of the landfill. Often, there will be valuable materials that can be salvaged from the existing trailer. Of course, there is personal preference and style to account for: campers don’t look like miniaturized log homes or mini-mansions, they look like campers (though I have seen a camper re-done with shingle siding!). I’ll admit they aren’t perfect for everyone, but it’s definitely a really viable option for the future of housing.
Another thing to consider is cost. To build a tiny house from scratch will cost much more than retrofitting an existing structure (in most cases – depends on what you want to do of course). I’ve gotten campers in towable, totally restorable condition for less than $500. Sometimes a retrofit is a pain in the neck: campers are built from the bottom up, so it can be difficult to replace and repair things in the undercarriage area (but it has been done!). However, I think in terms of cost efficiency and eco-friendliness, making a tiny house out of an existing trailer is the best bet. Even if your tiny house was built out of entirely sustainable materials (which would be very expensive), it would still be using resources that an existing trailer has built into it. Buying the separate parts to build a camper would be much more expensive than purchasing one used.
Also, campers just look awesome!

Camper and tiny house!

Here’s a great example of a sustainable Tiny House on wheels (Taken from SunRay Kelley’s website: http://www.sunraykelley.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=61&Itemid=99). It’s a hybrid between a Class C camper and a vardo. It has elements of traditional homes (wooden siding, a back deck) but is still distinctly “camper”. SunRay Kelley is an inspiration for anyone interested in green building and alternative dwellings. Check out his website! http://www.sunraykelley.com/

To be continued….

What do you think? Totally green retrofit or build a tiny house from scratch? Which would you do?
Let me know in the comments!

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