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Free Stuff


It's just amazing what's out there!
But I'm not talking about getting something for nothing - what I'm talking about is stuff that you don't pay for with money.
It's paid for by keeping your eyes open, by being willing to step outside your comfort zone,
by getting to know new people,
by being willing to get your hands dirty, and by your time and labour.
You stretch your brain, develop lateral thinking, and learn whatever skills are necessary to make use of what you find.
The tradition of Gleaning is ages old, and an honourable one. And it values stuff at it's true worth, not it's monetary 'value'.
Mind you, it's difficult sometimes to re-train the mind when we've been brain-washed from birth to think only in terms of money.
This can lead to hanging onto stuff we don't need, because it's worth money.
Ideally, money should only be used for things you can't get any other way - paying your rates & taxes, essential services, bus fares, to name a few.
Maybe we can talk about this?
But this is about the stuff! So here goes...........

  • The definitive hard copy booklet
    by Adelaide's own Kim Hill costs only $3. Look out for it at Permaculture & similar events.

  • Dumpster Diving. ~ This is gleaning stuff, especially food, from the bins behind large stores. There's loads of pages on the Web about this, including some useful forums. Just put "Dumpster Diving" into your favourite search engine.
    Mine is DUCKDUCKGO.

  • Check rubbish bins ~ Most productive in affluent areas, but may cause offence, so be discreet.

  • Walk with your eyes open ~ Always carry a backpack, or a few cloth bags, and one or two plastic ones. A notebook and pencil is useful too - sometimes you need to remember where stuff is and come back for it.
    My wardrobe includes several items of clothing found in the gutter - perfectly acceptable once washed! And I can't remember when I last had to buy a biro, elastic band, pencil, paper clip, or eraser, not to speak of the additions of small hardware items to my diddy-box!

  • Scrumping ~ Free food, especially fruit, from public spaces, and abandoned or neglected sites or gardens. If it's possible to ask permission first, use your intuition. It may lead to ongoing supplies, even being able to assist someone who can no longer manage their garden. On the other hand, as a wise friend once remarked, it's often easier to apologise afterwards than be refused permission!

  • Learn to recognise edible weeds & unusual food plants ~EDIBLE WEEDS.......Using new foods

  • Many Opportunity or Charity shops have a small box of free items

  • Fundraising, charitable re-use. ~ Find out what various charities & community groups collect.
    For instance Lions Clubs collect the discarded ring-pulls from aluminium cans - they are sent to developing countries, where they are mixed with titanium to make artificial limbs for land-mine victims. It takes 35,000 pulls to make a pair of artificial legs.
    In Oz, our automated recycling systems simply can't be bothered with such insignificant items!

    Used postage stamps are collected by a number of churches & charities. Ask around.
    Don't peel them off the envelope or parcel, but cut around the stamp(s) leaving a reasonable margin so the perforations don't get damaged.
    Even if you don't get many, they soon mount up.

    Books - a number of charities have shops which specialise in secondhand books.
    Ask too whether they can sell magazines in good condition.
    These may also be appreciated by doctors, dentists, etc. for their waiting rooms.

    Every Community Market & Swap& Share meet can have a table for free unwanted items of usable quality.
    Anything not taken can be then be donated to the nearest Op.Shop.

  • driftwood
    And remember to complete the cycle!
    If you no longer need or want it, and can't think of a sustainble way to use it,
    even if it is "rubbish", find a way of passing it on,
    putting it back into the circle of abundance.
    Almost everything can be re-used, recycled in some way, or composted.
    From the plastic tags that close bread bags, to a 1950s radiogram, someone, somewhere will be able to put it to good use.
    Old shoes or boots can be used as plant pots, and
    if your old jeans are too fragile to make into a shopping bag, compost them!
    but don't forget to remove buttons & zips first.


    Rainwater is free, but the means of collecting it can be also, if you look for resources others call rubbish.
    If you have Sulo (wheelie) bins which you don't use because you have little or no rubbish for kerbside collection, why not use them to store rainwater? Another idea is to use the empties of large plastic bladders used for bulk wine storage - ask around & see if you can find some. These are ideal laid flat under the house or verandah. Bulk food containers, such as those used for olives or pickles, hold a great deal of water, as do the drums that were used to hold simple chemicals. (Not petrochemicals or pesticides) They need thorough cleaning, which does not have to use a lot of water - neutralise acid with Bicarb soda, alkali with vinegar, mop up edible oil with lots of newspaper (which can then be composted) before washing with old cloths using just a bucketful of water. The water used to rinse should then be safe to use on trees or shrubs.
    The recycled food containers can be used to store water for domestic use - filter through 2 layers of pantihose, or 4 layers of sari cloth, before drinking.
    Non-food containers are best used for watering the garden.
    If you have no means of collecting water from a roof,via a downpipe, try using your clothes hoist or line, covered with plastic, as a collector. Large sheets of good quality plastic are used to cover new mattresses. Even if they've been torn open, rather than carefully cut, you can usually salvage pieces of useful size. Covering your line in wet weather also means you can still use it to dry your laundry.

    The sun's energy is free - but solar panels & solar hot water systems, though highly desirable, are not. But there are many ways to use this energy passively. Drying your laundry outside is just one.
    And see how I use recycled items to heat water in the sun
    Make a Solar Cooker from 'rubbish' - there are plenty of designs online.
    These will give you the general idea, but think laterally. Once you understand the principles, you can use whatever comes to hand.

    Incidentally, insulated bags or boxes used to cook foods on the Haybox principle can be made from discarded materials.
    "Haybox, or 'Dreampot' cookery involves bringing foods to boiling point in the usual way, then transferring the cooking vessel & it's contents to the insulated container, where cooking continues without fuel.

    Here are some of the articles
    I've written about re-using/recycling things for various journals. There are several pages, so follow the links!

    And here is the latest offering from the College Park-Hackney group of

    No Such Thing As Rubbish(pdf file)
    Prints as both sides of 2 sheets of A4)
    rtf version - download or read online

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