There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but in the Tahoe/Truckee region during pandemic lockdown, we have the right to free furniture. That’s because all the mandated time at home has been the perfect excuse for a lot of people to finally sort through excess possessions. And sure, there’s a lot of great places to donate or sell your old furniture (see Out with the Old) … However, there’s a healthy market for saving money since we’re in month seven of COVID-19, and many people are getting rid of unwanted household items simply by kicking them to the curb.

In fact, as I sit in my living room typing these words, I look around and see a fully furnished living room and kitchen area, eclectic but suited to my taste and all within a reasonably logical color scheme — and there’s not a single item I paid for. A black table and display case I found while not looking in Glenshire houses some of my most cherished possessions and art; two funky bar stools obtained in Tahoe City and gladly parted from their owner serve as my main dining locale at the counter; I sit in a chair that was put out for free right next door that I picked up while walking my dog. Even the rug and lamps were happily donated by a neighbor who was moving out.

Thing is, I didn’t even set out to fully furnish my home for free. Much of what I commandeered were literal windfalls, chance encounters while out running errands or en route to adventure. As more great items fell into my lap, I began to search more intentionally, eventually trolling Facebook and Craigslist free listings. The bar stools were a planned arrangement between me and the owner via social media. I live in Truckee but didn’t mind a drive out to the lake for something I’d been looking to buy before.

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I’m now proud to say I don’t need much more for this place, but I’ll pass on a few tips from my experience as a furniture freegan this summer.

1) Be a good neighbor. People move around a lot in this area and are often downsizing. That’s where you come in. Being a friendly co-habitant of a street is always a good idea, but the bonus reason to do so is to become the first person they may think of if they’re looking to pass something on in a convenient fashion.

2) Tahoe Donner and Glenshire are great neighborhoods if you want to go fishing completely blind for household attire. Plus, there are frequent yard sales in Glenshire where you might be able to pick up some additional goodies on the cheap. People tend to do house projects on weekends, so Saturday and Sunday mornings are great times to sniff around before other interested parties might swing by.

3) Make sure you’re taking something someone actually put out for free! We live in a beautiful area, so don’t go stealing Grandma’s nice sunny bench out front. People tend to make a sign that says ‘Free’ or with other instructions if they mean an item to be taken. Use your best judgment whether or not the item is clearly out far from the house and set up to donate to a lucky stranger.

CURBSIDE PICKUP: My front porch needed a freegan makeover, too. Luckily, my mom spotted these chairs on a visit and knew what my answer would be when she asked if we should come back by and pick them up. Photos by Kerry Loux

4) Of course, the most direct and tried and true method of matching with free furniture or household items is social media and online tools to connect people who want to get and give free stuff. Craigslist is always a good place to scan for free or super cheap furniture, but in this area I’d recommend good old-fashioned Facebook, because many people in the community are active there and you can go straight to Marketplace/Free. I always see good stuff on there in this area, and if you’re looking for something specific that’s not there, I would recommend searching and/or posting in some of the popular groups like Tahoe Truckee People. Nextdoor is also very popular, but not used for this purpose as much.

There’s just something about getting something for free, isn’t there? I can tell you that I feel that extra bit of satisfaction with everything in my house knowing that I helped someone out by hauling away what they didn’t need, assisting my bank account and saving time in the process. Win, win, win.

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