Garbage-Picking in Key West (and Other More Conventional Methods of Obtaining Souvenirs)

Friends, my garbage-picking has hit an all-time low. Or high? I’ll let you decide. It all began when we were strolling through the streets of sunny Key West, looking at amazingly cool trees like this…

Cruise 2012 181

…when we came across another wonder that took my breath away: a pile…on the curb….that said FREE. (It has been proven that exaggeration of standard reactions increases by at least 75% when in the presence of free stuff.)

Cruise 2012 175

Now, I’m not one to turn down someone else’s free garbage on the streets of the slightly-less-exotic town that I live in, so I wasn’t about to pass up someone’s free Key West garbage. I wanted that turquoise crate that you can see at the bottom of the last picture, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it onto the airplane without dismantling it and/or pretending it was my hat and/or setting it on fire and bringing it back as ashes, none of which seemed to be particularly effective solutions. So, instead, I found something small that I could easily smuggle: glass tealight holders.

key west garbage

They’re nothing fancy, but they came from a garbage pile in Key West. And that makes them much more exciting. Exciting to me, at least. Rick’s eyes may have rolled once or twice during the scavenging process.


All cleaned up and as good as new!


In terms of more conventionally acquired souvenirs, I bought a $5 sundress in some tourist trap store (what can I say; I gravitate toward high-end merchandise) and two pashminas sans tax on our cruise ship. I’ve never owned a pashmina and mainly just enjoy saying that word. It makes me feel fancy, and not at all like someone who buys $5 sundresses in stores that also sell underwear that says things like “The Fartbeat of America”…


…and t-shirts that say “Shut Up and Fart.” Does that even make sense? It’s not as though farting and gabbing are connected. I mean, I don’t think they are, last I checked. Not that I check.

Moving on.

As far as souvenirs not involving flatulence, we bought these hand-carved wooden animals in Jamaica.



I wanted something authentic as opposed to “authentically Jamaican made in China” and these guys seemed to fit the bill. We even met the artist of the owl! Look, her name and the year are carved into the bottom:


Not that I can read what that says, of course; for all I know, the artist’s name is Cacao Dill and it was carved in, well, China.

Have you garbage-picked outside of your hometown? What’s the best souvenir that you’ve ever gotten? Who’s going to run out and buy “Fartbeat of America” attire for the upcoming patriotic holidays?


  1. Anonymous4/26/2012

    OH man I bet that turquoise crate broke your heart! I'm totally not against getting free stuff off the street.

  2. You always make me laugh! I too would have wanted that crate.....it caught my eye immediately! Don't think I've been dumpster diving outside of my home town. I think I'll pass on the t-shirts!

  3. I'm impressed at your thrifting skills!! I love the dress you're wearing in these photos.

  4. Nice find! I would've tried to take that blue crate, too.

  5. I noticed the crate right away, too. Too bad it wouldn't work out. I also like your dress.... it isn't the $5 one, is it?

    A few years ago, I found an awesome chair sitting next to the dumpster at my apartment complex. I wanted to take it, but my roommate was a little leery of dumpster furniture. In the end, it didn't matter, because upon further examination, I discovered one of the legs was broken and the chair sat unevenly, and I didn't really want to deal with trying to fix it. Sigh... what could have been.

    Oh, and my parents once threw out a large patio umbrella because it had broken. My mom watched through the window as the garbage man fixed it in about a minute. She wanted to go ask for it back, but she said he had such a big smile on his face from his new find that she couldn't bear to.

    1. haha nope, it's not the $5 one...although I purchased it last year at Target for about the same price. :P That's too funny about the patio umbrella!!

  6. Wow I'm impressed! haha you make me laugh!!

  7. wow. Amazing that there's a market for those shirts. I'd like to meet the fellow (I assume it would be a male) who would buy them. Maybe I wouldn't. But I'd like to watch, on a video camera, from a safe distance.

    1. hahahahaha! Definitely a fellow. Those shirts weren't even the worst. A lot of them that we saw were downright disgusting/offensive.

  8. Anonymous4/26/2012

    Is it weird if I hope I get to have a similar experience on my trip next week? Can you imagine Parisian trash picking? Me either.

    And I can totally make out "JAMAICA 2012" on the bottom!

  9. Love that sun dress you're wearing! Very cute!

    That turqoise crate was awesome- I think you should have tried to pass it off as your hat. Or throw some stuff in it and call it your carry on ; ) The tea lights were a good find though too!

    Those wood carvings are great! When Shayne and I went to Dominican for his sister's wedding we got a carved wooden globe that we love. I like to get the handmade souvenirs too- the cheap stuff in the stores from China just doesn't do it for me!

  10. You're so funny! Can't beat free tealight holders. The turquoise crate would have been cool though. Maybe you could have made it into your suitcase? who needs a lid?

    Love the little figurines! So fun!

  11. D'oh! That teal crate was the first thing I noticed too! Stupid, dumb, airplanes. I was going to make a joke about fart souveniers and eating all that delicious Jamacian jerk chicken, but.. no.

  12. Kim S.4/26/2012

    Is that The Banyan Resort? My in-laws own a time share there and go every year. We got to visit once. Really cool trees!
    I think a pile of free stuff is worth a look anywhere. I kind-of like the diver down flag. Depending on the smell, it would cool in my son's room. Too bad I'm not in Key West near a pile of free stuff (heck just Key West is cool enough).

    1. haha it IS the Banyan Resort! I didn't know that until I googled it just now though. :P I did know it was a Banyan tree, however. :) So cool that you've been there!

  13. Bummer about the crate, but I love the carved animals you picked up! They are super cute! :)

  14. I am so generic. I collect playing cards as souvenirs. I love to play cards and my friends and family know that a super cheap and easy way to bring joy into my life is to buy me a pack of differently designed or tourist-y playing cards. So between the ones I buy myself and the ones others buy me, I have quite the collection.

  15. that's so fun! i can't say that i have ever picked through a garbage pile, but that is only because i have never seen a good one! too bad about that cool crate!

  16. A couple of years ago I picked up a small wine crate from a garbage pile on a street in Paris. Packed it in my (Large)suitcase. My husband thought I was crazy.

  17. Basically I just want to say I LOVE your dress in this post. :-)

  18. yup -- eyes went straight to the gorgeous turquoise crate! You could've bundled up a whole wad of that stuff into it (just wondering why you ignored the diving flag?) and had it freighted home.

    "As far as souvenirs not involving flatulence..." -- hahaha! Just wait 'til you have three sons (and mayhap a perpetually adolescent husband...) They seem to gravitate towards those shirts and read them all aloud. I can already hear "Fartbeat of America" in my youngest's tones. ;D

  19. Confession: my heart ACTUALLY skipped a beat when I saw the pile and the "free" sign. Is there anything better?!

    Okay, maybe the "fartbeat of america," which I'm ashamed to say I'm still giggling over.

  20. You'll always have a fun story to tell whenever you break out the tealight holders. Well, we were in Key West and saw this "Free" sign...

  21. I'm not even sure where to begin on this one, Erin. It kind of all went out the window at the onset of the very large pair of tidy whities.


    (Florida garbage is much nicer than NY garbage. Yes? ;)

  22. Anonymous1/30/2014

    Just came across your blog. I'm a shameless free stuff junkie and l o v e the picture of you next to the 'free' sign in Key West! Makes me wish I had been in this thrifting mode when I went there in my 20s. :) I found you looking for other 'owls' like one I found at a flea market recently. I'm thinking mine is also from Jamaica or there abouts. No signature on bottom though... :( oh well. :) fun read! take care...


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