We have something here in the "big city" that I like to call "roadside Freecycle."
You may be familiar with the actual Freecycle, where you get on the Internet at www.freecycle.org, join a group in your area and offer and receive things completely free of charge with no strings attached. It's a wonderful way to recycle; I've written a few pieces about it for newspapers in my area.
The more informal version is what most people think of as "putting things out on the side of the road." You know, for the city to pick up. It turns out that here in the "big city," household items get picked up at the curb once a week, and people put out some great stuff that is still useable and in good condition.
The secret is stopping right when you see it because if you keep going and say you'll get it when you come back, it will not be there. Not even if you come back in 30 minutes.
On my way to pick up the girls from school one afternoon last week I spotted this plastic drawer cart on the side of the road. I stopped, backed up, and got out and checked it out. I determined it to be free of pests and cleanable, so I stowed it in the back of the van. After we got home I set it outside and cleaned it with some of my homemade cleaner (half borax, half washing soda, about a teaspoon or so in a half a bucket of water). I haven't decided what I'm going to put in it yet.
We have plucked a chair, a vacuum cleaner, a bicycle, and other great items off the side of the road. We are still using all of them. My sister, who lives in another city, snagged a baby changing table that I used to store the baby's clothes and necessities for a while. We've also grabbed a few things that didn't work, so out to our curb they went.
We aren't just on the taking end of this "roadside Freecycle." We've put loads of good working items that we just didn't care to keep anymore out on our curb. Things like televisions, computer monitor, a desk, stove, dishwasher, etc. All of them were useable and just required a bit of tinkering. My sister-in-law was only too happy to grab a television and a desk that I had set out on the side of the road. She happily watches the TV set in her bedroom while her kids play on a computer that is perched on top of the desk she scooped up. We saw the stove in a secondhand store. The poor dishwasher and the monitor sat out on the side of the road until the city came by after it.
If your city picks up household items once a week, keep on the lookout for good finds! (You might want to join the real Freecycle, too.)