Over the past year or two, I've gotten some pretty decent stuff for free: a piano, a 48" rear projection TV, a 17" computer monitor, a file cabinet, some shelves, a couple pickup loads of lumber, etc.
The way I do it is I go to craigslist and subscribe to the "free stuff" category in my RSS feed reader. That way, I see all the new additions within about an hour of their being posted, and can jump on them quick.
The quality of the stuff varies somewhat.
- The computer monitor is in perfect condition.
- The piano had 2 broken hammers, but they were for high notes that aren't used often. With a little drilling and gluing, and they seem to work pretty well again.
- The TV doesn't have the sharpest picture or the best color, and it has a line down the middle where there's no red. Plus the sound input only gets one side, so I'm using an external amplifier. But it's good enough that we're still using it instead of our 27" TV.
- The lumber is from a deck that the owner tore out and replaced. Some of it is split, and all of it is weathered. But there are a lot of nice, long, straight pieces. With a little sanding, they'll be ready to go.