Accidental workaholic

A very rough draft
A very rough draft

“Have you considered getting a regular job?”

This was a question asked by my therapist during what will likely be my last session for a while. Getting a “normal” (a word she is sure never to use) job is tempting sometimes. A normal job would provide more financial stability, that’s for sure. However, the most attractive aspect of traditional work for me is the set schedule. You get up, go to work, do whatever it is you’re supposed to do, and then go home and think about something other than work (though this is getting harder in the age of smartphones). By working you give up a bit of freedom but you gain comfort, a fair trade-off in many cases if you ask me.

As a full-time, self-employed scavenger I have all kinds of freedom. I can take days off whenever I want and I don’t have to report to a boss. I enjoy most of the tasks related to my work and choose to do them completely from my own free will.

The only problem is that I’m really bad at turning “off.” My brain has always tended toward over-analyzing and self-doubt and it (especially recently) results in constant internal questioning. Should I go on a hunt in the morning or should I spend the day getting things on Ebay? Should I be on Ebay right now or should I try to relax? Should I be relaxing right now or should I be researching my finds? The constant internal dialogue is exhausting and often leads to a state of analysis paralysis where I achieve none of my desired goals. I think of myself as an accidental workaholic, one who satisfies the definition not through a compulsion to work but instead the sheer power of neuroticism.

This all takes energy away from other aspects of my life. Cooking, for example used to be something I enjoyed doing but now rarely get around to. It feels overwhelming to think about planning a meal, buying groceries, and then cooking that meal while other work waits. As a result I rely too much on eating out which isn’t good for my health. I also feel too busy to commit to classes, workshops or cultural events that might help me learn new skills or discover new ways of thinking.

I think the solution is to better schedule my life. I’ve spent a lot of time with my therapist and friends discussing various strategies, the most recent of which is the quite strict but also very freeing. It’s characterized by how it delineates “free time,” forcing me to take a break around lunch and be done with work entirely – no Ebay, no research, no hunting, no nothing! – at 5pm. I also have Saturday completely off.

Having this free time scheduled is both exciting and terrifying. What will I do with all this extra time? Is “turning off” something I’m even capable of? While these thoughts pop up I’m mostly optimistic that this schedule will help make life a little less chaotic.


On Thursday I did a run through Westmount and Verdun. It was a grungy day where it felt like everything I looked at was oily, grimy or smelled like cigarettes. The pile above smelled like cigarettes. Everything was inside those really cheap black garbage bags that will rip at the slightest touch.


There were some interesting old things and I proceeded in spite of the smell. These are two old publications by the Sedbergh School, a private senior school in Montebello (a cute town an hour from Montreal) that was open from 1939 to 2010. On the left is a promotional pamphlet from early 1939 trying to encourage people to visit and enrol their children.


On the right is a “Sedburgh News” student publication from June 1950. It seems to have doubled for a yearbook as whoever owned this got his classmates to sign the back.

I thought it would be a good idea to do some research and see if any of these signatures belonged to anyone famous. This process turned out to be fairly easy – Wikipedia has a section of “notable alumni” in their Sedburgh School Wikipedia page. It turns out that two of these people are notable enough to have their own Wikipedia page. One is Pete Kirby (signature at top left) who won a gold medal in Bobsleigh at the 1964 Olympics before becoming a geologist. The other is Michael Pitfield, a long-time Clerk of the Privy Council (highest level civil servant) and Canadian Senator from 1982-2010.


Deeper in the pile were two old photos from the late 1800s – early 1900s. I find it a bit odd that I would find these but no other photos.


I also saved a few old tins. The one in the shape of a book contained a well-worn bible.


I went with my friend Sarah on Friday to a spot in CDN that has been producing for months. While we were looking through the bags a woman came out and aggressively asked us what we were doing. She accused us of making a mess but it was in fact someone else – I think a can picker had tore a hole in a bag earlier in the day. Regardless, Sarah did some smooth talking, diffused the situation and fostered a working if tense relationship with the woman. She ended up offering us two garbage bags full of stuff on the condition that we took them as they were. In the end we saved about four bags from the landfill.


For her efforts Sarah received a bunch of kitchen stuff, most notably a decent set of silverware and a working food processor. She was pumped.


I left what neither of us wanted in a box on the curb but kept a lot of nicer, yard saleable trinkets. I could have had a decent yard sale with all the stuff we found – the items in the picture above are just a few of many.


There was a plastic shopping bag full of vintage, if not particularly valuable costume jewellery. Jewellery is always a great seller.


I also brought home a nice little rug. I’ve been looking for one for a while now, though it remains to be seen if it matches my current room. It’s hard to find good, bedbug free rugs so this is a nice get regardless. I think it’ll look great after a go-over with my friend’s carpet shampooer.

To the sales:

Last weeks sales (June 16 – June 22)
-Sterling silver pillbox: to a reader for 60$. I posted this just a few weeks ago and someone emailed me right away to buy it.
-Silver sports “medals” from pre-war Germany: Ebay for 90$. I found these alongside the Nazi German passport. I did some research and found that they were made from re-purposed silver coins. I’ve already made nearly 400$ from this spot alone – I sold that 1824 Jewish prayer book for 150$, the freak show signatures for 154$ and these medals for 90$.
-Tea cup and miniature Eiffel Tower: to a reader for 3$. They told me to keep the change on a 20. Thanks!
-Mr Fuji action figure: Ebay for 10$. I’ve had this since September and am glad to see it go.
Total: 180$, 990$ since May 18.

A decent week if unspectacular week for sales. I need to have a yard sale soon, hopefully this weekend.

I’ve come up empty so far this week but hopefully tomorrow’s run through TMR will provide some nice finds. As always I’ll let you know.



I’m close to being broke. My next month’s rent is covered but beyond that I’ll have to make money to get by. I’ve previously been living (relatively) comfortably with a small amount of savings acting as a cushion.

The main reason my finances have dried up is because I’ve been going to therapy. For the last couple of years I’ve dealt with anxiety and panic attacks related to various intrusive thoughts. They kept getting worse, reaching a point where I would regularly panic while driving on highways and have intense anxiety when going outside of my “comfort zone” near my home. It was severely impacting my life and making my world quite small.

I realized I needed some help around the beginning of April and have been going to see a therapist once a week since. It’s helped a lot and I’m already feeling a lot more “normal.” The only problem is that at 115$ per session it’s really expensive. The extra expense quickly ate up my savings but it was worthwhile – it’s better to be happy than rich! I’m very satisfied with what I’ve accomplished even in just a couple of months. In an ideal world I’d keep going but after my session this Friday I’ll have to take a break and go a lot less regularly.

Therapy has also had an unexpected benefit, helping me become much more organized at doing this odd job of mine. I’ve tended to get overwhelmed by the amount of things I could potentially be doing at any given time (including writing this blog, listing on Ebay, taking photos, building a photography light box and so on) and as a result I’ve waste or inefficiently utilized a lot of potentially productive time. We’ve worked on some scheduling strategies and I’ve become a lot better at time management. The results of this are easily seen on my Ebay account – 17 (of 43) listings have been added in the last few weeks with my last five sales also being recently-added items. Listing more items mean more sales and last week was quite a bit better than usual – more about that later!

I didn’t do much hunting on Monday and Tuesday but made it out today for a run through TMR. I came across a few nice pieces of furniture in front of a house I’ve been frequenting for a while, the same place that gave me the Grey Cup flag and silver pillbox from a couple posts ago. I think these piece had been stored in a basement for some time.


This solid wood bookcase is my favourite piece. It’s in excellent condition, just a bit of sticky residue at the top from old tape that should come off easily. The little table is nice and should be fairly easy to sell as well.


I spotted these vintage water skis later on. The owner came out and tried to convince me to take a nearly brand-new toilet he had also put on the curb. He told me it had only been used for a couple years and that it just didn’t match his new place. I asked him why he didn’t just sell it and he said he didn’t have the time. I was already loaded with furniture and couldn’t take anything more but he was a cool guy.

Water skis similar to this pair have sold for 100$ on Ebay but these aren’t in quite as good condition and seem to be missing the bindings. I think I’ll put them back out on the curb and maybe someone else will find them.


I returned to the spot where I found the Expo 67-related ephemera last week. One bag contained photography bric-a-brac and a lot of expired film. I know people who like, maybe prefer to use expired film so those will find a good home. There was also a roll of negatives from a trip to Egypt in the 60s.


At the bottom of the other bag were these cute little ceramic figurines, the tallest of which is the rabbit at 2″ tall. They’re definitely vintage, the rabbit most obviously so but there are no makers marks.

Let’s get to the money:

Last weeks sales (June 9 – June 15)
-Vintage turkish coffee set: CL for 10$. Found in TMR during the winter, glad to see it gone.
-“Champagne” by Yves St Laurent (perfume): Ebay for 108$. This was a nice sale and the most money I’ve made off a scent so far. I found it in November but only got it listed last week.
-“Gio” by Giorgio Armani (another perfume): Ebay for 50$. Another recently listed perfume flies off the shelf. I think I found this in the TMR last fall.
-1824 German Jewish prayer book: Ebay for 150$. A local buyer bought it so I didn’t have to do any packaging and shipping. This is another piece from the spot near McGill where I found the Nazi Germany passport in late April.
Total: 318$, 810$ since May 18 (when I began keeping track)

If I could make 318$ a week I’d be doing pretty well! It’s not entirely unrealistic if I keep listing things at a regular pace. A good yard sale would be a nice boost as well.

I plan on going out tomorrow but to where I’m not sure. I’ll let you know if I find anything good.



My favourite spot in CDN has been less productive my last two times out. The well could be drying up, although I remember prematurely saying that a few weeks ago as well.


The only noteworthy thing I found was this framed picture featuring members of a YMHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Assocation) “Peerless Club” from 1934. I like its vintage art deco styling. Let me know if you have any idea what the “Peerless Club” might have been!


Monday and Tuesday were otherwise uneventful. I decided to go to TMR this morning and came away with a better haul.


This one house has been throwing away a lot of books over the last few weeks. I leave unfamiliar books to be recycled and take only what I think I can easily sell. This time around I got JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.


This book contains a years worth of “L’oratoire” (published by St Joseph’s Oratory) magazines from 1944.


Also in a black garbage bag was this small Greek Orthodox wall hanging. There’s a certificate on the back that makes it sounds pretty fancy (gold sheets on canvas on aged wood, Byzantine style!). I found a similar piece on Ebay selling for 141$. Maybe I’ll list mine a bit cheaper in hopes that I can sell it quickly.



There’s been a “for sale” sign in front of this house for a very long time. The sign is now gone and renovations seem to have begun.


The bags were mostly filled with junk and debris but I managed to scrounge up three nice crystal glass vases and an oil lamp.


My best finds though came from this spot. The garbage was hauled away before I had the chance to take a look (you can see the truck in the background) but the recycling bit was full of awesome paper ephemera.


There was a bunch of Expo 67-related memorabilia. At top are two complete papers from the opening (by the Star and Gazette). At bottom is a 1966 Montreal Star Expo preview and a Journal de Montreal from the day of closing.

(I decided to take the pictures outside. They came out well but also look like they were taken on the moon!).


Here are several copies of a Montreal 67 magazine alongside various Expo maps and documents.



There was also a great collection of Expo souvenir and guide books. Everything here is in really excellent condition and altogether should make me some nice coin.


Lots of people saved mementos from the moon landing and this person was no exception. None of these are particularly uncommon or valuable but people still love seeing them at yard sales.


Here’s a bunch more mid-60s/early 70s magazines …


… and a collection of 70s and 80s theatre and ballet playbills.


This Montreal Gazette was published around the time when the Bill 101 language laws were proposed in Quebec (1977). I like how Camille Laurin (the guy in the photo) is holding a cigarette during what looks to be an official media event.


Speaking of smoking, here’s a promotional comic book produced for the Canadian Cancer Society back in 1971. I suppose this was around the time people started realizing that smoking can cause cancer.



I love maps and appreciated finding this 1960 Montreal transit map. This was before the metro was built and many neighbourhoods (such as Ville St Laurent) were developed.



There were plenty more maps and travel brochures. I’ll sell some of these at yard sales while others might go to an Ebay lot.


These late 50s-early 60s Canadian travel booklets are quite beautiful. Since they match up they might do well as an Ebay lot.


A couple more souvenirs for events deemed noteworthy by whoever owned this collection.


I’ve found surprisingly few 76 Olympics-related things in the garbage to this point and was happy to come across these old tickets to football (soccer) and water polo events. There seems to be a market for these old tickets on Ebay – they go used for between 10-20$ a piece. I’ll try to get 100$ for the lot.


Last but not least is a booklet published by Hockey Canada as a preamble to the 1972 Summit Series, a Canada vs USSR 8-game hockey tournament during the height of the Cold War. Canada won (of course) and the final goal is a classic moment in Canadian sports history. Pierre Elliot Trudeau, the Prime Minister at the time wrote the introduction. I haven’t been able to find anything like it on Ebay so far and I assume it has a bit of collector value.

Last weeks sales (June 2 – June 8)

“Freak show” signed photographs: Sold on Ebay for 154$. These were found with the Nazi Germany passports at the end of April. Post
-Total: 154$, 492 since May 18 (when I began keeping track)

Only one sale last week but it was a nice one. I figure as long as I can make around 150$ dollars a week I can stay afloat, though at some point I’d like to make a bit more.

I found some good stuff (and was given more for free!) in Outremont this morning but will hold off on showing that for now. With any luck my next post will also include things I find tomorrow morning in CDN and NDG.