Garbage fatigue

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July 1st (moving day) is Montreal’s trashiest day of the year. I fully expected to get a bit of picking in despite my own move. However, after days of packing all my things and transporting them to my new place I totally lost my motivation. I got a case of what I call “garbage fatigue,” where I feel like I have too much stuff or am otherwise unable to deal with any new items.

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A mild case of garbage fatigue makes picking less fun and more like a chore. A moderate case causes me to lose motivation to go on the hunt at all. An extreme case makes me wonder why I ever got into the business of having so much stuff in the first place, and causes me to contemplate other lines of work. Any amount of garbage fatigue makes me a less effective trash picker, as even a mild case will cause me to stop less often at potentially interesting spots – I will usually assume they’re just full of junk I don’t want, or don’t want to want. All stages cause anxiety and make it difficult for me to relax in my everyday life.

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A factor that contributes to garbage fatigue is a certain guilt I have about leaving good items behind. I save a lot of stuff and this blog is evidence of that. However, it’s only a fraction of what I could theoretically be saving on a day-to-day basis. I hate waste, and unfortunately in this line of work I’m often the last chance for something to be used to its full potential. Nonetheless, I can’t save everything even if I wanted to. I only have so much space (both in my house and in my car), energy, and time, and a lot of that is reserved for items that can help me pay the bills. Garbage picking is my job, after all.

However, I still take home things (sometimes too many things) that I don’t really want in hopes that I can find them a home. Once I save these items I feel a certain responsibility to make sure they don’t go to waste, and often get anxious thinking about how to do so. It’d be easier if I thought I could just drop the stuff off at a local charity, but I’ve seen how many donated items are thrown out by second-hand stores; many of the items I’d donate would likely meet the same fate.

I used to try pretty hard (way too hard in my opinion) to redistribute this kind of stuff. Now I usually just leave these items in a box on the curb. However, I still get anxious thinking about what to do with the items no one takes, and trying to make sure I don’t put the stuff out right before a rainstorm. These thoughts clutter my brain and contribute to garbage fatigue.

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The best cure for garbage fatigue is simply to take a break, something I’ve struggled to do but have gotten somewhat better at recently. It can be hard to take a day off from trash picking knowing that great treasures might lie just around the corner. Still, it’s good for me to remember that there’s a much bigger chance that I’ll go out and find nothing at all exciting. I needed to take a break, especially since I had to deal with even more stuff than usual because of my move (and anything new I found would have to be moved yet again).

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July 1st (as well as the days before and after) is great for a certain type of garbage. There’s lots to choose from if you’re looking for clothes, furniture, electronics, curios and decorations, the majority of which isn’t infested by any type of bug. However, there’s really not much that I’d call exciting from my trash picking perspective. (To be clear, other types of scavengers, including can pickers and scrap metal collectors do quite well on moving day.) Wealthy people will toss some good stuff when they move (as seen in some of my recent Westmount finds), but average people struggling to pay their bills or provide for their family don’t often throw out much of value. There’s also so much more competition on moving day that you really have to be in the right place at the right time to make a decent score.

In short I was okay with missing out on moving day. This was especially true since it poured rain for hours! I also didn’t go hunting on Thursday, and did only a very brief run on Friday. I ended up experiencing moving day more from the perspective of a casual picker. The people who had just moved from my new place tossed a bunch of stuff when they left.

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One of the things they threw out was this old chair. It got soaked because of the rain but dried out fairly quickly. It has some wear (nothing too bad, actually) but is extremely comfortable. It has a new home on my front porch!

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For all the talk of garbage fatigue I actually did find some great stuff (which wasn’t tossed because of moving day) last Monday night. I’ll let you know what it was in the coming days!

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32 thoughts on “Garbage fatigue

  1. Susanne g says:

    I understand your garbage fatigue. You do your work mostly alone and that in itself may add to the difficulty. No one to say “wow, look at this” to. No one to really know the icky work involved. Except us and we’re not there in person. Probably lots of “you sure are lucky” comments. Know this: you are doing a service for the earth and we appreciate it. Even if we don’t tell you and even if you take a couple days off. I look forward to hearing ALL about what you do, even the lousy stuff. Thanks for writing your blog.

    • martng says:

      Thanks for the kind words! It is nice to have the support of this blog. My friends also end up seeing (and benefitting from) my finds. There’s just so much to potentially save is all.

  2. Fonda Rush says:

    I’m beginning to think that Canadians think about their discards differently that what I’ve seen in the United States. There are so many people in need or trying to scrounge up a few things to sell so they might have a few more bucks for food. Perhaps, your economic system (and I don’t really know much about it!!!) has something to do about it. Maybe your government takes better care of its citizens, while in the U.S. many people tend to fall through the cracks. Maybe in Canada there is a higher sense of abundance. I don’t know, but that would appear to be so. People cast off perfectly good items, and there is no one who needs them? That sounds odd to me, because everywhere I’ve lived in the States, someone would have wanted the cast offs — either for their personal use or to sell to another.

    Whatever the situation, I’m glad that you are (single-handedly ???) doing what you can to keep stuff out of the landfills. I just wish you passed others out in the streets doing the same thing!!! Best wishes!

    • martng says:

      Honestly, my guess is that things are exactly the same in the US but that no one’s blogging about it. I know of only two garbage finds-type blogs, and both are Canadian (the other being Garbage Girl Adventures, she comments here sometimes). There’s also someone called Mom the Ebayer on Youtube who’s from New York I think. Other than that, there’s not too many people blogging about it. (As an aside, as far as I know I’m the only person on the internet blogging about making a living from trash). I expect that Americans throw out the same amount, but for whatever reason aren’t blogging about it – unless I just haven’t found their blogs.

  3. Fresca says:

    Seems like it’s time for a Summer Vacation from Garbage!

    I volunteer in a Thrift Store, and I can testify that lots of stuff never makes it to the sales floor.
    However, at least a lot of the stuff deemed unsaleable is recycled, so it’s better than casting off perfectly good items in the garbage, which, believe me, people in the USA do *all the time*.

    It’s heart-aching, but at least you do save some, which is better than none.

    • martng says:

      How is it recycled, if you don’t mind me asking? It doesn’t seem like our local stores are recycling much…

      • Julia says:

        I know your blog through Fresca and I know her through volunteering for the same thrift store. The store isn’t one of the chains (for-profit, non-profit, or religious) so I don’t know how similar its practices are to other stores. It’s a pretty small one not far from a wealthy area of town, so its donations are high and space is low. Here are my observations:
        Clothing/fabric: maybe 1/3 (1/4-1/2?) of what comes in gets put on the floor. Things that are even slightly stained or need repair or are out of season/fashion or have pilling, etc., get recycled, as well as items that don’t sell after a few months. The place that picks this stuff up has a pretty broad distribution network. My understanding is that it might be resorted and sold elsewhere (including internationally) or make its way into things like car seat stuffing. Almost all fabric stuff can be recycled. The store is paid a small amount per pound for what is recycled.

        Books: I’d say about 1/2 of what comes in makes it to the floor. Some of what doesn’t is redistributed to other groups/organizations (many volunteers have connections to schools or other non-profits). A decent amount of great stuff goes into recycling (insides are split from covers, which are thrown out), which pains me as someone raised to venerate the word/books/reading. I particularly hate seeing the beautiful pre WW2 books trashed. I tried to get another local book donation place to pick-up (I don’t have a car) but I couldn’t get that organized. I’ve reached out to other places without success. Currently, I sort through what is going to be recycled and take what I can redistribute. I have one bag of empty neat covers that I’ll eventually post to CL for an artist/crafter who might use them for blank books. I redistribute about 50-100 lbs a week, mostly to little free libraries around town (they appear to go quickly, but I honestly don’t know!). I pass some on to friends.

        There’s also metal recycling, which I think is done via an individual who picks up maybe monthly. And electronics are recycled. And the store maintains a free box.

        It still pains me to see what ends up in recycling, but much of it seems partially generational–what I see as awesomely vintage/patinaed or interesting for its history is often viewed by other volunteers as beat-up or worthless because they’re significantly older than I am. Or, I should say, they have a much higher threshold for what to keep when it comes to vintage/antique stuff and a lower threshold for how much damage is too much.

        I know that’s a super long answer, but it’s really hard to see so much waste and I hope that sharing some of the ways that we work to decrease it will help!

        • martng says:

          Thanks for the info, it’s good to know that some thrift stores put so much focus into recycling. It doesn’t seem common for stores here (or maybe just big stores in general) to do this, for whatever reason. Maybe they have just decided it is not cost-effective.

  4. Nancy says:

    Take a much needed break and settle down in your new digs. Maybe the move made you realize a few things. I got the same syndrome from doing Garage Sales..at some point there just wasn’t room for anything more and I had to look at what I got and get rid of some of it. the ‘rush around trying to do as many sales as possible’ got me anxious that I was missing some real treasures, lol. You’re doing a great job and I also appreciate that you’re keeping lots of stuff from the landfill. Good luck next week xx

    • martng says:

      Haha, that sounds pretty similar actually. I’m surrounded by the garbage of three million people, so you can never run out.

  5. sybil says:

    I understand.

    What an indictment of our greedy disposable society.

  6. I’m not surprised at your bout of garbage fatigue. Preparing for a move, then the move itself and setting up house again is very stressful, and can be spiritually taxing. Enjoy your down time. When you’re ready to get at it again, you’ll know. *hugs*

  7. suzana says:

    Garbage fatigue or fatigue in general from any job is common. We all need a break at some point to clear our thoughts and find direction. Well done for admitting to that, take some time out and then get back into it with a new found enthusiasm. And I just love the chair. x

    *

    • martng says:

      Thanks. Looking back, I really haven’t taken a significant amount of time “off” since I started doing it full time over two years ago. It’s about time for a break.

  8. joe says:

    dude,i understand,for sure,(i pretty much recycle whenever i’m not at work,during,even) very few things in this world cannot be re/up/or down cycled,there are entire Countrys that do these as a matter of national policy or social culture,& of course,when times are hard,it becomes automatic for everyone,(think war economies or the great depression,or living (& rebuilding from the ground up) detroit’s social structures) this being said,it’s claro you have an Uber sense of social responsibility,allow me to assure you that you are a one man army of recycling,one of those guys who probably saves the day almost as if it were a bad habit,believe me,you are doing more than enough,in holland,you’d win a national award for this (no,really 😉
    (they have a yearly,much publicized award for most frugal/socialy conscious/ecological person/couple/group 😉 but anyone dedicated to a cause is likely to encounter the possibility of burnout just from the fact of simply doing what most others don’t,(just ask david suzuki or greenpeace or freegans or even independent/bio/microbreweries trying to foster some social cohesion,even the most elite lifeguards can’t save everyone,(or everything),you already move mountains 😉 (i mean really,ever considered the sheer Weight of how much stuff you save per year?) you’re already one of those people makin’ the world a better place daily,give yourself some props,have a cold one on the front porch & just enjoy man,you deserve it.

    ( & i gotta tell you,i’m a labourer/roadie/mover/picker myself,not for Anything (even riches) would i go back to the neon/gyprock/office\shop politicking/gossip jobs i once had,life’s too short,& even the most difficult weather is enjoyable compared to 40-50 hrs in a box waiting for the weekend,plus it’s waaaay healthier for body & soul 😉

    take it easy,like the old tune says, “we’re here for a good time,not a long time” 😉

    write you later this week,joe 😉

    • Susanne g says:

      Loved what you said joe.

    • martng says:

      Thanks for the good words. I too would have a hard time going back to “normal” work at this point. I have a good idea for a book that I’d like to work on soon, so hopefully that will work out and I’ll never have to think about it, ha ha. Talk soon.

  9. Jennifer says:

    Great Blogs,I never suffer form fatigue, there is always a surprise waiting.Did you check the chair around the sides.I found coins and jewelry over the years.I wondering now,if someone comfortable in life doesn’t contact you to open a small shop for the poor,to see the many items that accumulate on the street.This would help the community and also you,knowing that it will not end up in a landfill site.Finally,ever considered a partner? have rotating days,bring it back to a house,view it and share the profit after sales? Nevertheless,you are the first to show the World,just how is in suburbia.We don’t have to wonder anymore when walking down the street,thinking….. I wonder what they threw out.But was too embarrassed to look. Happy hunting. Jenny.

    • martng says:

      Thanks for the thoughts. I would be interested in a shop if I could find a place with cheap rent, and perhaps partner with someone doing something else (like a hairdresser). I don’t think I could find anyone to rotate with, the business simply isn’t lucrative enough and there are tonnes of logistical issues.

  10. Anon says:

    change/rest is always good.

    on a different note, wonder if this interests you?

    this seems totally stupid to me…especially when there was/is a place for these cubs at a conservation wildlife retreat…

    http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/07/08/conservation-officer-suspended-for-not-killing-bear-cubs.html

    Conservation officer suspended for not killing bear cubs

    The cubs were orphaned after their mother was destroyed for breaking into a meat freezer inside a mobile home in Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.

    After tranquilizing the cubs, Bryce Casavant brought them to a vet to be checked out and then to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association operated by Robin Campbell.

    An online petition has been launched by the association calling on B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak to reinstate Casavant.

    https://www.change.org/p/ministry-of-environment-mary-polak-reinstate-conservation-officer-bryce-casavant

    • martng says:

      Seems silly, looks like the cubs ended up surviving though so that’s nice. It seems that a lot of people are outraged so I expect the officer will get his job back soon enough.

  11. Marko says:

    Martin,you do good work but your garbage fatigue should not last for more than a week.I work as an air conditioner ,refrigerator and DVD player repairman.I also fix some old stoves and sell them.I always have workl,am busy and make a good living.Every year I take a week off and go to Cuba ,Vermont or the Laurentians.It recharges my batteries.You should continue doing this on a bigger scale.Have a partner full-time to make things easier and increase your storage space.Why not have a boyfriend or girlfriend to do different streets in the same neighborhood on a given day?During and before moving week,I picked up a few microwaves,fridges ,VCR AND DVD players from the curb in LaSalle,Verdun,Ville Emard,Lachine and NDG.I sold some for scrap,am fixing the rest for resale.Do not give up your blog and work—you have a lot of support in Montreal.

    • martng says:

      The main issue is that I haven’t taken a real break since I started this blog a couple years ago. I’m just going to take it easy for a bit. I’m still trash picking, just not as intently. The move was a challenge because I had to deal with even more stuff than I usually do, and now I’m sick of stuff ha ha.

  12. Carolina Harder says:

    I suppose it’s easy for me to say this, not being in your shoes, but i think you need to take a break from garbage, if only a small one. Maybe get out of the city for a weekend or do something in nature to lift your spirit. Take time to recharge.
    Seeing all the garbage all the time can be disheartening for so many reasons: waste, the leftover evidence of rampant consumerism, citizens’ lack of awareness, the bane of over-packaging, etc. Also because so many people are crowded onto an island, the amount of garbage is concentrated and so right in front of you/us.
    From your blog I can see that you’re about educating the masses too–kudos to you for that, but as one person, you’ve taken on a huge job. Would it be possible for you to buddy up with a few more people to strategize about how to be more efficient and cover more territory or leave notices for people that you’ll come by and take their stuff if they put it in a dry shoe box or something like that, rather than throwing everything into a black garbage bag? Could you get people to email you if they have stuff they don’t want that might be useful to you? Just brainstorming here…more media appearances too?.
    And if I can offer one –well, another– piece of advice, don’t keep so much for yourself because no matter how interesting or valuable it might be, it ultimately becomes clutter. Sell as much as you can as fast as you can no matter how much you like it and let go of its weight.

    Your blog is inspiring, and honestly, for the work you do, I wish you could be cloned at least a hundred times.

    • martng says:

      Thanks for the good words. It is a bit disheartening sometimes, and I’ve been taking it pretty easy of late.

      I can’t think of a way that I could buddy up with anyone else. There’s really just not enough consistent income in it to support employees, and though what I do is easy in a way it takes time and experience to teach someone to trash pick to my standard. It would also be difficult logistically to co-ordinate schedules and all that. I don’t think the shoe box system would work on a efficiency level – it’d be a lot of work even to check for them. Besides, most of my best finds come from people moving or estate clearouts, not so much from your average person living a stable life.

      There’s not much I keep for myself. I like art, lighting, and certain small objects and papers, and even then I have high standards. Most of the things garbage I want to keep fits into a box the size of a milk crate. I’m past most feelings of attachment – I want the money! I still like having a few keepsakes though, to remind me of this time and who knows, perhaps one day sharing them with children.

  13. Donna says:

    The problem is there are too many working appliances and too much good furniture thrown out.Too much stuff is manufactured and sold in the first place.Even the people you give stuff to or sell stuff to often have clutter.We all have clutter,and clutter does not bother everyone because many are able to organize it.The last respondent made excellent points,but I think it is not good to see everything as clutter.My friend inherited her parents’ furniture and books and kept most of the books and furniture,but sold several other pièces of furniture she received.

    • martng says:

      I agree with that. Things aren’t made to last these days, and production quality is extremely shoddy. If manufacturers spent more time designing things better then we wouldn’t waste as much. At the same time, people have mostly forgot about repair as a skill, and just throw things out when they break. Sadly, this is also more cost effective, mostly because our electronics are extremely cheap, which is largely because they are made by wage-slaves in China (and we obviously don’t pay them much). Sad state of affairs really.

  14. shereent says:

    I can see how you’d get fatigued, looking at the local level at missed opportunities to save things from landfill. There’s always the potential for one more ‘goldmine’ garbage pile around the next corner. For one man, you’re doing a great job in your city. Just don’t forget that, thanks to your blog, you’re inspiring people all round the world to look at what they discard and consider how best to save it from waste/landfill. Thank-you for that.

  15. Astrid says:

    Don’t give up your good work, but I understand fatigue when you have to deal with too much stuff. I got it when my house started to clutter up with unsold stuff. It started to look like a hoarders place! Oh hell no, not me… Found a solution for that when I discovered a free pick up center in my area over a year ago. Since then I bring them a big bag almost weekly. Ok I take home some too, but restrict myself to things I need or want for myself, or it has to be really interesting. During that year I barely made any rounds, only picked from the dump in front of my door. Now my house starts to look nice again and I’m inspired to get back in more seriously. Also got back to blogging about it again. And I’m so glad I came across yours!

  16. […] was especially slow because I haven’t listed anything new since my move. This partly due to garbage fatigue and needing to settle in to my new place, but it also hasn’t helped that I haven’t had […]

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