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Garbage fatigue


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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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!

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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