Why do good people throw out nice things?

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Over the past two weeks I’ve found a bunch of great stuff at one of my spots in NDG.

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This pile was big but not that great. I did save some vintage food though, including these two apparently never opened containers of instant chocolate power.

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I’m not sure why, but I get a kick from saving old food and keep a small collection of old containers.

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I also saved a few old maps.

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The next garbage day I drove by and saw an even larger pile. There was a bunch of furniture on the curb, much of which I really liked but couldn’t fit in the car. The vintage love seat on the left was a particular favourite of mine.

As I was perusing the furniture a middle aged guy opened the front door. He told me there was a lot more furniture inside that I could have if I wanted. I took a tour of the house, and made arrangements to come back the next day when the car was empty. He told me he had inherited the house and needed to clear it out so that it could be sold.

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This funny little table was one of the pieces I saved from the curb. The table is an odd mishmash, combining a top and drawers that are probably around 100 years old with some wooden legs that were likely made in the 70s. It’s a little wobbly and looks a bit alien if you use your imagination but overall I think it’s kind of cute. It’s currently in the corner of my room, covered in finds from the past weeks.

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I also saved a pair of corner bookshelves. They’re nothing fancy, but they’re sturdy and work well as bedside tables.

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There wasn’t much of interest in the bags, though I did find a collection of vintage glasses …

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… and a slightly busted stone bird, which I should be able to glue back together fairly easily.

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Success!

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I went back to the house the next day with my friend Sarah to check out the furniture. He said most could be had free of charge, save for a few pieces his relatives wanted. I took an interest in this credenza and he helped me bring it down to the car. I was thinking recently that I wanted a bit more storage space, and this piece (especially because of the top middle drawer, which is divided into four sections) matched my needs perfectly.

Once I got it home I took a closer look at the credenza and found out it was made by Drexel, a classic mid-century furniture maker. This piece was part of their “Profile” line. As such it’s worth a lot more than I expected when I took it. This one is selling for over 1500$ online, though it is in near perfect condition. Mine is worth a fair bit less than that, given some minor dings and damage, but it’s still a nice get and a great addition to my room.

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The guy was clearly pretty cool. In addition to the credenza he also gave us a huge vintage punch bowl and was very pleasant all around. He also seemed actively interested in donating some of the items to charity. Yet, when I returned the next trash day I found some great stuff, none of which I had seen in my cursory look over the place.

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A lot of it was what I’d call “nice junk,” or things that aren’t worth much but are cool nonetheless. Yard sale stuff basically. My favourite of this bunch is the beaver bottle opener on the right which I plan on keeping for myself. It’s pretty heavy and I assume fairly old.

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The candle holder on the left has a modernist look to it and is marked as being Danish silver plate.

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The gun thing is a novelty toy. When you pull the trigger a plastic stick shoots out of the barrel. It seems pretty elaborate for a gag – it even has a leather holster.

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The lighter in the middle looks to be a knockoff Rollagas.

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This silver plate cutlery was stored inside a small plastic pharmacy bag. Most of it is Oneida Tudor plate, nothing super fancy but definitely better than the average.

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As I was given the tour I noticed this cat picture on the wall. I was told that it was going to be given to a friend who runs a cat shelter. I guess the plan changed as it turned up in the trash bag. Fortunately the glass didn’t break, and I was able to clean it up and trade it on Facebook for beer and chocolate. Apparently it’s a “Pity kitty” print, which were most popular in the 1960s.

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Now here’s some plain old nice stuff. One of my favourite finds was the old solid brass USN padlock on the left. It comes with two skeleton keys and works just fine. It’s worth around 50$. On the right is a Kitching tuning fork marked “65 MPH”. I wondered why it would say that, and learned that some police radar guns are actually tested using these forks. The more you know! It’s worth around 30$.

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My best find though was this old silver cigarette case. It was tossed into the recycling bin.

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A little coin is affixed to the top left hand corner. It’s marked “Gott Mit Uns,” or “God with us.” That slogan was widely used by the German military between the late 1800s and the end of the Third Reich. It’s also dated 1914/15, or around the beginning of WWI. I assume the coin is made of brass, but I should make sure it’s not gold before selling it.

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On the inside is an inscription written in Hungarian. A friend was able to translate it to “Given in memory of Brunhuber, Hoffman, Mittermayer.” It’s dated August 5 1915. Also mentioned is the now Romanian city of Arad.

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I’d like to know more of the story behind this piece. Its origin is clearly German, given this silver mark and the Gott mit uns coin. There’s also the mention of three different German surnames. While Arad is now in Romania, at that time it was part of Austria-Hungary – an ally of the German Empire during WWI. Romania didn’t enter the War until 1916, but the Central Powers were at war with neighbouring Serbia from the beginning and may have had troops stationed in Arad. Arad was also the site of a brutal Serbian POW / internee camp.

I tried to find other examples of this cigarette case online but saw nothing quite like it. There are similar cases, but they all seem to feature a large brass badge instead of the smaller coin that this one has. The coin itself is also unusual, as I was unable to find any others like it in my research. An all brass cigarette case recently sold for 70$ + shipping, while a silver one sold for 72$. However, both were sold using auctions, and I suspect I can get a fair bit more for mine if I set a “buy it now” price. Regardless, if you have any potentially interesting information about this cigarette case let us know in the comments!

I think it’s commonly assumed that the things I find are tossed by lazy, wasteful, selfish, or privileged people. That’s definitely true sometimes, as is likely the case for a recent find that I’ll share with you in my next post. However, it’s also true that a lot of nice things are tossed by good, relatively unflawed people. I have a few theories about why this is the case.

First, your average person knows nothing about the collectibles market. Many think that only the high-end, “Antiques Roadshow” kind of stuff is worth any money, and assume the rest is worthless old junk. In a way that’s true, because most of the items I sell are more or less worthless unless you know how to use eBay and otherwise understand that a market exists for the item. Many people aren’t even familiar with the value of silver and gold, and see the dark tarnish of silver as proof that the thing is dirty old junk.

Second, people with frugal parents might assume their old stuff is junk, and treat it as such when they inherit it. If there wasn’t much money in the family I can see how someone might assume that the stuff around the houses wasn’t worth much either. However, some common things in the past (like vintage 1960s toys) gain a lot of value with time, and items previously inherited (as I expect is the case with this cigarette case) will be extra old and potentially valuable.

Third, estate liquidators or appraisers can set low expectations for these inherited things. This guy told me that he contacted an estate appraiser but was informed that nothing was of much value, except for maybe some very nice art on the wall. They apparently weren’t interested in doing the job. That’s fair enough, because estate liquidators make their money mostly from wealthier households and this would have (at least from what I saw) been a below average job. However, that experience may have reinforced his idea that none of the stuff was of much value to anyone, leading the way for it to be tossed.

Lastly, clearing out a house (especially by yourself) is hard work. It’s physically and emotionally taxing as well as extremely time consuming. From that perspective, you can understand how one might not think clearly about some of the items they’re dealing with. It’s easy for me throw something on eBay, but that’s a lot more difficult if you know nothing of eBay or the market and have a lot more work to do regardless. It’s sometimes easier (and easily justified, given the points above) to just throw something out and move on the to the next bunch of stuff.

So, do you have any theories about why nice things get thrown out, whether by cool people or otherwise? Have you ever thrown out something you “shouldn’t have”? If so, why? Let us know in the comments!

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43 thoughts on “Why do good people throw out nice things?

  1. Karen says:

    That odd little table with the hanging drawers — those drawers are from an old sewing machine, like the old treadle machines. They get re-purposed a lot into other things. I love the cat’s eye glasses!

  2. Matt says:

    Cool finds!

    For rich people, time is money. They have a lot of money already and not much time to sell the stuff. That’s where you come in and thank God for that, right? 😉

    • martng says:

      That’s definitely true for rich people. 100$ is kind of a big deal for me, but for someone making lots of money it’s not really an exciting amount. Without rich people I’d probably be out of business, or at the least I’d have to get more into scrap metal or something.

  3. Jane says:

    We have so many “Thrift” stores here – Salvation Army, Goodwill, and many more so I think a lot of people take stuff to them, but many do throw everything out. I think your idea of not thinking it’s valuable or a collectible to others is true. I had no idea Pyrex and Jadeite were collectible until I got acquainted with some people who loved “vintage” kitchenware. To me it was all just stuff we used at home when I was growing up,

    • martng says:

      True. I almost used Pyrex as an example of something that has increased in value over time. People love that stuff now because it’s vintage, attractive and well-made, but at the time it was pretty run of the mill.

  4. Claire says:

    Hi Martin;
    Super finds as usual. I love the Murano glass ashtrays (I am guessing) and the chest of drawers.
    Another reason is YOUTH: I have been so stupid that I threw away many things I should not have when I was young and foolish, and only later on in life did I develop an appreciation for things with age.
    Now I really appreciate almost all things old or with history.
    Claire

    • martng says:

      Yeah I was thinking that at least the “shell” ashtray was Murano glass. Not sure about the other one. I don’t think it’s worth much regardless but it does make it cool.

      Good point about the youth. I’ve always loved old stuff and never threw any away when I was younger. However, I’ve certainly come to appreciate some things much more with time.

  5. Wow, that’s some post … and some great finds!

    Hi Girl Kitty, I see you there beside the peculiar/appealing bit of hand-made furniture with the sewing machine drawers.

    Those “bed tables” are great. What are you reading there? … The Abacus Protocol & Zombie Bedtime Stories … hey, we know the author of those. 🙂

    You did a nice job fixing that rock bird. Looks good now!

    That credenza is really beautiful. Clean, simple lines. Understated elegance.

    That cigarette case is going to look lovely once it’s all cleaned up. Will you clean it, or sell it, as is?

    I really enjoyed reading your excellent analysis at the end of the post.

    I think sometimes people (particularly older people, and people who inherit) throw things out because they simply feel overwhelmed by the job at hand. An anxiety thing, maybe. I know I’ve felt that way sometimes, just moving from one place to another (especially when the place being moved into is smaller and can’t hold as much stuff).

    • martng says:

      I’m going to do a bunch more research before I do anything with the case. For one, I’d like to make sure that coin isn’t gold because that could drastically increase its value. It can be hard to test for gold though without damaging the face, so that’s difficult. Otherwise, I’m thinking I’d leave it tarnished given the fact that it’s a war antique. Plus, I find polishing silver to be a pain in the ass.

  6. Briana says:

    I live in a large apartment complex. Oftentimes people are in a hurry to move out and they feel overwhelmed with having to clean their apartment so they can be out by their move date, rent a moving truck or hire movers, etc. We have found all kinds of great stuff that people don’t want to take with them – unopened liquor bottles, unopened food items – even organic stuff, and nice furniture and appliances. Other times, someone is mad at their romantic partner or roommate who left them in the lurch and they will toss out everything this person owns – especially if it is valuable and expensive. One guy put up a poster by the dumpster announcing a sizeable reward for his golf clubs that were left there. I wonder what he did to merit having his prized gold clubs tossed in the garbage?!

    • martng says:

      I wonder. It’s hard for me to tell why things are thrown out a lot of the time. But I imagine divorce / spite has resulted in some crazy things being thrown out, especially when those people are super rich. I’m thinking 10 thousand dollar wedding rings here. Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to find something like that.

  7. Zoe says:

    I recently saw another reason things get disposed of rather than redistributed: My grandmother sold her home in Toronto and moved to the States. As the sale of her house approached, I watched in amazement as she fretted about having to empty it, but took no active steps toward doing so. I provided her with estate sale company contacts, we offered to host a sale, etc, but no dice. It was a scramble in the last week and absolutely stunning things went for pennies or were taken for free. Much went in the garbage, I’m sure.

    It occurred to me that perhaps, despite choosing to move, she simply didn’t want to dismantle what had been her home for the last 30 years, the home she had lived in with my grandfather and that she had carefully filled with art, memorabilia, and decor she loved. That it may actually have seemed the better option to simply walk away from it intact, her memories of it unsullied by any mental images of its piecemeal destruction, strangers walking through and carelessly manhandling gifts from loved ones, having to deal with the guilt and sadness of getting rid of useful things, gifts, sentimental memorabilia, while not being able to ignore the fact that she’s too aged to keep it, maintain it, and that most of the adventure of life that resulted in the gathering of the things is over and done.

    Most of the things you save were loved by someone once, or at least were a fondly familiar part of someone’s home, and there’s something wonderful about all these random tiny pieces of unique lives lived floating around, almost being lost, but then, because of your chosen work, mixing together briefly and moving on to someone who will appreciate or use them again.

    I’ve been reading for quite awhile but this is my first comment. My first comment on a blog, ever, come to think of it. Thanks for writing this blog, I really enjoy it.

    • Ree Cee says:

      Zoe: You should comment more often – what a touching, relatable, poignant way to put it. I can see how your grandmother would feel all those things. I’m not at this point yet: “the adventure of life that resulted in the gathering of the things is over and done” but seriously – that is deep and quite moving.

      And yes – we acquire things that were loved or even just used by someone else and we appreciate them. I don’t know why I do it – it’s not just because something is inexpensive or free. I think I like the connection of something that has had a past life and enjoy extending it.

    • martng says:

      Thanks for the comment. I hope to see more going forward, because it really was one of the best I’ve had! It was very well written and insightful, inspiring me to consider the meaning of “things” both in terms of the ones I find and the ones I choose to keep. I’m glad you enjoy my blog.

  8. Julia says:

    After someone dies, I think there are any number of reasons why things get thrown out. Even in the best case scenario, grief is a strange beast and people don’t always behave as they would otherwise. Add in the lack of clear responsibility and you’ve got overworked apartment managers who do this with regularity, relatives who are only in town a weekend, siblings who might totally disagree on how to handle it, good-hearted casual friends neighbors who are picking up the slack when no one else showed, estranged children who have bad memories associated with it all, loving children who have totally different taste and never think about their impact on the environment. You’ve got environmentalists and hoarders and minimalists and people who only buy new and germaphobes and specialized collectors.

    In my observation, generally many people value things based on their own perception of how common it is, which is weighted by their age and interests. To the lay person, it might be a calculator and who doesn’t have one of those in some junk drawer? To the collector, it might be the first time they’ve run across an Olympus whatever data thingy.

    People seem to devalue things from around their own era, because they’ll be remembering a time when those were very common and in better condition. I have a devil of a time getting many “practical” seniors to not junk pre-WWII books or paper ephemera.

    I think even those who care about the environment and who see things as having a value will often throw useful or valuable stuff out because they honestly think it’s trash and they don’t want to burden the people in a thrift store with it.

    I do think the anxiety thing plays into it, particularly with a move (which is a significant life change and often comes with other stresses: lost job or new job, relationship ended or starting, children on the way, death of a partner, etc.). People rarely leave themselves enough time and it’s difficult to know what to do with every last item. And as a society (at least in the U.S.), we don’t make it easy to deal with getting rid of stuff, particularly en masse and particularly without a car, without throwing it in the trash.

    • martng says:

      Thanks for the thoughts, lots of good points! The part about people, especially seniors devaluing things from their era especially rings true. My own grandma often calls pre-war stuff “old junk” even though I think it’s super cool. Thankfully she doesn’t toss much out, but other people definitely do. Makes me wonder if I’ll have the same state of mind when I’m older. It’s a bit different now though, as thanks to globalization the products of my generation are all cheap Chinese crap with no production quality whatsoever. The stuff my grandma used when she was young was at the very least made to last.

      On a side note, I wonder if the collectors of the future will care much for our cheap junk. Will anyone want “vintage 2000s” Ikea furniture? Will any even last long enough to become collectible? Only time will tell.

      • Julia says:

        I think some of it will, just because of how valuation works. I know my aesthetic is heavily influenced by my older relatives (you know, the ones cooler than my parents). Nostalgia plays a part, which means that even the cheapest stuff can be very pleasantly evocative of good memories. We get all sorts of goods through the thrift store where I am and people of almost all ages will say “I haven’t seen that since I was [age]!” (Little kids’ll say “grandpa has that! Let’s get it for him!”)

        Then on top of that, poor quality materials and mass production can lower the survival rate of stuff that everyone saw when they were little and make it scarce/”valuable.” I mean, trying to cut cost corners by skimping on materials or labor (process) isn’t a new thing and I know that the stuff my grandparents used in the 1920s/1930s included stuff that certainly was NOT made to last. Think of some of what becomes collectible–war-era corner-cutting stuff (can’t think of any in particular, but I’ve had staff and customers both explain why a particular good is sought-after), Depression-era glassware of a certain kind. Even the goods like dish sets that people would save grocery stamps to trade in? Those can be pretty neat, despite “not being made to last” and being mass-produced. Heck, part of it is that is attractive is what it also tells us about how people were living at that time.

        At the same time, part of what makes our stuff cheap isn’t that it’s necessarily poorly constructed, it’s that we’re horribly exploiting other humans to get it. There are really beautiful items I see in some stores that I think are hand-crafted (sometimes it’s explicitly stated) in China or elsewhere and I don’t think that quality is really worse than whatever Auntie knits after work (except without the personalized love) and often better (depending on Auntie’s skills & yarn choices). I mean, I get that’s not specifically what you’re talking about, but that’s part of globalization too, the near-slavery and inhumane conditions of many.

        At the same time, I think you’re right. Inbuilt obsolescence is a relatively new (and hopefully very shortlived) business concept, at least at this scale. I feel like I see it most in clothing, but not in labor/processes so much as in materials. I don’t think it’s China that’s the issue so much as total cost-cutting with no accountability for a throw-away fashion market. I see so many shirts (particularly with synthetic fibers) that are pilling and unpleasant when they show up in the thrift store six months after they were in stores, or read about otherwise lovely rugs that are off-gassing and causing health problems post-purchase.

        I hope this doesn’t come across as too argumentative! I find all of this fascinating to ponder, esp. after quite a bit of working on selling used goods with people one to three generations older than me. It’s fun to talk about with someone else who’s thinking about it too!

        • martng says:

          That’s true about the low production quality of some old products. Chalkware, or the plaster decorations popular in the late 1800s until around the depression is a great example of that. It was a cheap medium of mass produced art that was seen as “low-brow” by many at the time. Yet, I find the style pretty cool and enjoy finding these pieces, despite the fact they are often chipped or broken.

          I think practical products were made more to last in those days, as compared to the decorative stuff. The toasters of the 1950s for example are bricks that probably still work today. Toasters now are plastic and junky and will often break in some way (if only in a cosmetic sense) within a few months of owning it. Maybe the 1950s toaster was more expensive, I’m not quite sure, but it’s certainly true that there would have been no cheaper option at the time, and that people would have repaired the item when it broke (due to its otherwise sturdy nature) instead of throwing it out like we do today.

          Overall, I think the art of design is mostly lost in modern products. Globalization is driven largely by capitalist motivations, and the products creates are directly related to its ethos. The key for companies is to make as much money as possible, and as you say this results in a race to the bottom where companies go to countries where the workers can most easily be exploited (often China, but also elsewhere). The cheapest materials are used, and product testing is kept to a minimum. True design and creativity are also expensive, so decorative goods are instead ripoffs of previously successful or cliched designs. It is imitation, not art. One could probably say the same thing about old chalkware art, but from what I can tell it still required more craftmanship (and less exploitation) than today’s dollar store figurines.

          Still, like you say people in 70 years may just be fascination with how kitschy and junky our current products are. In time, the early 2000s will seem very quaint.

          It’s important to note as well that quality products still exist. However, they are mostly out of reach of the average consumer, who is more or less forced to buy low-end, junky products. Wealthier people love brands like Chanel, Dunhill, Rolex, and so on. While some of this is due to these brands being well known status symbols, it also has to do with the fact they are actually quality, artfully designed products. I respect that. I guess I just wish that “low-end” products were created with a semblance of care.

          • Julia says:

            I agree with this, particularly about longevity of electronics over time. In the U.S. we have a problem with this because things are made to break rather than to last and we have no good system for keeping the heavy metals out of incinerators/landfills, let alone recycling them. Rather than paying the cost of disposal up front (say, a one-time tax or fee to deal with later disposal), people face barriers to safe recycling, reducing compliance exactly where we don’t want to.

            The design stuff really bothers me, especially the cultural appropriation (right now following the Dsquared problem via As It Happens) and particularly when important cultural designs are taken out of context, sold for throw-away capitalism, and made of poor quality, questionably sourced materials via exploited and invisible people who aren’t consumers within those markets. There’s such a huge difference between cultural curiosity (where a beautiful and/or well-crafted item might be a starting point for learning and cultural exchange & connection–who made it, out of what, why, how has it shifted over time and with trends, what is its use and/or meaning to them) and the vast majority of what I see going on in U.S. markets.

            I think your comment about the price of true creativity/solid design is interesting in the context of appropriation. It’s cheaper to steal the creative work of individuals who have been marginalized and still face lack of power/representation. There are rarely, if ever, meaningful consequences that actually discourage that kind of intellectual theft.

            One of the most interesting things about the thrift store where I am is the expertise that many of the other people bring to it. There’s one individual in particular who knows the ins and outs of kitchenwares over time, including which manufacturers were quality, when that changed (often due to buy-outs), how to recognize the items that are actually solidly built or repairable vs just bearing the “trusted” name, etc. It’s fascinating stuff.

            While I see movement towards fixing and mending items, I think we’re hampered by a lack of regulations and being accustomed to an overabundance of stuff. I’ve heard France has started legislating the product life of cell phones at least, so there are consequences for building things to break, but I don’t know what we’ll do about the sheer volume of stuff we’ve produced and continue to produce. Even if only 10% of it is reparable, I think we’ve got far more than the world needs, especially as technology increasingly allows for the easier reduction of personal ownership.

            One thing that I think the U.S. might do better than Europe (not sure about Canada) is that it’s more socially acceptable to buy things used at thrift stores and garage/stoop/yard sales. My understanding is that there people more often view charity thrift stores as being places for poor people to shop, rather than here, where most people understand that a charity thrift store is where everyone can shop, but with profits going to help various charities. But on the flip side, I think being accustomed to prices that don’t take into account either the labor or materials required to produce an item can skew people’s perceptions of costs and push them to make more unethical and needlessly cheap choices when the time comes to purchase something new (I know I have to fight that myself and consciously remind myself that while my life is primarily furnished from trash + thrift stores, my driving motivation is ethical, not financial, and I’d rather wait longer if I need to for a high quality, ethically made item than buy cheapest-possible for instant gratification).

            (Thanks for the convo! Love your blog!)

  9. Elsie says:

    Not sure about yours, but some of those nestle tins are worth big bucks.

  10. Ree Cee says:

    In addition to the answers above, I think people throw good, usable, collectible things out because they just don’t have the patience to deal with redistributing them and throwing it all out crosses the whole kit and caboodle off their list of things to do.

    Another theory is indecision. Do I keep, trash, sell or donate? Should I save this for so and so? Will I need this one day? Do I drop off the donations or have them picked up? There are so many decisions to make and usually it’s under pressure. Sometimes the easiest decision to make it to just throw it all away so it’s not staring you in the face every day reminding you that you have decisions to make.

    • mopiegirl says:

      Cool finds! If you every run across a vintage macaroni and cheese / Kraft dinner box, let me know. My husband collects the boxes. He’s been profiled on the Food Network before! Would definitely be worth $$$ to him.

    • martng says:

      True, throwing it all out is the easiest option. I do it myself sometimes when I feel overwhelmed by my finds, but I make a point to put it all in a box on the curb that people can rummage through.

  11. I remember the Pity Kitty, my Gran had it up on her living room wall. Never ceases to amaze what people toss out. Thanks Martin, love your blog.

  12. I think a lot of people see no value in old stuff – only shiny new stuff so think that this is all garbage. Thank goodness for people like you saving it from landfills. Family who lose loved ones feel overwhelmed at the thought of going through it all, and in some cases none of the family wants anything. They might have even tried giving away things for free – which shouldn’t be difficult but is surprisingly so when people are flakes and don’t show up.

  13. Ella says:

    I have “thrown out” things that were not trash before. Usually when I get rid of things, I list anything worthwhile on ebay and take the rest to a charity shop. However, I leave some things in the alley next to our trash cans because homeless people often are looking around for recyclable containers, and I know that an item might be useful to them. So I’ve left things like jackets that didn’t fit well, blankets I was upgrading from, etc. out there in clear bags for anyone who could use them. I know others do this, or purposely leave things in piles on curbs for people to look through. So perhaps some of those people are not intending to throw things out, but pass them on, if they’re more in piles as opposed to being in trash bags and bins.

    • martng says:

      I do that a lot myself. It’s a good way to go about things, at least if you live in a dense urban area. I often take stuff just to put it at the side of the road – it often doesn’t last long there.

  14. Raymond Tuller says:

    This is a fantastic post.Congratulations on saving the furniture.But you may get an unrealistic view sometimes about what happens to people’s stuff after they die.An older woman of 80 died last year opposite me on the street where I live,after staying there for 40 years.She had no children.Her nephew and niece took away some of the nice furniture for themselves and kept all the knick-knacks,paintings and photos.They sold a lot of the furniture,clothes and kitchenwear in a succession sale.The rest was donated to charity.They kept four open boxes of clothes,clothes hangers,plates,magazines,etc on the curb with a sign “Free Stuff’ on the boxes.Within 12 hours all the free stuff was gone.They threw out only old appliances,broken furniture,old food from the fridge and worn-out carpets.Two of my grandparents died over 5 years ago;we did the same thing with their possessions.Half was kept by the family;the other half was sold or donated.Do not assume everyone’s stuff gets thrown out after they die.People should read your blog to make sure they do not end up throwing out good stuff after a loved one dies.

    • martng says:

      For sure, some people are better at redistributing these things than others. After all, second hand stores are filled with donated items, many of which are from estates or because people have moved.

  15. Marcus Lethem says:

    Is the great spot in NDG where you found all the great discarded furniture and other stuff west of Cavendish or east of Cavendish?I used to live in NDG.Just asking.

    • martng says:

      Ask me again in a month or so, I like to keep more specific details under wraps until the spot is officially spent. I’ve made the location too obvious in the past, and lost valuable finds as a result.

  16. Donna Peterson says:

    Just a side note: You can sell those vintage unopened containers of food, etc. Also vintage toilet paper packs (unopened!). My mother had hoarded almost 20 giant metal cans of ground coffee, from Mannings to Folgers to Yuban, long forgotten in perfect condition in her closets. It was my brother who told me to try and sell, and we sold EVERY ONE. Not for a huge amounts of profit, but made maybe $10-40 each, as shipping was a pain. Not sure if it was collectible because of advertising or to be used as props for Hollywood (I’ve heard of it!)…I sure hope nobody drank it! But the coolest one was for Mannings…my husband had heard it mentioned on Mad Men, seriously. The granddaughter of the owners wrote to ask about it (it was maybe from late 60s or possibly 70s)…who knew that Mannings was a nationwide coffeeshop chain, like Starbucks??? Not me! I’ve also sold unused sealed packages of vintage sheets, not necessarily designer (Sears, Monkey Ward, etc). And then I saw toilet paper packages…I couldn’t believe it, but I figure they gotta put stuff on the grocery sacks in movies and tv shows, right??

    • martng says:

      It’s true, I’ve heard of prop companies buying stuff off eBay for film purposes. I’m not sure if it’s ever happened to me though. I listed my Quik container for a ridiculous amount – we’ll see what happens.

  17. Le-Chat says:

    I found a little table with a very similar top a week ago. If you’re curious see here: http://trashcollector.blogspot.nl/2016/02/vintage-in-ikea-out.html

  18. Jane F says:

    Great discussion – a lot of insightful comments! I plan to go back and make sure I’ve read all of it. I just wanted to throw in my two cents. When my grandmother died in a different country we tried to clean out most of her house in about a week. She lived in a modest semi-detached house and never threw anything away.

    Even for someone who wants to work in the zero waste field it was daunting. I encouraged my uncle and father to donate way more than they would have and I tried to find appropriate places for a large variety of items. As an aside: try to never throw away textiles! you can donate ANY textile as long as it’s not wet or mildewed to a major place (such as Goodwill or Planet Aid) even a single shoe! If it’s not resold in the store it will be sent to textile recycling to become industrial rags or padding for things like envelopes, boxing bags, and stuffed animals. http://www.weardonaterecycle.org/

    But the paper ephemera! I think you would’ve loved it! I was aware that with enough time and effort they could probably find new homes. But Grandma saved so much paper – hundreds of the envelopes to eventually right notes on the back. As her dementia progressed we would find important financial documents mixed in with stacks of useless paper. We had to go through every piece of paper to make sure it wasn’t important. There just wasn’t the bandwidth to address each cruise menu and ’60s tourism flyer. Ultimately, they were recycled and not sent to a landfill – making the value those that do remain increase. 😉

    • martng says:

      Thanks for your insights. It sounds like you did a pretty good job overall. I don’t think every old flyer needs to be saved, and it’s good you tried your best to recycle. If I was there maybe I would have saved some old ephemera, but there’s enough of it left that I don’t think it’s a big deal to toss some of it.

  19. sweetp says:

    This entire post is basically the stuff of my wildest dreams. Haven’t had this much vicarious fun since cleaning out Auntie Maura’s attic in 1998. That little sewing machine table is the best

  20. Leanne says:

    This post was a great trip down memory lane for me. Right off the top the Nestle Quik box takes me back to my childhood in the 60’s and 70’s before plastic took over the world of packaging.
    That credenza is wonderful and I am glad the owner passed it along to you, someone who has respect for recycling and reusing pieces that are in near perfect condition.
    I am currently selling my house and really appreciate your note that moving is physically and emotionally taxing! I’m single and my house is relatively small for the US, 1000 sq feet but it has taken me about 6 months to sort and get my house ready for sale! I’ve moved everything I want to sell to a storage unit and will have a sale out of that unit. Once that is done everything left will go to charity.
    For years I’ve sold items on eBay, Facebook groups and Craigslist but now I’m out of “stock.” Items that I know someone can use but the thrift stores won’t accept as donations I’ve placed at the “free space” at our landfill where everyone can leave or take something that still has value and is useful; left over stain from staining my deck and 6 tarps used while putting on a new roof come to mind, as both items were picked up by someone before I drove away.
    Once I get settled in my new home, (I’m in Alaska, moving to Utah), I will furnish my house with recycled and previously loved items from thrift stores and yard sales.
    I love your blog and look forward to your posts all the time. I have been watching your Arne Johansen jewelry for months on eBay. Cant wait for that to sell, great pieces!

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