By now we’ve all been affected by this COVID-19 outbreak. Here in Montreal (as is the case in most cities, I think) most public gathering places, including schools have been closed down and events cancelled. I can still go to Tim Hortons, but it’s take out only – no sitting around and eating. There’s still people walking around outside, but the city is definitely quieter, and an aura of fear is palpable.

It’s all necessary, even if some aren’t taking it seriously (ie: the kids doing their normal spring break routine in Miami). If we do nothing, the cases will skyrocket quickly because no one has immunity to this virus. We have limited health care resources, including respirators / ventilators (which are necessary for more serious cases, and can occur in young as well as old people) and personnel, so it’s important to “flatten the curve” to ensure that hospitals can adequately care for those in need. If not, we run into a situation where doctors and nurses have to decide who gets a respirator and who doesn’t, which is currently the situation in Italy. By performing social distancing, we can flatten that curve.

At this point, I don’t expect things to return to “normal” for another two months. Even after that, there’s apparently a good chance of subsequent, but smaller outbreaks, so things might be different for quite some time.

The virus is having a clear effect on the economy. The stock market is now in bear territory, many businesses aren’t making any money, and a lot of people are losing their jobs. It’s clear that most people, outside of those in certain industries and the super rich, are feeling the crunch right now.

Thankfully, I’ve mostly been hoarding the money I’ve made, so I feel financially secure. I still owe lots in student loans, but that’s not a super immediate concern. It does seem likely that my cash flow will slow, however. eBay sales are down – only two items have sold in the last twelve days. My local auction house is slowing down its operations and could close outright (and even if they don’t, will people bid as much?). Assuming my two month figure is about right, yard sale season will also start a little late, albeit only by 2-3 weeks.

As for trash picking itself, fortunately social distancing is kind of baked into that already. The main risk is that I look through infected garbage, which would be impossible to spot. It’s more likely to find that in apartment building trash, given that many different people’s stuff tends to get all mixed together, so I’ll likely leave that alone for the time being. Most of my finds though come from single family homes or duplexes, which are less likely sources because of their low population density. Also, a lot of my strategy involves searching for stuff tossed by people moving, clearing out houses, and so on, and many of my current “spots” are ones I’ve had my eye on since before the outbreak.

So, I think I’ll keep doing my runs during the outbreak. I’ll try to be extra careful though, by using lots of hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes, and so on. What do you think of that plan? Please share any ideas or comments below!

Another thing to consider is how people’s garbaging habits will change as a result of the pandemic. My thinking is that folks might do a deeper spring cleaning purge than usual because they’re spending more time at home with nothing to do than they would otherwise. On the other hand, some people might be less wasteful if they’re feeling financially insecure, and others might be too busy with their kids (who would otherwise be in school) to do much spring cleaning. Maybe all those factors will even out, leading to a fairly normal springtime garbage boom. I kind of hope that’s the case, because I have a hard time staying on top of the “normal” quantity of garbage.

Anyways, I was fairly lucky this past week, despite it being the first one that was really defined by the virus. This Lavazza espresso machine was just sitting on top of a trash bin, perhaps evidence that some spring cleaning has begun. Despite making over 6000 cups (according to an odometer-like counter on the back) it still works fine. They seem to sell for around 3-500$ on eBay, so that was a nice (& easy) get.

The “part x of a million” person didn’t throw out anything for a couple weeks, and then one bag emerged this week. It was mostly actual trash, other than this very dry Montreal Daily Witness newspaper from 1908. I’ll continue to keep an eye on the situation, though it’s possible that the flow of trash is finally coming to a close.

I found some nice pottery and art glass on Monday night, the nicest piece of which was probably this ~11.5″ vase signed by Robert Held. It has a little chip, but it’s not noticeable. I’m hopeful that the spot that produced it will toss more quality junk in the coming weeks, seeing as the house has recently sold. I also found some good stuff there last week.

This Hummel figurine made it to the curb unscathed on Tuesday night. “Boy with umbrella” should sell for around 85$. It came from a spot I just discovered, which I hope produces dividends in the coming weeks / months.

Someone else in the neighbourhood put out some nice plants, including this crown of thorns. I’ve been wanting one for a while, so I was happy to find it.

I found more nice plants in a bag nearby. Here’s the entire collection. I ended up giving away the sad looking Christmas cactus and the plant that lost its soil. I’m going to keep the tree, which I think is called a dracaena. I forget what those leafy plants are called, but they’re pretty and don’t take much effort to maintain. It always makes me sad when people throw away plants, but at least I found these when it was above zero. Others aren’t so lucky.

That was a pretty good night. I also picked two bags of jewelry out of a recycling bin.

A lot of it was crappy, broken, or both, but I did save several nice pieces. The bag on the right is the kind you use to put your beans in at the grocery store.

The most valuable piece is probably that tie clip near the center right. It’s marked 750 (18k gold), and is worth around 250$ for scrap. Below that is a fun Mexican silver Snoopy brooch, which I think will sell for around 60$. To either side of Snoopy are different Calvin Klein pure parfums. The dangle earrings are by D’orlan, I just need to glue those stones back in there. The big brooch up top is signed Dauplaise. Because it’s quite large, I expect it’ll sell for around 60$. All the necklaces on the left are made using stone or glass beads, and that watch is a Super Edma. It’s not too expensive, but that band goes with it very nicely.

So, all in all it was a pretty good week for finds, virus and all. But let me know what you think of my plan, and any other thoughts you might have.


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