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.

The cull


In the last few months I’ve collected a lot of jewelry. Most of it came from two different sources: the pillowcase-full I found in April and the box-full (and extra bag) I found only a few days ago.

My friend had a yard sale yesterday and I decided to use my bike trailer to bring over some of the more portable items and that included all the jewelry I’ve collected. However, during the course of the sale (I made about 57$, for the record) I realized it was way past due for me to organize the madness that was my box of jewelry. There was a lot of good stuff but it was getting covered by the not-so-good – loose beads, un-matched earrings, impossibly tangled necklaces, and pieces missing jewels or other important components. Perhaps worst of all it was extremely difficult to find a pair of earrings even if I did happen to have both pieces.

After the sale I began organizing my mess with the help of some friends. I finished the job today by separating the earrings (in the tin can) from the necklaces, bracelets, and the etc. What you see in the picture above is what is left, the “good stuff.”


This is the box of stuff that wasn’t really saleable. It’s just as big (if not bigger) than the “good” box which goes to show how chaotic it was before I reorganized.

I didn’t want to throw this stuff out, as lots of people have interest in individual pieces for craft projects or to repair, so I contacted a local co-op with an interest in crafting and asked if they wanted the whole box. I got a message back this morning expressing a strong interest and I’ll likely drop off the goods sometime this week. I’m glad I was able to find a home for this stuff!

As long as we’re talking jewelry I might as well show you some of my favourite pieces from the other day…


These are a few pieces of gold that I’ll sell for scrap at some point. If the earrings had their match I would be able to sell them for a nice profit but alas.

All in all it weighs 2.2 grams which is worth about 56$ when assuming that the group averages 14 karats.

There’s a couple of stones which wouldn’t factor into that calculation. I’d guess that the real gold weight is a bit under two grams. I wonder though about that big earring on the left, it’s marked as 750 (18k) and has a pretty big rock inside and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out be a diamond. Diamonds are often set in high-quality gold and 18k fits that bill.


I also found a bit of silver. The chain is nice and I’m going to save it to add to a silver pendant. The rest, though, are just scrap single earrings which I’ll eventually sell for weight. Overall this stuff is worth around 14$.


Some people expressed an interest in the silver ring from the last post so I thought I’d show you a picture of the mark on the inside. It’s a pretty beautiful ring, if anyone has any info on the mark let me know. To me it looks like the one of the typical marks for sterling.


These earrings, oddly enough, are marked 925 (sterling silver) but they look more like gold. My theory is that they are vermeil, or gold-plated silver. Either way they’re super nice and vintage and should make me a nice profit.


Here’s a couple of odd pieces. The one on the left is a gorgeous and definitely vintage sterling earring decorated with a nice enamel design. I only have the one, unfortunately, so I’ll have to sell it at the yard sale to someone who appreciates it as it is. I thought the design was worth posting regardless, perhaps it was made by a well-known designer?

The other piece is a pendant with an intricate design that looks to be made with little stones.


Here’s some “kitschy” stuff. The earrings on top are made by “La Rel.” The going price for their earrings on Etsy seems to be around 25$. The cow pin is made of a hollow plastic, I mostly think it’s funny and I think I’ll keep it for myself.


I wondered if the yellow earrings were made of bakelite but I don’t think they are. The gold-tone earrings up top are definitely stylish. Both are pretty Etsyable.

Does anyone know what the enamel pieces at the bottom are? I just don’t know why they have those big holes in them. Regardless, the enamel is pretty nice.


Last but not least I took a liking to these old earrings. I like the earthy colour and texture of the beads. The (brass?) chain also contributes to it’s natural look.

That’s all for now. I still have a bunch of little pins to show you but that’ll have to wait. Maybe tomorrow!

In other news, this afternoon I sold the Marantz amplifier I found last month to a happy buyer for a cool 120$. Looking back I ended up making a pretty decent profit from that day’s finds. I sold the figurines for 95$ and a few of the books for a dollar each at my last yard sale – overall I made a bit over 200$ even after accounting for Ebay fees. Not too bad!

Someone else is dropping by soon to look at the silver-plate candelabra I found the morning of moving day which I put on CL for 40$. Hopefully it sells! July 1st is looking like a good day too come to think of it, the hanging lamp sold for 50$ and with a few other knick-knacks and this theoretical sale my profit for that day’s finds exceeds 100$.

Anyways, all this makes me realize that I really have to update my “Things I sold” section. Maybe… tomorrow?

Girl with kaleidoscope


There’s been a heat wave here in Montreal this week, with temperatures ranging from the 30s to low 40s (humidity included). It isn’t great weather for trash-picking as people tend to avoid doing anything strenuous when it’s too hot. I’ve taken it easy as well, as I don’t want to succumb from heat stroke or anything.

My bike also needs some more repairs. I went for a slice of pizza on Tuesday and when I came out no more than 10 minutes later my front steering had seized up. It loosened up a bit but it’s definitely something I’ll need to fix. I think the hot, humid weather might have exasperated the problem.

Today I did a little run of the Mile End. I saw this curious thing on an alley and decided to look up what is was when I got home. Apparently it’s a dental x-ray film processor. It might have had some value even if just for parts, however being so massive it was basically impossible to bring home having not brought my bike trailer. It had also been rained on earlier in the day.


Otherwise, I found a collection of cassette tapes and a kaleidoscope in a black bag not far from the “Give Box” on St-Viateur. I left them, in addition to some bowls and an ashtray I had found earlier, in the box for others to take. Not a minute later I saw an older man with two children, a boy of maybe 8 years and a girl of maybe 5, open the box to see what treasures were inside. The older man picked up the kaleidoscope and demonstrated to the kids how to use it. They seemed to think it was pretty cool and the kaleidoscope found a new home!

It feels rewarding to see a tangible result from all this redistributing I do. I try to leave things I don’t personally want in more visible places for others to find very regularly. It’s rare, however, that I get to see someone take it home, let alone a couple of kids excited with their new toy.

I spent last weekend yard-saling, hanging out all day and making around 160$ in all, though some of that went to snacks and beer. I got rid of a fair bit of stuff, which feels nice. Now I have room for more! I’ll likely have another sale in early to mid August. I’ll be moving for September, so I’ll definitely be motivated to get rid of some of my excess things.

I’m heading back to my home town of Shawville, Quebec for the weekend to visit with the family. I should be back for the Monday evening trash run, unless I decide to take that time to fix up my ride.