Tag Archives: moving day

Moving day 2017

July 1st is a bit of a phenomenon here in Quebec. Due to a law passed in the 70s a plurality of Montrealers, estimated at around 115,000 (or 7% of the population) move on or around that date. This leads to massive amounts of trash lining the streets, particularly the more transient ones where renters vastly outnumber owners (like rue Chapleau in the picture above).

In theory it’s a great time for garbage picking. This year was the first in a few that I wasn’t moving myself on July 1st, so I went on a bunch of extra trash runs in hopes of acquiring a bumper crop of trash.

However, the extra effort didn’t pay off. Maybe it was just bad luck, not being in the right place at the right time. But it might also be that a lot of the people moving on July 1st aren’t rich. It’s not like the McGill move-out day where most of the people are privileged. Those moving on July 1st are renters, not owners, and often aren’t well-to-do.

It also doesn’t help that pretty much everyone in the city knows about the event. There’s a lot of competition, and often I’d come across a pile only to find the bags ripped apart and trash strewn everywhere. I’m sure the garbage collectors hate this aspect of moving day, though I’m sure some appreciate the overtime hours.

It should also be noted that, although this blog is dedicated to the cool things that Montrealers throw out, many people, especially those in mixed-income areas are actually very good at redistributing their unwanted items. Charities get loads of stuff this time of year, and I saw many a “free box” on the curb.

The best part of July 1st is probably the furniture. My friend and I picked up several nice, mostly vintage pieces – they need a bit of love but my friend thinks she can fix them up. If all goes well I’ll share some “before and afters” in a future post. My own household acquired this unusual loveseat, it’s a bit funny looking but actually quite comfortable. Plus, the two halves separate which comes in handy during game nights. You have to be careful about bedbugs when taking furniture, but if you know what an infestation looks like they’re easy enough to avoid.

My best moving day finds actually came not as a result of my increased effort, but from just casually walking around with friends. I found a nice Guerlain perfume, and a bunch of other quality cosmetics / shampoos (which my friend claimed) while walking around the lower Plateau. The Guerlain has already sold for 15$ to a local buyer.

It’s good to trash pick with friends sometimes because there’s a lot to be learned from other people’s brains. One of the shampoos we found was made by Kiehl’s, a brand my friend noted as being expensive. I don’t know much about cosmetics so I made a note to remember the brand. Later on, while walking by myself I found another nearly full bottle of Kiehl’s not far from home. The price tag on the bottom says 27$. Pricey indeed! I’ll probably end up using it myself, even though my hair isn’t particularly frizzy. The shampoo smells really good.

I also found a couple containers filled with change. No loonies or toonies unfortunately, but it all probably adds up to somewhere around 10$. Easy money!

My best moving day find though came on July 2nd while walking with a different friend. I spotted these bags while walking to a restaurant. I gave one of the heavier looking ones a light kick, the contents sounded like dishes clacking together. I wasn’t expecting much, but I figured I’d open it anyways because our house needed a couple extra bowls.

Inside was a large collection of really nicely made pottery. And it wasn’t just that one bag, two others had also been stuffed with pottery. A couple people stopped to watch as I pulled piece after piece out of the bags. One lady, a grandma with two of her grandchildren, was dumbfounded and said she never saw anything like it. I let both kids take a piece each, which were going to be gifts for their mother if I remember right.

Another guy, who said that he himself was a potter, was impressed by the quality of the pieces and said that only 100 potters in Quebec could do them that well. I’ll keep a couple pieces for myself but I’ll sell the rest.

Thankfully my friend was there to help me carry it all back home. I filled two medium sized boxes (which were conveniently located near the pile) and we both put some in our backpacks as well. Needless to say our trip to the restaurant was delayed, but we did get there eventually.

Check out the rest of the collection below, and click on the pictures for a better look! Most of them are in perfect condition, only a few have chips.

Otherwise, I did well on the rich people garbage front (not moving day related, because most wealthy people own their home). I found this little wooden box near Westmount.

Inside was a collection of safety pins, as well as a collection of cufflinks.

I immediately recognized that this pair was made by Guy Vidal, the noted Montreal-based brutalist (1960s) jewelry designer. I love his work, and these cufflinks in particular are quite striking. I’ve found his work on a few different occasions now, and I expect these to sell for between 100-150$.

There was also some dental gold in the box, which I didn’t notice until I got home later. Tooth crowns are pretty gnarly, but dental gold tends to be a pretty high carat (16k apparently) and I expect this chunk to net me around 80-100$.

That spot also provided a collection of vintage 1970s toy cars. I thought this was a good find at first, but the cars are pretty beat up and of limited interest to a collector. Still, I should be able to get something for them.

That pile gave me a nice Givenchy perfume as well. It already sold for 17$. The Hermes came from elsewhere.

Let’s finish off with a vintage Bernzomatic torch box I found in Westmount. Inside was a small collection of junk, the best piece being a silver 20 kopek Russian Empire coin from 1870. It’s not super valuable but it’s pretty cool regardless. The box is nice as well and should be an easy sell at a yard sale. I’d bet that the box held a lot more neat stuff before it was tossed out, but such is garbage.

I’ve been looking for a garage or other storage option. However, I’ve had no luck thus far. If you know of anything suitable in the Mile End, Plateau, Outremont, CDN, Park Ex, or Rosemont please let me know! Ideally it would be heated and have electricity (I’d like to set up a photo studio for junk inside). Extra ideally my furniture friend would also be able to store things there and occasionally be able to use a power sander (no power saws though). Unfortunately locations in other neighbourhoods won’t work because I don’t want to to travel far. Anyways, if you know of anything please let me know!

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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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Moving Day Madness

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The first of July is a legendary moving day here in Montreal. In 1973 a law was passed that ended all leases on the first of that month to ensure tenants didn’t have to move during the winter. More than forty years later, the majority – around 70 thousand people province-wide – still move on this day. There’s always tonnes of trash out on the curb as a result.

The day is a trash picker’s paradise, for most people at least. The casual and opportunistic diver can easily find new furniture, clothing, kitchenwares and decorations for their homes. The scrap metal collectors receive an easy bumper crop of appliances and electronics. Even the can pickers have a good day – Having a cold beer during the moving process is a moving day tradition, especially when it’s as sweltering out as it was yesterday (around 40 degrees Celsius with humidity).

For me, however, it’s not really that great. There’s a lot more competition, and most things put out on the curb around moving day aren’t particularly interesting, at least from my treasure hunting perspective. Most things are well worn and don’t have much resale value. The main issue is my lack of storage space though. If I had storage space (or a store, perhaps) I could gather up lots of dishes, utensils, decorations and so on and have a nice sale with it all.

Still, moving day is a big event. A phenomenon. A good story if you’re a reporter. I was contacted on June 30 for an interview with CBC Radio One’s “Daybreak” and an interview for an article with the Canadian Press. Not long after my 7:15AM appearance on live radio (my first time by the way, I was nervous but it went alright) another CBC reporter called me and asked if I wanted to appear on a video segment for the 6 O’clock news.

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The video segment was fun to do (it starts around the five-minute mark), and they chose to include a funny clip of a toy Hannibal mask I found. I was pretty exhausted by the time the interview happened, but it went well. The Canadian Press article was a little disappointing. The reporter wrote that my blog was called “Stuff I found the trash” (blasphemy!), but I realize he was in a hurry and it still appeared in the Toronto Star and other Canadian news sources. All the media attention was an interesting experience. It gave me some insight into how journalism works, particularly the commodification of a story and the person (me, in this case) who might happen to provide it.

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I decided in advance to take the whole day very casually. I had planned to bike around mostly aimlessly and see what luck would bring me but a Saturday night one-man-and-a-pothole bike accident left me with nasty scrapes on my hands, stomach, and left knee. My wounds made it impossible to hold onto my bike handles for any length of time and made more difficult the bag-opening and sorting process. I ended up cruising around the city in my friend’s car which was quite nice given the air conditioning and the lack of traffic.

After my early-morning radio interview downtown, I looked around the Plateau a bit before deciding to check out greener (richer) pastures in Ville St Laurent, Cartierville and Laval.

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I didn’t really find much. There was a silver shoe pendant and a few pieces of gold scrap in Laval but I expect I would have found those regardless of it being moving day. The gold at least paid for my day’s coffee, snacks and gas. Two of the pieces are 18k making the melt value around 35-45$. I found plenty of knick-knacks but having mostly maxed out my storage space, I left them for others to scavenge. I really need to have a yard sale soon. Unfortunately that’s easier said than done given the circumstances.

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I was tired after a busy day but got up this morning to check out TMR, a wealthy neighbourhood mostly unaffected by the moving day phenomenon. I found a few cool things in these bags before the owner of the house came out and offered me a few extra boxes of stuff.

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The boxes were mostly full of different hardware-related items. I didn’t really have any interest in them but I usually take what people offer me – it makes the person feel good and at the very least I can put the items where other scavengers are more likely to find them. As it happens I was in St-Henri later in the day and dropped off the hardware at the ReStore, a Habitat for Humanity-operated thrift shop. It’s a good cause and an excellent place to donate your old tools, nails and so on. Montrealer’s can find it at 4399 rue Notre-Dame Ouest.

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My best find was waiting for me in the trash. I like old technology and loved finding this vintage taxi meter. It looks to have been made in France sometime in the 60s and is totally analog. A sticker on the top tells of a Montreal police inspection in 1972. It was a little bit grungy – normal age-related stuff – but I cleaned it up and it looks great. I asked the owner, a man in his late 60s if he used to drive cab and he told me he had owned a taxi company. Makes sense, most taxi drivers don’t live in TMR.

I think this piece could have some value, I’ll have to do a bit more research to find out.

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Inside the bags was this label-maker. It’s not super exciting or anything but I’ve been looking for one for a while!

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I also found this canteen. It features some nice leather work and looks to have barely been used.

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The original label is still attached to the side. It features an image of a small child holding up a sign, a few words in a foreign script and the name Debrecan which appears to be a city in Hungary. I’ll try to see if it has Ebay value but at the very least I’m sure someone would buy it at a yard sale.

Last weeks sales (June 23 – June 29)
-Collection of paper ephemera: to a local archive for 45$. I love finding old papers – pamphlets, posters, business cards, zines newspapers, whatever. People think this kind of stuff is cool but it’s not a big seller at yard sales and generally not valuable enough to bother trying to sell on Ebay. I’m glad I made the connection with Archive Montreal, a small Rosemont-based organization because it makes finding these things profitable but also because they’re genuinely interested in what I find. If you have old papers, music or whatever that was made in Montreal this is a great place to bring it, preferably for donation as they are a non-profit.
-Old leather bags: to a friend for 10$. I found these way back in March and they’ve been sitting in my friend’s shed ever since. They need some love but could be quite beautiful in the right hands.
-1972 Summit Series preview book: Ebay for 45$. I found this with the Expo 67-related ephemera a few weeks back.
Chinese propaganda records: Ebay for 200$. This is a nice sale, funny considering I actually tried giving them away at one point before doing the proper research. That would have been a massive brain fart. I found them around a month ago in a low-income, immigrant part of Ville St Laurent.
Total: 300$, 1290$ since May 18. If I made this much every week I’d be set. I’ve been a lot more active on Ebay in the last month or so and it’s paying dividends.

I feel like the finds have been a little dry lately. Hopefully they pick up soon. Tomorrow I’m thinking of doing a run in St-Leonard – I have to go there either way to bring my friend’s tires to a storage facility.

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