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.

The day after

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Moving day has come and gone. My room-mate and I look a long bike ride passing through many different neighbourhoods including the Plateau, the McGill Ghetto, Centre-Sud, Hochelaga and Rosemont. There was tonnes of stuff out on the streets but we didn’t really find much to take. Regardless, it was a fun ride and I got to see a lot of the city.

July 1st is certainly an interesting day but not one that I, as a sort of garbage archaeologist, thrive on. I think it has a lot of appeal to the casual picker, the one who wants to furnish their house or find some cool knick-knacks, some clothes to wear, books to read, records to listen to, and so on. It also has a lot of appeal to professional pickers as well; there’s lots of scrap metal to be salvaged, vintage furniture to be fixed up (like the above), and so on. I’m sure there are treasures to be found too, but I think those tend to come pretty randomly. July 1st, from what I can see, is a moving day mostly for younger, lower to middle class people who haven’t committed to a fixed address.

My concept of July 1 might be representative of the places I went. It’s hard to tell what I might have found in NDG, for example, or if as many people would have been moving. It’s definitely far, but my impromptu tour across Montreal ended up being pretty long as well. It was definitely a learning process for me being my first July 1st trash pick. Maybe next year I’ll go out of my way to explore richer neighbourhoods, but I might just stick to the places closest to home.

I think after the “summer of trash” concludes I’ll try to learn a bit about fixing electronics. It’d be a useful skill that goes along well with garbage picking. For instance, I have a big flatscreen monitor in my room that sells for around 40$ not working on Ebay. However, in working condition it sells for close to 200$. Definitely some money to be made there.

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I went out this morning to Villeray but didn’t find too much. Now that people have moved into their new homes I see a lot of empty boxes out on the curb, which is sort of annoying when you generally keep your eyes open for big piles of stuff.

The only thing I brought home was this fishing rod (by Shakespeare, the company not William). It seems to be in fine shape but I don’t know jack about fishing. When my room-mate comes home I’ll ask him what he thinks of it, he has a lot more fishing experience than I do.

I dusted off the hanging lamp from yesterday and found a patent date – 1929. I knew it was vintage but didn’t really think of it as being that old! It was made by a S.R.L. Co. out of New York but I couldn’t find any reference to them on Google.

I’m going to do my usual Plateau run later this afternoon but I’m looking forward to a day of rest tomorrow!

Moving day!

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Moving day (known as Canada Day in the rest of the country) is here! For all you non-Montrealers, a disproportionate amount of people move for July in Quebec because of a law passed years ago that made most leases expire on July 1st. All that moving means that there’s a lot of trash out on the streets, even in areas not scheduled for garbage collection.

It’s actually my first year looking around for treasures on moving day. Last year I was in Alberta, before that I was working as a mover, and before that I was moving myself.

Much of the trash is composed of household items, clothes, and furniture. That being said, I’m not super interested in these things. I’m more interested in the archaeological element of garbage at this point, and there’s not really that much more in the way of old things to be found on moving day.

The prevalence of trash and the well-reported nature of the day (there’s even an article about it in the Wall Street Journal) means increased competition as well. I saw a lot of other pickers out on my morning run, including one old couple walking together with a little cart. Today is perfect for the “amateur” to make a few good finds.

In short, while moving day is fun I’m keeping my expectations tempered.

I think I’ve captured in a few images the average moving day “pile.” Above is the “we took mostly everything.” It often includes kitchen appliances and dishes, whatever half-open food was in the fridge or pantry (and occasionally unopened tins), and kitchen / bathroom waste (including half-finished shampoo). I usually make a point to take or set out cans of food but otherwise this pile isn’t very exciting.

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This is “what won’t fit in the truck.” Alternately it’s just stuff that wasn’t worth moving. Here there were some tires, a big old TV (which someone seems to have gutted for copper), some scrap wood and an orange armchair. The armchair wasn’t in perfect shape but I still thought it was nice.

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Finally, this is the “we’re leaving town / buying new stuff.” These people kept the stuff they really wanted and threw out the rest. That this is also what a bedbug pile can look like. I think this stuff (on St Zotique near Papineau) was clean, however, as the mattresses showed no signs of infestation. Regardless, I was far enough from home that I had no interest in anything here.

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I explored a Rosemont and a bit of Outremont this morning. I came across this stuff in the alley between Hutchison and Durocher.

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Inside one of the bags I found this ornate, antique-y looking hanging light. It definitely needs to be re-wired but it’s in pretty nice shape otherwise.

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In the same bag was this candelabra marked as being silver plate (by Lanthe of England). I found one on Ebay that sold for about 50$. Not bad!

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I also took an evening walk with my room-mate yesterday and found a few cool things. This is a tray from Portugal which I reckon was made in the 70s.

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I carried this big ol’ lamp all the way home from St Urbain and Fairmount. I bet it’s from the 70s as well and should make me some money at a yard sale.

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Last but not least, a cute handmade pot-pourri holder. The writing on the bottom indicates that it was born in 1966.

I’m going out for my usual Plateau run a bit later. I’ll let you know if I come across any special “moving day” finds.