How I do it

I focus on household waste. I’m sure there’s money-making potential in business waste but my interest in history makes searching through the things put to the curb much more exciting.

Each neighbourhood has its own garbage collection day. Most take place in the morning but some in denser urban areas such as the Plateau and Rosemont take place in the evening. Different areas have different regulations which can be a factor in when or if I decide to go. I do a lot of work with bike and trailer but I’ve also been using a friend’s car fairly regularly since she moved here a few months back.

I look mostly for larger than average accumulations of garbage in front of a particular house or “spot.” I keep my eyes open for “for sale” signs, especially in suburban areas. By this point – I’ve been doing this off and on since 2004 and full-time since 2013 – I have a pretty good eye and also judge a pile based on the “look” of the bags. In general, a “saggy” bag means household waste, a dusty bag means renovation materials such as plaster, and a bag with sticks poking out means yard waste. Lifting the bag or giving a light kick reveals a lot about its contents.

I avoid a lot of the nastiest garbage through my screening techniques but still occasionally open bags filled with cat litter, rotting food, and diapers. I also see the occasional needle, a good reason to avoid digging into the unknown as much as possible. You need a strong stomach in this profession! I untie the bags as much as possible. Sometimes the knot will be too tight and I’ll rip the bag near the top and re-tie it when I’m done. The main goal here is not to make a mess, it’s not good for business and it’s not a nice thing to do in general.

I make my money selling online, mostly with Ebay but also with Etsy and Craigslist. I generally base my prices on current and completed listings and adjust up or down depending on my instincts. It’s hard to pin down a value for some items – in those cases I might start an auction at what I would consider a “very high” price in order to gauge interest. In general I use fixed-price “buy it now” listing but will use auctions when I think a bidding war could ensue. I make a lot of money from yard sales and bazaars as well, though these can be hard to organize in my current neighbourhood.

That’s the most of it! Feel free to email me at if you have any questions.

12 thoughts on “How I do it

  1. chiarcos says:

    I really enjoyed your blog! As a little girl, with my mum telling me “do not pick up things” walking around in the city; now, bikeing around looking at anything could grab my attention… And I feel so strong the importance of finding new ways – yes, to save some money, and also to do something for the environment.

    • yuhaiwing says:

      Thanks! I think saving useful things from the trash is one of the most powerful ways to help the environment. After all, not only is that item taken back into an “active” role in society, but we do not have to extract resources to build a new one or use landfill space to store it.

  2. JD says:

    love this blog I grew up in montreal still here. when I was a kid we didn’t have money to buy new things so I would troll the lane ways. I would pick up things and sometimes get a family table at a church flea market with the items i found. Please keep up the blog and it is amazing what people will throw out.

  3. Kevin Tinordi says:

    Please rescue books that you find in the garbage and recycling bins.You can either give them away,try to sell them or keep them and build a small or big home library.I have an e-reader,but I prefer reading on paper and I love adding books to my home library.Books must not be thrown out.You can also build a home library for yourself.


    Ooooh, you’ve got to read The Book of Eve, by Constance Beresford Howe. It takes place in Montreal, and the heroine does just exactly what you’re doing, after she up and leaves her rather rotten husband.

  5. Curious reader says:

    Dear Yuhaiwing, the things you find are unbelievable! May I ask if you would be willing to be interviewed this summer or if someone could come with you on one of your adventures? Do you accept to sell items you find to readers if they ask for it?

    • martng says:

      I go with others very rarely mostly because while I find some great stuff there’s not always much to share. For example, my recent trips to Hochelaga and Villeray turned up very little. It can be a lot of work for nothing, or you might find something great. If I do go out with someone I insist on having dibs 😉

      I’d be interested in interviews. I have done a couple recent actually.

      I do sell the things I find to those who ask – a lot of people emailed me about that last post actually!

      Feel free to email me at

  6. Love your blog! So happy I’ve come across it. Such a great concept and nice to see it lived out in real life.

  7. earthknight says:

    Saving items from landfill no matter the reason is brilliant. Cheers and good job. 🙂

  8. Amaia says:

    You are my hero, I love looking for stuff in the garbage too, I can’t even dream about doing it professionally. I have not yet come across anything as beautiful as what you sell in Etsy, but my best find is a pair of unused Levi’s jeans that fit my friend perfectly, which is not too bad either.

  9. Just found your site today. I was born and raised in ndg and left Montreal in 1980 at 21yrs old. Last year I lost my job here in Calgary and am currently on ei. At 58yrs old my job prospects are bleak and I fear I might end up losing my apartment once my ei runs out at the end of the year. Would love to do what you do for cash. Hopefully I’ll learn A lot from you. So glad I found this. Thanks. Tony.

    • martng says:

      Glad it can help. I bet there’s a lot of good stuff in Calgary, and there’s probably not a lot of people doing trash picking. Definitely check out some of the local trash days / nights, especially the ones in richer areas. Don’t be afraid to go through bags, but don’t make a mess. If you have a truck you could also do a bit of scrap metal work too.

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