Tag Archives: recycling

Step 70: Final Detritus Expands to Fill Space and Time

Despite your best attempts, despite all well-laid plans, despite everything, the last few items in your house on moving day will suddenly expand into piles and mounds of inexplicable flotsam and jetsam, which you must dispose of before you can leave.

I was tired. I was exhausted. My brain was mush. I chose the least elegant solution possible – leave it on the curb!

To all my neighbours, I am deeply sorry. (I hope there was something in there you could use?) To my garbage collectors, likewise, sorry sorry. To my friends to whom I left the last trip to Goodwill and the last bags of excess garbage… I grovel before you in abject sorryness.

(In my admittedly lame defense the reason for the desperate ditching act will be elaborated in the next post…)

(re. photo above: fabulous, no? Art installation by Moreno di Trapani, photo by Gianpietro Malosio)

Step 44: A Yard Sale just for Toys!

So yesterday we hauled out bins and bins of Lizzie’s stuff – just Lizzie’s stuff – and offered it all up at reasonable prices. She is a marvel, entirely unsentimental and avowedly “not so into girlie stuff” anymore. (Not entirely true, but she seems entirely cured of the Disney Princess Thing.) And she was ruthless with the dress-up collection, we cleared out a ton of stuff.

It was a gorgeous sunny day and actually pleasant to sit outside all morning and into the afternoon. (It was so pleasant I forgot to take a photo of her “store” – sorry! It was quite a pink and sparkly sight.)

A few very happy 2, 3 and 4 year olds walked off with tiaras and finery. A good friend bought  the toy castle. A neighbour picked up the Groovy Girl furniture for her niece. A lady who said she was a “fairy friend” whisked off with a pile of fairy books. A grandpa who had just built a playhouse for 4 granddaughters took the little vanity and stool. Our wee hockey nets were traded off to a classmate for Pokemon cards. (good deal!) And many outgrown books and DVDs found a new home.

End result? Nearly $50!

Step 18: Survive the Yard Sale

It was two days ago and I’m still recuperating. A bitterly cold day, with rain just ending at 7 a.m., whereupon I lurched into action hauling stuff outside.  People began showing up right at 8 and I was scrambling for the next 4 hours. Sometimes it’s hard to do things like this as a one-man band.

A whirlwind of activity. Two hours later I was still remembering stuff I forgot to bring out. Wanted to shut it down at 11:00, as planned, but people just kept straggling in. Finally staggered inside at about 12:30, frozen and sore all over.

End result – made a couple hundred dollars, cleared a fair amount of space in garage. Generally should have charged more for things, but of course I didn’t have time to pre-price anything, and I’m kind of a soft touch when it comes to pricing on the fly. And I’m an absolute and total failure when it comes to haggling.

Oh well, the most important thing was to get rid of stuff. And hopefully make a few happy matches of item to buyer. Example: the three girls, roommates outfitting a new apartment, who excitedly picked up my retro coffee table and side table. Or the little girl clutching the princess jigsaw puzzle. Or the couple from a few doors down, first-time pregnant, who picked out Goodnight Moon and a wee pair of hockey skates.

Or the older fellow who wanted to see my drafting table because he makes birdhouses and his wife is getting annoyed at him using her kitchen table for his workspace. (He didn’t end up buying it, because it wasn’t made of wood, but he did pick up an armful of file folders.)

I ain't payin' more than a nickel!

The people who made the day a drag, on the other hand, were those ones who arrived scowling, frowned at everything they saw, and gasped in disbelief and dismay when I told them the price. The worst was the old guy who actually laughed in my face when I asked for $2 for a hanging garage-style worklight. So unpleasant! So rude! So disappointing!

There were, thankfully, lots of people who chatted and smiled and joked with me as they looked over everything, and didn’t approach the whole exercise as some kind of cut-throat showdown.

Anyhow, it’s over.

P.S.  The surprises: Not even broke college girls will so much as look at a massive old tv. (it ended up on the curb for free and still didn’t disappear!)  Plus: Nobody needs martini glasses?? Are they passé or something?

Step 17: Prep for Yard Sale

my signs are nicer than this

This includes making posters, putting up posters, and getting yelled at.

This includes walking around two days later to find that many of your signs have been pulled down. (Not by yelling lady – the sign on her block was still up.)

This includes refining your postering strategy, scanning the streets for “friendly poles”. Not smiling Polish people, but streetlamp poles that are already bristling with weather-faded handbills.

This includes sending emails about the sale to everyone you know. (aka annoying your friends)

This includes gently prying toys, books, movies and knick-knacks away from child. (And a conversation just the other morning about what “tchotchke” means.) (Which reminds me I must BE FAIR. If I am allowed silly sentimental tchotchkes surely she is too.)

This includes being realistic about what you will ACTUALLY put to use in the future. (ie. hair cutting kit: will I actually ever learn to cut hair?)

This includes overcoming the impulse to just put everything out on the curb with a big FREE sign on it and hide in the house.

Step 12: Gifts to Friends, Or: Parting with Toys

Monkey tries to hide but is soon selected for the bye-bye bin.

I am truly blessed to have a semi-reasonable six-year-old on my hands. She doesn’t get her back up when I hold up one of her toys and ask the fateful question:

“Do you still play with this? Can we give it away?”

She actually considers and frequently agrees that the object can go. My biggest insights on toy purging are:

1. If possible, don’t do it all at once. Bit by bit done over weeks will seem less apocalyptic.

2. Parting with beloved objects is sweeter when they are going to someone special.

We have been on the receiving end of the second of these, as a few moms I know have been able to pry favourite clothing out of their daughter’s closets by presenting them to my daughter. And some wonderful items they are too! Beautiful winter coat, princess dresses, sparkly pants with butterfly embroidery, and a bright green furry vest just in time for St. Paddy’s!

Treasures go on to live another day!

Here’s another strategy of mine that I use on items I’m fairly certain the Boss will never miss – Toy Limbo. Throw seldom-used, on-the-way-out toys into a box and put it away. If child does not search about for or ask for those items for a long enough time, you can then throw them away without fear of tears and trauma.

Step 10: Reassess Previous Strategies

Grrrr. Two months have gone by? Why is this still sitting by the front door? (See Step 8.)

The whole “freecycling” thing is a brilliant concept but I am less enamoured of the reality. In Toronto and elsewhere, freecycling means finding homes for whatever you want to give away, as well as taking other people’s free stuff. (Via frequent email lists.) In large centres you can find almost anything… or someone who wants almost anything you have to get rid of.

Now considering the stuff is for free, I’m a little disappointed at how lax the recipients are about picking up. For example, dozens of emails, phone calls, cancelled pickup times, no shows… and lots of time hanging around the house waiting for people to show up – for each and every item in my house? Clearing out my stuff could easily turn into a full-time job!

Time to get efficient here, and the answer is: The Almighty Yard Sale. It’s an awful lot of work on the day, but it is only one day, and in the end you leave everything on the curb for anyone who wants it. Give it a few days there, then load it up and haul it to Goodwill or the like. There, all done.


Efficiency is my new god.

Hands! I need more hands!

(Is this worship only temporary? Will I have to ditch this new deity when I arrive at happy relaxed island paradise?)

The Saltspring Version


Step 8: Magazine Archive Begone!

My magazine subscriptions have always been a symbol of profoundly delusional optimism. After my daughter was born I retained my subscriptions to The Walrus, New Internationalist, Canadian Art and one or two others, in the misguided conviction that my brain still worked and I’d get around to reading them some day.

Months passed. They piled up.

Years passed.

I finally cancelled the subscriptions, but the stacks of unread magazines were a constant source of rebuke. I half-read them, left them in places where I thought I’d pick them up again. I even attacked piles of them, skimming through for articles I might find time for and bookmarking them with post-its.

Time to rid myself of the millstone of guilt. Risking the loss of a fantastic, life-changing article or two seems worth it.

And I just thought of a way to ease the pain: I may not have read them, but for years I helped keep them in business, thus doing my part for the world of Canadian publishing! Hurrah for me!

So I offered them all up on freecycle, not sure that anyone would want them, but, lo and behold, within a few hours I found eager homes for the lot! An art club is keen on my Canadian Art mags, a young journalist new to Canada took all my CCPA Monitors, and the New Internationalists and Z Magazines are slated for pickup in the next week or so.

Go forth and inform, my poor, neglected magazines!

Step 3: Craig’s List, Freecycle and the Curb

Bit by bit, I intend to chip away at this massive mountain of stuff. Here’s my modus operandi… Attempt to pull out anything that seems to be of value and try to think of anyone I know who might want it. If no one comes to mind, try to sell it (Craig’s List Toronto, consignment stores), then when nobody wants to buy it, list it on Freecycle (yahoogroups). If there’s still no response, if it’s entirely serviceable throw it in the box for the next charity pickup. Barring that, it hits the curb in a box marked “FREE” before finally landing in a trashbin/recycling bin.

What a flowchart of utility! Too labour intensive? Hopefully not, if I manage to dispense of just a bag or box of stuff every week. So far: a big bag of kids VHS tapes and a Fisher Price dollhouse have gone out the door to someone who can use them.

Baby steps.

One final strategy: do not leave items visible in open boxes or bags around the house or inquisitive five-year-old might reclaim them!