Ok…I’m just going to come straight out and say it. I am a picker. What is a picker you say? Well, if you ask urban dictionary it means “An early bird who hunt swap meets, estate sales, thrift stores, etc. and scoops up the good deals", if you ask my 4 year old he will tell you it means Treasure Hunter. I think Finn’s definition is better because when my family goes picking, we don’t hunt for good deals we hunt for totally free.
So depending on where you live, your council/borough/township/ shire or whatever else you might call the municipality where you live, they will have their own regulations around dealing with household waste. In Sydney, where I live different councils have different frequencies for collecting the ‘hard rubbish’ that doesn’t fit in the standard weekly bin. I’m talking, furniture, electrical, recreational equipment, kitchen goods, garden things etc. etc. etc. In the area I currently live the Council Clean Up as it is called happens once a year but in some areas with higher housing density it happens up to 4 times a year.
Australia is one of the highest waste producers in the world, recently ranked in the top five waste producing nations, on a per person basis. We produce over 18 million tones of waste per year!* Access to fast easy credit and cheap goods means we now throw away more as a society than we ever have before. Where as our grandparents and even maybe our parents would have saved up for a fridge or a TV and then prized that possession for many years, we can just get one from the shops, but now, pay later and toss it away for the council to deal with when we are ready for a newer, maybe better (but probably not) version.
To be honest these clean ups fill me with about an equal sense of overwhelming ‘I might pee my pants excitement’ and a sense of total and utter apocalyptic dread. It wouldn’t be so bad if people only threw out actual rubbish but the things that end up on the streets during these cleanups is frankly absurd!
Adam, my partner is a picker from way back. According to him, he is a picking ninja and could write his own blog post about the treasures he has amassed over his years picking. On Saturday though, while out at a birthday party I got a text message letting me know that he had the FEVER and this years pick had been elevated from number 5 best pick to NUMBER ONE pick ever.
The list below is just some of the things he found:
- 2 x Plasma TV’s
- Dyson vacuum cleaner
- Japanese made tripod and 3 x studio lights
- 60ltr glass fish tank, pump, accessories and two years worth of food and chemicals
- Clothes dryer
- Toaster oven (new)
- iMac computer
- Strange hybrid Billy cart bike
- Toy wheelbarrow and lawn mower
- Top of the range Speaker system
- Beautiful wooden bowl
- Golf club caddy (new)
- Radio controlled airplane
There were other things, quite a few other things but beyond this point we just start to look like hoarders! Basically everything in this list was in full working order. A few things needed some minor repairs, which my partner was able to do which impressed me perhaps more than fathering my kids.
So at this point you are either high fiveing me or cringing deeply and that’s fine, I get it. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea to sort through other people’s rubbish. I have to admit there have been a few awkward moments over the years like the time I was sorting through a massive bunch of toys in a very posh suburb in the eastern suburbs of Sydney and my boss puled up out the front for a play date in the house I was picking. I cannot even begin to tell you how embarrassed I was as I made up some ludicrous story about why I was knee deep in junk holding a discarded solar system model.
Its not just about the free stuff though, its about reuse. If we can save these things for just a little bit longer we have ever so slightly put in a chink in that nasty cycle of excess and waste.
Picking with kids obviously requires a bit of caution. If the pile looks dangerous or dirty then avoid it. Most of the time you really don’t need to actually dig, people tend to just toss things on the grass and forget about them. The other thing that requires a bit of caution is that your kids may actually begin to think that toys grow on trees, or on the footpath at least.
If you are looking to get in on the free or have some things in a reasonable quality that you were about to chuck on the clean up, you could consider listing it on one of the many websites that now exist to redistribute used goods like OzRecycle, Zilch or Freecycle. Gumtree and Nabo both have sections for free stuff and Facebook has lots of community groups attached to different areas that also facilitate the exchange of unwanted goods. There are also countless charity groups and refugee support networks that would also happily take working goods and give them a new home.
Or if that is all a bit much, how about just put them outside with a simple sign? TAKE ME I WORK AND I'M FREEEEEE!
So what do you think? Have you ever picked yourself? What is the best thing you have ever found? Are you dead against it? If so why? Feel free to leave a comment below. Lets have a conversation!