I was driving my son to school recently and drove past some beautiful old doors for three consecutive days making excuses for not stopping to pick them up – while there were valid reasons, the real reason was that it was on a road often traveled by many friends and former professional associates and I could almost hear the gossip – “You WILL NOT believe who I saw trash picking on the way to work this morning!” People LOVE a good “fall from grace” story and some would say that mine is a GREAT one, so this would be the cherry on top of the proverbial sundae. Short story – by the time I got over myself and went back, the doors were gone and I was kicking myself. This was not the first time that such a thing has occurred, but I decided then a there that it would be the last.
It’s not like I have never picked something up off the curb before, but often it has been undercover of darkness, in a remote area, or in an area where I don’t know anyone. I have found many useful and lovely pieces this way. I have even defended the practice of trash picking. During a career day talk at a local high school, I challenged a group of disgusted-looking students to honestly consider what they would do if they saw a $50 bill laying on the sidewalk and explained that I what I do is no different. In fact, I recently heard of a man who claims to make $2500 on a good night by trash picking. (Boy would I love to know where he finds his “treasures”!).
The financial gain is not the only reason, however, that motivates me to pull something useful and or beautiful out of the trash. While the most devoted environmentalists may question my commitment, I do try to keep what I can out of landfills and believe that whenever possible, items should reused, recycled, or repurposed whenever possible. I also enjoy the challenge of trying to find a way to repurpose pieces or parts of pieces whenever possible. While this occasionally makes me and my workspace look like a good candidate for an episode of “Hoarders”, I often eventually find uses for much of what I pick up. Even more often, I regret not picking things up that would have been just what I needed when designing a project.
Finally, the last reason that I am ok with trash picking is that we seem to live in a throw-away society many that “have” are unwilling or unable to take the time to even donate their items to places where they can be distributed to those who “have not”. The items I pick up are high quality, often vintage pieces that I am able to pass along to clients at a very affordable price point that they may not even be able to find in thrift stores that have responded to the up-cycle craze by raising their prices significantly in the last year since I started my business.
So, yes, you may very well see me trash picking and I hope it does generate a conversation, because, after all, word of mouth is everything for a growing small business.