Another Person’s Treasure

I’m not in Kansas anymore.

Well, I never was in Kansas, but you know what I mean. I’m not in any home of mine, past or present.

Sent out to buy fresh bread at a neighbourhood bakery, I’ve turned off the side street and am now staring up at a 10-foot hedge protecting the property on my right from the extra traffic on this minor thoroughfare. The hedge plant looks familiar but I can’t identify it with any confidence. Rhododendron? I don’t know.

I do know I’ve never seen anything like it in Alberta, Saskatchewan, or Ontario: the aforementioned homes, past and present. Nor is it just the hedge that catches my eye. Along its entire length, morning glory flowers twine whitely through the middling-green leaves.

“Gosh,” I think, not for the first time, “Vancouver really is wonderful.”

Wonderful? Yes. Perfect? No. In the next block, three cast-offs remind me that even this upscale west-end neighbourhood isn’t all boutique bakeries nestled among glossy-leaved hedges of improbable height.

Office chair


Stainless steel Breville coffee maker in a Vancouver alley.


White lawn chair with broken plastic webbing, beside the sidewalk.

Suddenly I’m very much back on my home turf, wondering irritably why people don’t follow the same protocols I do. Wondering why they leave their ugly junk out on the street instead of donating the usable or disposing of the unusable properly.  But I do know why: because it works.

Free for the leaving, the attractiveness of this disposal method is obvious. Free for the taking, even obviously broken or incomplete cast-offs become attractive and disappear (as the coffee maker did, sometime over the next 24 hours).

If they didn’t disappear, if they piled up, I would have cause, perhaps, to be annoyed. As it is, maybe I can just see this informal market as a grass roots exercise in reuse and recycling without the expenditure of a single taxpayer dollar.


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9 Responses to Another Person’s Treasure

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Random recollections:
    1. When we lived in Toronto, there were guys who drove around the streets regularly, just ahead of the garbage truck, salvaging furniture and appliances that would otherwise have gone to the landfill.
    2. A neighbour put out an old desk, with a sign on it, “Free!” Nothing happened. We suggested he change the sign to $30″. It vanished overnight.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – We have garbage pickers, too, but none quite so organized – or not that I’ve seen. Ottawa also provides for two treasure weekends, where anything left out on the street can be taken, as long as it has a “Free” sign on it . . .

  2. Marion says:

    I fit it in the ‘leave it at the end of the driveway on morning of the day before garbage pickup’ category, and find it a great way to recycle things that are just a level above garbage: a pot that I just can’t get clean, a lamp that needs fixing, and some things that don’t fit in the car for when I take bags and boxes to the local charity shop for re-sale. Very rarely is the item still there by the morning of our garbage pickup. Even things that are obviously broken disappear, presumably into someone’s fix-it shop. If something doesn’t don’t go, sometimes I take it back in the house, other times I leave it and declare it finally to be trash.
    But I like this system because someone can pick a thing up for free that they might not want to pay for at the charity shop (and because it’s easy, I’ll admit).
    I have also walked across the street to my neighbour’s end-of-driveway pile and rescued a few things to give them extended life: a wooden ironing board to stain and use as a plant stand, dishes, and exercise balls, to name a few.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Marion – I like your system, too. I wasn’t quite so crazy about cast-offs being cast off, apparently at random, along the street. Ottawa formalizes this on two weekends a year, but I suspect a lot of it goes on informally.

  3. Tom Watson says:

    You mean you didn’t stop and pick up that white chair? A stop at Canadian Tire for new straps and you’d have a nice place for either you or the Big Guy to sit on a hot summer day!

  4. Tom Watson says:

    Lol. Good idea!

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