From the Toronto Sun, November 2, 2008


Trashy habits
Connie C. won't show her face but is proud to display her prize find

By JOANNE RICHARD, Special to Sun Media
Last Updated: 2nd November 2008, 3:03am

Connie C. is ashamed of her weekly morning activity.

Once the kids have left for school, Connie combs the neighbourhood streets every Tuesday looking for a quick fix -- and, occasionally, she scores big.

The mother of three has found treasures in other people's trash including chairs, toys and her prize find -- an antique upright radio that she refinished and uses in her foyer. "I just make it look like the dog is sniffing around, while what I'm really doing is checking out their discarded items," says Connie. "I don't want people to know what I'm doing."

While, "one man's junk may in fact be another man's treasure," she isn't the only one embarrassed about her trashy habit known as curb-mining. According to a new survey, although it's become commonplace, curb miners are not so proud to tell everyone where they got such an deal. While 44% of Canadians admit to curb mining, one is six thinks it is unacceptable.

"I'm ashamed because it makes me look cheap. Who wants to look cheap?" asks Connie, 46.

That's the big draw for 40% of curb-miners, a $0 price tag, reports the survey by Kijiji, a group of classified websites.

Connie's been curb-mining since owning her first house: "I needed stuff to fill it and when the house got full I couldn't stop looking -- it's too much fun," says Connie, adding that if she hits the jackpot with a great find then "I'm proud to tell folks I garbage-picked it."

According to therapist Heather McKechnie, "picking through someone else's garbage was generally attributed to poor people and still carries some of the shame associated with it even today."

But with growing environmentalism, "there seems to be a growing awareness to pass items on to those who might want them rather than take them to the dump," says McKechnie. "This is a good shift, especially items like computers and mattresses that can be both dangerous to the environment, but can be recycled."

The survey found 79% take the environment into consideration when getting rid of unwanted household items.

Besides roaming the streets in search of items, Kijiji boasts a shameless online way of accumulating free stuff by connecting curb miners to clutter collectors. And there's lots of those around: While 35% admit they're clutter collectors, more than 50% of households are holding on to unwanted items such as old furniture and toys, reports the survey. Not surprisingly, 68% of Canadians surveyed indicate they'd dejunk if there was a free and stress-free way.

So curb miners and clutter collectors unite for some online free-cycling: "Rather than rummaging through someone else's discarded items, a special section of the Kijiji website dedicated to 'Free Stuff' allows curb-miners to quickly access items available at no cost," says Cole Reiken, of Kijiji.

Finding free used goods online means curb-miners have nothing to be ashamed of -- and unwanted items get a second life, adds Reiken, whose Kijiji sites offer a convenient way for people in the same city to meet, trade, share ideas, and help each other out in areas such as housing, jobs, services, cars, and personals.

According to McKechnie, "it does give people pleasure to see someone taking their previously prized possessions away with the assumption that someone new can enjoy whatever we no longer need."

We're huge consumers, adds McKechnie, and it just collects around us. "Women are notorious for being clutter collectors. We have trouble letting go of anything in our lives that has some sentimental value whether it be clothes we can't fit into, our kid's baby clothes or toys or any 'stuff' that we attribute some sentimental value to."



furniture (52%)

children's toys (20%)

computers and electronics (16%)

antiques and art (22%)