Pick of the Litter
For Vic Mason, hard rubbish isn’t just an opportunity to find cool doodads
– it’s an eternal well-spring of joy.
Depending on your opinion, hard rubbish is either like a free shopping weekend or the messiest your street’s ever looked.
Full disclosure – it’s one of my favourite times of the year, so much so that I recently made an artwork where I collected stories of people’s hard rubbish triumphs. Called ‘Carnival of the Once Loved’ (a title lifted from a great article by Catherine Deveny), I painted images of hard rubbish items which had been lovingly collected by people and constructed a mobile that was displayed at Testing Grounds in Southbank. I asked each contributor for one line to accompany their piece and there was such affection shown to the subject that often they’d send me whole detailed stories of how it happened.
Sometimes the reason for collecting was practical, like furnishing your first sharehouse or filling that empty spot in the front garden. Sometimes it was strategic; to fix it up, or not, and sell it on. Mostly it seemed to be because people genuinely liked the idea of having the piece in their house, even if it meant repainting, repairing or reupholstering. On a few occasions the discovery was more than what it appeared to be and they got a snapshot into the lives of strangers. Just a few weeks ago a friend passed the discarded contents of a house (presumed to be a deceased estate judging by what was on the nature-strip) and looking past the dirt, grime and chaos of the pile, she found a box of items which included gold jewellery.
I have a few favourite sights that I keep a look out for. One of them is the group that’s found something that takes at least two to carry (perhaps a wardrobe or large dresser) and they walk through the streets with an air of self-conscious pride. The other is the clearly spontaneous pick-up that’s too good to leave for later so it ends up on public transport, like the woman loading a writing desk into the train carriage last year.
One of the most glorious sights was the time I saw a kid on a bike fly past me with a Thonet Bentwood chair on his back. I loved everything about that and I stood there & watched him ride into the distance. Last time Northcote had a hard rubbish collection I told myself I was only allowed to pick up things ‘for the garden’ but before long I was swinging a wire album rack in one hand & a Slazenger tennis racket in the other giving ‘The Nod’ to other people who were also picking up total gems – I even struck up a few conversations. This year I’m trying to jump categories from ‘The Rescuer’ who also gets a huge amount of joy when someone takes something from my pile, to ‘The De-clutterer’ who has the sense to release the things I’ve picked up in hard rubbish last year and never used. Let’s see how long that lasts, shall we?
The Seven Hard Rubbish Personality Types
The Rescuer/ The Collector – You often pick up things that spark an emotional response, it could be a childhood toy or some sports equipment you loved and you have to save it from being regarded as rubbish.
The Spare Parts Guy – Some things will always come in handy for parts including its of wood and wire. Also included are motors, fences and boxes of old electrical cords.
The Investor/ The Money Maker – You see something that you know is worth money. Even if you don’t need it and you’re never going to sell it, you still pick it up just in case.
The Shopper – You value council collections as your opportunity to pick up something that you may ordinarily buy – like plastic pots, shelves or a kid’s bike.
The De-clutterer – you use it as an opportunity to get rid of all the things you no longer want, even if they could go to charity, you add it to the pile & hope that someone picks it up.
The Fixer – all it needs is a bit of love and it will be fine. You’re willing to put some effort into repainting the draws or fixing that chair leg.
The Ignorer – You can’t understand why people get so worked up about other people’s rubbish