curbing (kûrb ng)
1. To search for reusable or sellable items set out as trash along streets or sidewalks.
Okay, I couldn’t find a definition for curbing online so I had to make that up, but it’s a pretty good one line description if I do say so myself.
In his Lost Notebooks Loren Eiseley wrote of a compulsion he usually had of picking up small discarded items while taking walks. I have a similar habit but it involves collecting larger stuff while driving around. I have been curbing since I was a kid and probably would continue even if I had no reason at all to do it.
I remember when the addiction first hit me. I was maybe 12 or 13 when I decided to build a club house out of old boards from a barn my brother and I had torn down. Behind my house was a wooded gully with a stream running through it and that’s where the little club house went up. When it was finished the next obvious step was to furnish it, but we had no extra furniture sitting around unused. Soon came garbage day and low and behold it was revealed to me: I could gather everything I needed from other people’s trash. I found a couple of upholstered chairs, a table, carpet and enough scrap wood to build a second story! Joy!
During the early salad days of our marriage, when we had very little, curbing helped to furnish our apartments. My wife has the infection as well, maybe not quite as bad as I do. Even after buying our house we continue to curb items. Looking around the place today I see found items such as two wicker chairs on the front porch, the entertainment center in the living room, a table and chairs on the back deck.
Besides just driving around getting lucky an excellent way to hunt for treasures is to find out when a local community has a weekend clean-up day, usually in the spring. Many towns and cities have web pages you can check for a community calendar, or just call city hall and ask when it will be held. My wife and I have hit two so far this year yielding plenty of scrap lumber to build with or burn as kindling, a replacement grate for my grill and a box full of country music cassettes.
As for how to make money curbing? Clean up the stuff you find but don’t want, take a photo of it and list it on Craigslist. That’s probably where those cassettes are going to end up.
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