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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Shocking Duplicity of My Existance Or Confessions of A Minimalist Dumpster Diver


Before my grandfather sold everything he possessed to move to Haiti, he owned three antique\junk shops in the Chatham area.  My memories of him begin with hot sunlight, dust billowing up behind an old rusty car as we drive down the dirt lanes of the prairies in search of dusty treasures for sale in someone's barn.  Some colorful beads, some unusual glassware, something strange and unexpected.  I was a very little girl but I remember the thrill of possibility.

And this my friends, is the shocking duplicity of my nature.  I have written about the appeal minimalism has for me and it does have appeal and value, there is no doubt.  I have admitted that I sometimes panic if I feel too "cluttered" or that I own too many things.  I do donate unused and unwanted things on a very regular  basis and feel renewed, cleansed even.  I crave a simplistic and zen-like existence.  Wandering the countryside, writing haiku's, wearing orange robes, communing with birds and foxes...I may be mixing up religions here but you get the idea.

So how can the following situation make any sense at all when measured against my zen-like aspirations?  Per comes home from work.  Announces that he is going to take a load of garbage to the dump.  I shrug my shoulders nonchalantly.  I don't really care.  Then he says that they have a room there where they put the good items and after people have unloaded their junk, they can browse there and help themselves to anything they like.  These words!  They're like magic!  Suddenly all my minimalistic ambitions fall away and I jump up eagerly announcing that I'm ready!  Let's go immediately!  And the thoughts that fly through my head...oh my goodness...oh my goodness...Colleen...breathe deeply...what if there...is...a long lost...Munch painting there in that little room full of treasure?!  What if??!!  I steady myself but my head is on fire as I contemplate the possibility of discovering some famous and beautiful work of art under time's veneer of dust and grime.  I run upstairs.  Should I change clothes?  Oh my goodness!  I'm so excited!  (Disclaimer: I never said I was cool.)  I want to shout out the window, tell the neighborhood of my evening's thrilling plans but instead I just hug it to myself like some delicious secret.  The dump!

It's like how I feel when I enter second hand bookshops or second hand  shops of any sort for that matter...I just have to rush around and look at everything.  Then I go around more slowly, more reverently, examining, searching out treasure.  It's a heady rush.

My own father has no shame about actually taking chairs and pieces of furniture out of other people's garbage piles and he has found and refurbished some amazing pieces this way.  I love used things, I love books that have been scribbled in by previous owners, hope chests that have been full of someone elses dreams.  But see I love these things just for themselves, for myself and I do believe that's where the difference lies.  In this affinity I feel with the woman who likes the same Edward Thomas poem that I do and made note of it in the margin of the book I picked up at a stall in Aberdeen for example.  I don't like these things to impress other people (and yes I'm aware of just how impressed they would be.:)  I like them because I just do.

So you see how very complex this situation is.  This seeking (and succeeding) in living a life uncluttered and yet this intense passion for sifting through heaps and piles of discarded junk at junk sales, in antique shops...at the dump...

In case you're curious, I found no long lost Munch (are there even any long lost Munchs out there?) but I did find that someone had actually thrown away a Giovanni Guareschi book in perfect condition!  For those of you not familiar with the name, the books are genius.  They are stories written about a communist leader Pepponne and his nemesis, a Catholic priest Don Camillo.  They are utterly wonderful and hilarious and for the most part, very difficult to find and when you do, they cost you.  And I found one at the dump here in Norway.  Not too shabby, not too shabby at all.

Peace out, from Grunge Queen Colleen

24 comments:

Grandma K said...

oh my, OH MY! How I would love to go with you to the dump! There is so much potential in these old castaways and sometimes not-so-old castaways!

When we left the farm I found a shed that I had never entered in 27 years. You would have absolutely loved the contents, all grimy and cob-webbed. The JD Salesman was not all that thrilled with what I chose to move the 100 miles to our 'new' home. But I can't part with these things that are so full of stories.... boxes, a wooden barrel all falling to pieces, benches, shoemakers' shoemaking stuff and so much more!

In another building I found old bibles with family names, some with dates in the late 1800's. And books! come see the books! The 'reader' of the family took compassion on a number of them. He understands the value!!!

By the way the JD Salesman now wishes we had kept more 'stuff' instead of selling it for nothing at the farm sale.

I am not that good at being a minimalist but a smaller home does help and I do feel good about taking 'stuff' to the local used 'everything' stores. The older I get the more I try to let go, thinking that our kids will have to deal with all of this someday!

One thing that i still accumulate is fabric but that is another story.....

Felisol said...

Yesss. We are kindred souls, indeed.
I always find something special to bring home after we have been at the dump...and I love Don Camillo. I buy new copies every time I find one, just to be able to give them away to anyone who show the slightest interest.
(Oh, both I and Serina have several copies.) There are more in English, than in Norwegian.
I've even visited the place where Giovanni Guareschi is buried and bought coffee at a cafe with his drawings on, close to the market place, while the orchestra was rehearsing a peace of Verdi in the dark, but warm evening in Roncole Verdi. One of my top ten moments in life.

Brian Miller said...

hehe i know the feeling when it comes to used bookstores for sure...and we yard sale...i figure that is more simple life than buying new...i am reusing....but i still avoid the clutter....

mary333 said...

I do dump runs! We have a treasure hut at our dump too! Tell you what, if we ever meet you can take me to your dump and I'll take you to mine:)

I LOVE second hand bookshops!I find gems there all the time!

Happy pickings!

Richard Collins said...

Don Camillo is a pearl beyond price.

Robin said...

You went treasure hunting... not the same thing at all!

Barbara said...

It appears that you did find a treasure!

Zuzana said...

Dear Colleen, I am the same. I am a hoarder and too inherited this from my fathers father. In my case it is a mix of heritage and necessity, the feeling of not having and to save. I can not throw anything away and you never ever find me throwing away food.
But, considering the state of my old house and the fact that when I was moving last year we spend about a week, driving back and forth each day to the recycling center (they are like yours, and i left MANY things at that place where people can browse;) just to get rid of my junk, I have decided now to strictly and without mercy dispose of things I do not use.
I think the hoarding and finding comes also because I am very romantic and sentimental with great imagination, thus I can find so much joy in small possessions.;)
Thank you so much for your recent and very poignant comment about home, glad it strung a cord with you.;)
xoxo

Colleen said...

Grandma K, your cobwebbed shed does sound very intriguing!:) As a child I was always so thrilled by the idea of moving into a house with an attic full of other people's treasure just waiting to be discovered.:) Those family Bibles sound like a true treasure...what a find!

Felisol, see I never knew about the byttebu until yesterday! Now I will be making up excuses just to go to the dump.:) Your moment sounds exquisite, thank you for sharing. I can just imagine how that must have felt, being there in that particular atmosphere...
Yes, I too look for Don Camillo books but I can't say I have had much luck! In Canada they are rare and pretty expensive even for copies almost falling apart it seems so I was excited to find it! Where have you had good luck finding them if I may ask? :)

Brian, good point, reusing is different! We're being good then.:)

Mary, so you have these places in the states too?? I feel as though the world has been keeping this a secret from me.:) I know, second hand bookshops thrill me...I can spend hours and hours and hours browsing. It may just be one of my favorite things to do.:)

Richard, you certainly said it best!

Robin and Barbara, you're both right. It was a treasure, maybe not a painting worth millions perhaps but even better, something I can enjoy and laugh at.:)

Dear Zuzana, I can understand why you are the way you are in regards to possessions and I like they way you describe it as well. There is something to be said about imagination playing its roll in our views on things. I'm not really a hoarder myself, perhaps more the opposite but I do so love "junk" and browsing and rummaging around delightful second hand or used places. I do usually get rid of as much as I take in though so I manage.:) Thank you for your comment!

Tara R. said...

I love browsing through thrift stores! It's like hunting for buried treasure.

Pam Lofton said...

Goodness! You would fit right in with our family! I love using 'found' objects. I also enjoy refurbishing them or turning them into something new! We are currently working on an old dresser- we've cut the legs off and I'm about to paint it for our youngest daughter to use as a window seat! It's a good thing I enjoy this type of thing since the husband is the king of finding things- in other people's trash piles. LOL

Rathi said...

These days, I feel I have a lot of things which don't matter to me at all... It is not like I don't want them to be there but I just feel that I could still be alright without them. I think I want to be a minimalist... but, I also love antiques... I love them, in fact. Paradox huh!

Alicia said...

You had me with this title.
My own Mom is very much like you, she loves the thrill of a good treasure hunt. Someone elses junk was definitely her treasure. In secondhand books, thrift stores, junk piles, back alley finds etc. Although faithfully following her around I inherited a deep love of minimalism. Both are harder for me than I could have imagined. I remember the smells and delights of hunting and I do cherish a good sort through our own goods to giveaway. But (but) I think the best way is to live vicariously through those who truly know how to embrace the diving. Happy Hunting! :)

Felisol said...

Dear Colleen,
I have bought my Don Camillo books and some others by Giovanni Guareschi through thirty years on numerous flee markets and at Fretex. If you send your post address to me (fruljung@online.no), I shall be glad to give you some of my Norwegian copies. I keep extras for "worthy" readers.
I even sent some to my "brother" in a monastery in the Netherlands. He liked it, and the abbot approved them, he had read them in English.

jane.healy said...

I love Don Camillo - years ago they serialised some on the radio.

That really is a find!

Rebecca said...

Oh, Colleen, I'm in a very complex situation myself! How I loved this post!

Peggy said...

I share your joy in rummaging through junk shops always certain there is a treasure to be found. A fun post!

Rachna said...

Looks like you were treasure hunting, Colleen!

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MamaRobinJ said...

So funny (but great find!).

Crown of Beauty said...

Loved this post. I can definitely relate.

Love second hand shops, thrift shops, flea markets... I always come home with something.

So is that what they call the dump in Norway - a byttebu?

What a delightful time I had at your place this afternoon.

Lidia

Shell said...

Anytime we set out any piece of furniture with our trash, it always gets taken, no matter how bad of shape it is in. Though I haven't gone searching myself.

Zion said...

I feel exactly the same way about "treasure hunts" such as these, and I wish I could be a bit more minimalistic then I really am but really I just accumulate weird stuff, I can't help it, my friend has been helping me sifting through the piles and piles of crap in my home since my divorce and she just keeps throwing away things that I whine about... seriously, I whine about the most silly things, now I can't even remember what it was that she was throwing away that I was so mad at her for - definitively not something I loved so much - ugh, well, I must go dumpster diving with you sometime :D love ya lady!

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Don Camillo was played by the French comedian Fernandel; I believe.

I remember seeing some videos on You Tube.

God bless.