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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Weird junk at the dump

Cash, bombs, blueprints…is this a gangster movie or just the dump?

People tend to avoid landfills, and with good reason–they’re not exactly fun places to hang out. However, there are some mysterious and sometimes dangerous secrets hidden in landfills.


Mattresses stuffed with cash

Even in this day and age, people still hide money in their mattresses. Terrible investment, zero return, yet there are still people who trust their bed more than they trust banks. Sometimes, that money is forgotten and the mattress is thrown out. We’ve had this happen at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? before (and trust us, the customer is often just as surprised as we are!)–of course, if we discover any forgotten money we immediately return it to its rightful owner.



In Flagler County, Florida, someone found a live smoke bomb from the Vietnam War next to a dud grenade from World War II. We’ve seen it ourselves, too–one of our crews picked up the grenade pictured below during a junk removal appointment. Don’t worry–it was deactivated.


Rare video games

When Atari was going under in the 80s, the company decided to dump 14 truckloads of their video game library at the Alamogordo, NM landfill. They even poured concrete over the games to disguise them and it was only recently that a crew of filmmakers discovered them. Game enthusiasts worked with the New Mexico government to excavate the site to validate the contents of the landfill as part of a documentary on it. On April 26, 2014, the excavation started and quickly revealed the existence of the discarded games and some hardware, affirming the original speculation on the landfill's contents. Only a small fraction, about 1300 games, were recovered during the excavation period, with a portion given for curation and the rest auctioned to raise money for a museum to commemorate the burial.


Secret blueprints

Back in 2008, a homeless man was digging through the trash when he found confidential blueprints for the Freedom Tower in New York City. How do confidential blueprints end up in the trash?



There are numerous stories from around the world of kittens found at the dump. These furballs haven’t necessarily been dumped either, as many street cats choose to have their litters at the dump. After all, it’s a good hunting ground for rats and mice.

One of the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? crews in Vancouver found an abandoned kitten in a fridge they picked up!  A team member adopted him and called him Freon.



Not long ago, workers in Washington state found around half a gram of weapons-grade plutonium in a safe at the dump. The plutonium dated all the way back to 1946! Where’s Doc Brown from Back to the Future when you need him?


Why clutter matters

Whether you like it or not, clutter matters. Try as you might to forget about it, it’s time for a reality check. Why is it important to clear the clutter? For starters, clutter can have a negative impact on your well-being and, believe it or not, it can also affect you financially as well.

Here are our top five reasons why it’s important to clear the clutter and to live with less:


1.  Clutter can be a physical hazard

Clutter at home can lead to slips, trips and falls – and this is especially true if items are stacked high and you are unable to easily access the items you need. Clutter can also be a fire hazard to you and your family when it blocks hallways, doors, entryways, passageways or windows.


2.  Clutter costs you money

Clutter comes with a price tag! It’s simple: the more you have, the more space that’s required to store it.  Think long and hard about the amount of money you pay in ‘rent’ for your clutter: for example, if you calculate $5 for every square foot of your junk, you will most likely come up with a hefty total.  And even worse, those that run out of space are forced to rent a storage unit, spending even more money annually in ‘rent’. Talk about an expensive ‘habit’!


3.  Clutter causes emotional baggage

It’s easy to hang on to objects that tug at our heartstrings. When memories or sentimental moments are involved, it can be hard to let these items go. But hanging on to stuff you don’t need or use can be emotionally exhausting in itself when you find that it gets in the way or takes up valuable space. Remember, letting go of these memories will allow you to create new ones! Take a picture if you’d like, but then it’s time to say goodbye.


4.  Clutter decreases productivity

To put it simply: clutter will always compete for your attention. A clutter-filled home will make it difficult to focus on everyday tasks because you will feel overwhelmed, stressed and as if the walls are literally closing in on you. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: your living space often reflects your state of mind. The more cluttered the space, the more cluttered your thoughts will be!


5.  Clutter can negatively affect your health

It should go without saying, but your clutter can easily and quickly collect dust, chemicals, bugs and even mold.  Living in a cluttered home can also create headaches, fatigue and stress because the more clutter you have, the more overwhelming the thought of removing it becomes.

Host an AWESOME yard sale!

You’ll need good items, a conducive location, people to sell the items, and as appealing a display as possible. If anything needs to be assembled, do it in advance so a potential buyer can see what it looks like and how large it is. Offer a solution to deliver bigger items (ie. the number for a delivery company) so it’s easier for buyers to take them home.

How can I tell if an item is sellable?

Ask yourself these questions before slapping a sticker on it:

  • Is it broken or soiled beyond repair?
  • Is it unsafe?
  • Is it out of date and not old enough to be considered ‘vintage’? (ie. magazines)
  • Is it extremely specific or personal? (ie. a keychain that says ‘Johnny’)
  • Is it unhygienic? (ie. underwear)

If the item meets one or more of these criteria, it doesn’t belong at your yard sale. Even certain outdated items may not be worth trying to sell, like old magazines–shoppers don’t typically buy these. You’re probably better off recycling these things.


How should I prepare items?

Clean everything as much as possible. Use soap and water for the more delicate items, and detergent for pots and pans and anything that can handle a deep scrubbing.

Repair items prior to sale. Assembling large furniture will actually help you sell better than if you had a pile of unidentifiable boards and hardware leaning against a table or on the lawn!


What types of items are best-sellers?

In our experience, some of the most common items people look for at yard sales are:

  • Bicycles
  • Unique furniture pieces
  • Sporting goods
  • Knick knacks (‘ie. grab and go’ small items for the kitchen or the den)
  • Collectibles
  • Old vinyl


How should I price items?

Run each item–especially more substantial ones–through these questions:

  • What condition is it in?
  • How ornate is it?
  • Is the material good quality?
  • How unique is the item? (ie. it may be worth more if it’s difficult to find at big box stores)
  • Does the item have good structure and can it easily be refinished?
  • Do you just want to get rid of it? (price it lower and/or sell it in bulk, like a bag of baby clothes)

Ask for other opinions. Is there a price multiple people can agree on? Pricing is often more intuitive than you might think. As a last resort, if you can find a similar item online or at a store, see what it sells for new.

Once you’ve priced an item, be confident in the price. Set a ‘lowest price’ threshold for the item if shoppers want to negotiate. If someone wants you to hold an item, especially during peak sale hours, ask for a deposit to ensure they will come back for it!

Are you fundraising at this yard sale? Don’t hesitate to ask for higher prices and ask shoppers to make donations! Sometimes an item will sell for more, simply because the money is supporting a good cause.


What else will make my yard sale awesome?

  • Group items together so people browsing your sale really feel like they’re shopping! CDs together, books together, chairs together, sporting goods together…you get the idea.
  • Want to turn your yard sale into a bigger event? BBQ for your shoppers! Sell burgers and veggie dogs to keep shoppers happy.


What should I do if there are items left over?

Donate it: Clean items in good shape can usually be donated. Some charities will send a truck or van to pick up items; others accept drop-offs.

Recycle it: Plastic, wood, and metal items that aren’t in good enough condition to be donated can be brought to your local recycling depot. Did you find out some of the electronics don’t work anymore? Recycle them!

Junk it: If you don’t have time or a big enough vehicle to drive around and drop off donatables and recyclables, ask your friendly local junk removal company if they can come by. Sometimes we can come that same day!

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Storage ideas for your next project

Junk drawer no more

We’re all guilty of having that ‘miscellaneous junk drawer’. You know the one we’re talking about: the drawer that’s full to the brim with seemingly random items that don’t seem to belong anywhere in particular. Start off by disposing of all the items that you don’t use on a regular basis. We recommend following these steps:

  • Empty the drawer completely and vacuum the inside of it to ensure it’s clean and free of dust, crumbs, etc.
  • Convert the contents of the drawer into 4-5 different piles. Try to group together items that have a similar theme. For example: stationery, takeout menus, home hardware, etc. In the process, throw out any items that don’t work, or that you could live without.
  • Place shallow, clear plastic containers inside the drawer. Sort the miscellaneous items into each container. Alternatively, you can use clear plastic sandwich bags.
  • Enjoy your tidy new drawer!


Shoe storage boxes

This one is a shoe-in! It’s natural to hold onto items that we want to throw away, but we just can’t bring ourselves to do it. Cards, thank you notes, stationery, and wedding favors fit beautifully in shoeboxes! These convenient storage boxes will help to store some of your memories out of sight. The best part of all: you can easily store these boxes in your closet, on a bookcase, or even under your bed. Maybe next year you’ll even go through these boxes and realize that you can let some of these items go after all.


Toiletry baskets

Instead of keeping cosmetics and toiletries in disarray beneath your bathroom sink, you can use baskets to organize these items. For the most versatile storage possible, try to select baskets that are rectangular or square in shape – these will be easier to fit under your sink and in tight quarters.

You should also relocate items that don’t belong in the bathroom. Also, dispose of any items that you don’t use, need or want. Once this is done, fill the different baskets according to the seasons: for example, your summer basket can contain sunscreen, aloe and bug spray, and the winter basket will have chapsticks and body lotion. Label each basket with the appropriate season and you’re set!


Where do you keep most of your clutter and when is the last time you went through it?

Read more Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! articles


About the Author

Yoree Grozenok owns and operates 1-800-GOT-JUNK? in Kelowna, part of world's largest junk removal company. Years of operating this great business gave him wealth of knowledge and experience in recycling.

While other companies think of recycling as "nice thing to do", Yoree Grozenok built his business with recycling in mind from the very beginning. Not only every effort is made to recycle obvious items like scrap metal or cardboard, but the goal is set to recycle up to 80% of items that they pick up. They also recycle through donating items to charities or Kelowna Food Bank. All recycling efforts are tracked and publicly available for greater accountability.

Yoree Grozenok also started an annual eWaste recycling event that takes place in April in effort to divert electronic waste going to the landfill and give residents a chance to recycle their TV's, computers, and other electronic junk the right way.

1-800-GOT-JUNK? was nominated for Green Business award through SIFE Okanagan for their recycling efforts.

Contact: [email protected]



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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