Why Calling A Junk Service Is A Genius Idea. Seriously.
Feb 18
Did you have a good V-day? Were jewelry, flowers, or dinner involved in your weekend? Or have you forgotten that Valentine's is even a thing? (OK, it's a Hallmark holiday.) Do you scoff at the idea of a mall-created, mass-produced frenzy of consumerism? I fall in the latter category, plus I hate hearts. And pink.

Although I've moved beyond celebrating V-day, a couple of things reminded me of it last weekend. While at Starbucks on Sunday morning, my coffee app alerted me that I could send a Starbucks present to someone with a couple of taps on my screen. An easy present with no paper and no packaging? I'm in - and just like that I was sucked into a mass-produced holiday and sent my 17 year-old niece some coffee money. BTW, the app always sports a gift button, so you can send a gift of coffee anytime (to a co-worker having a bad day? your kid during midterms?). Easy peasy. And yes, it might be a little creepy that my phone talks to me and suggests purchases, but whatever. I'm weak.

The next reminder was not as fun as a cup of coffee. I've been emptying my parents' house in Washington, which blows. Many of you have probably had to do this, so you know what I'm talking about. Going through a loved one's lifetime accumulation of stuff is hard - it can rise to the level of pure torture at times. I've been working on this house for a while, reusing and donating and recycling as much as possible. At a certain point, however, it can become necessary to take a load of stuff to the dump, no matter how much we try to recycle, or a large load of crap to a recycling facility. And that's when a service with a big trailer or truck can be a life-saver.

Finding the right service is a challenge. In Oregon and Washington we're recyclers, so we don't want to just use a dumpster service. After relatives and friends had taken as much stuff as possible from my dad's garages, shop, man-cave, and basement, I piled up the detritus for the junker / recycling crew. And then I found that many junk services didn't cover the part of Washington where my parents had lived. (Scream!) Many calls later, I found a crew out of Gresham, S&P Junk Haulers and Recycling, that came up on the Friday before Valentine's and immediately started sorting my piles (I should have done this myself. I know better!). Recyclables got their own pile, with metals versus plastic separated (I had already taken care of paper / cardboard). Chemicals were neatly stacked in rows to take to Metro, pure trash went in a load for the dump, and just about everything else ended up in a large donation pile.

Are you wondering how this related to the lovers holiday? It's like this. I used to go into my dad's garages and steal cool old stuff for projects around the house: C clamps, vices, buckets, and vintage tools (my grandpa's) were all faves. It mostly wasn't stealing because my dad was happy that I liked and wanted his old stuff. Sometimes it was stealing, though, and sometimes he flat out refused to give me stuff (C clamps), at which point I would go in the house and complain to mom. Like magic, dad would show up a few days later at my house with 20 or 30 vintage C clamps. They might have been dad's garages, but mom was the boss.

He had saved cases of hose bibs, apparently pulled from every hose he had ever owned, buckets of nails, washers, random cupboard handles, industrial size nuts and bolts, old motors from small and large appliances. All was organized and labeled and ready for use. When I asked him why he kept it all, he would chuckle and remind me that someday, it would all be mine. He planned to do nothing with it - no downsizing whatsoever! I would be tasked with cleaning it all up - and he would laugh and laugh at the thought. So as the guys were sorting through the last of dad's collections, I couldn't help but think that this was some kind of bizarre and tragic gift. Dad was right: it was all mine to clean up.

But there was some joy to be found in the day. My dad had saved everything that could possibly be used in a DIY / home remodeling / car repairing / hunting / fishing project or activity. And the junk crew found some things they wanted for themselves: a dolly for working under the car, an old milk jug filled with matches, my old college mini-fridge, a gun case, a croquet set. Each of the three guys on the crew found a few things they wanted to keep, and this made me absurdly happy. This wasn't junk, after all. It was my dad's stuff. And somebody wanted it. I, of course, kept three old coffee cans of hose bibs. My dad wanted me to have them.

P.S. A word about junk services. A junk service has to pay its crew, cover gas and equipment, business licenses and bonding, dump and metro fees. Plus it's a business, which means it needs to make a profit. Back in the day (even a few years ago), commodities prices were high enough that scrappers could sell metal scrap (once disassembled) and other recyclables to make money, which was factored into their business model. Due to the drop in oil prices and the turmoil in the Chinese economy, however, commodities prices have fallen dramatically, and will probably continue to fall. Selling scrap is currently not bringing in much money at all. (Sorry tweakers! Here's an article about this topic, if you're interested.) This means paying for your scrap and junk removal is not as cheap as it used to be. And it won't be for a while. Why not just dump it? Because it's bad for the environment. As we say in Oregon: recycle or we'll kick your ass. We will!
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