I come from a long line of garbage pickers. When I was a kid we used to rent a cottage in Sauble Beach and there was a large, pink, entertainment pavilion across the road. On Saturday nights there would be a dance, and we would sneak out of the cottage and go lie in the spectacular sand dunes on the shores of Lake Huron, and listen to the sounds of the music drifting out from the open windows.

The next morning my ship would come in. My financial net-worth of the week would triple, as would my father’s estimation of me, due to the fact that I could find a half-submerged beer bottle in the dunes, like nobody else could.  My dad would take me and whoever else was eager to increase their financial portfolio, and we would go around the country roads picking up beer bottles. I can’t remember what they were worth back then, but to a 9 year old it was liquid gold, when we would cash them in, and those pennies would add up (yes, pennies, those little brown things) and I would get to keep some of the money from the returns. Chi ching!

When my son Greg and I needed something to do at the cottage one year, I introduced him to my childhood passion of collecting bottles and adding up the cash. We would go to the local marina and Greg, the clever utilitarian that he is designed a pole with a hook on it that we could lean down into the large garbage cans and pick up bottles from their farthest corners. If people came in the parking lot to drop off garbage or bottles, we would stand innocently around looking like we were there doing the same thing, and then the minute they drove away we gleefully took sometimes whole cases of beer bottles, and popped them into the car. I stopped encouraging this when my car ended up smelling like a brewhouse, and I was terrified that the police would pull me over thinking I was drinking and driving.

Garbage picking and dumpster diving is the same serotonin uptake feeling I get when I vacuum a dirty carpet.  I happen to love vaccuming, as it is almost instant gratification for a job well done. One minute you see dirt on the rug and the next minute gone! Yippeee!  While garbage picking I am channeling my inner Marie Kondo. I have her book, The Illustrated Guide to the Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up, sitting on my bedside table along with about 30 others that I never have time read, but hope I am absorbing through osmosis, while I sleep. Another plus of Covid 19 captivity, I may read a few books. Does anyone out there share this incredible feeling of quick gratification from vacumming or tidying up, purging stuff, getting rid of it?? I would love to hear from you. 

As I mentioned in the blog The Mindful Caterpillar, I have been walking the highway in northern Ontario, practicing social distancing and really being able to sing without fear of anyone hearing me. I am out looking for signs of spring, but am shocked at the amount of garbage that is along these pristine roads, now uncovered as the last of the snow has disappeared.  I have taken to picking garbage and recycling items, dragging my bags along the way. In my survey so far Tim Horton coffee cups and lids and plastic water bottles are the biggest culprits. The amount of plastic I pick up every day is astounding. We all know the problem with plastics and how it is in our oceans and everywhere else in the environment. I don’t think we should get rid of plastics, but instead treat plastic with so much more respect, because it is truly an important substance and part of the everyday running of the world. But we need to respect it more and dispose of it properly, and not use it so often when it is simply not necessary, but more a convenience.

Let me know if you think the same way I do.

 Another thing I think about the mindfulness of Covid 19 is that many of us have more time to reflect and take stock of what we see in our lives. When we come out of this, I hope we can all understand some things we can personally and corporately do to continue to improve the planet and look after each other better. The garbage along my small stretch of highway is ridiculous and the fact that we can’t have large corporations developing recyclable coffee cups is very sad. Let’s make that happen. It should have done a long time ago. 

I have also been astounded at how much money I am going to cash in on with the sheer number of beer cans and other alcohol containers that I am sorting and keeping until the recycling stores open again. It is a shocker though that in this day and age people are still drinking and driving and tossing their cans out the window. I am truly hoping that isn’t the case, but instead it is more hopeful to believe that the blue boxes get windblown and containers of all sorts fly down the highway and into the nooks and crannies of the bushes before the garbage trucks come by.

In my book I talk about my childhood mentor and how she always would say, “Gaye just do your part and the world will be a better place for it.” Walking the country highway dragging my bags of garbage is causing people to wave, smile and honk their horns. I think it is a friendly honk. We are all desperate to see other faces than the ones we are cohabiting with. My hope is that people seeing the garbage extraction will go home and get the kids suited up and go for a mindfulness garbage walk down the road, together as a family. Just don’t take all the beer cans away from me! 

I plan to put all the alcohol container return money into my retirement fund that has sadly, like everyone else, gone down the drain.

Easy Pickings!

Categories: Mindfulness


Ann · 12 April 2020 at 17 h 07 min

Hi Gaye,
I’m absolutely loving my new Sunday morning tradition of getting my big cup of decaf, crawling back into bed and reading your blog. The stories are very uplifting and funny and it starts my day off right. I was feeling rather sorry for myself, mourning the lost of what would have been an epic spring ski season, as we had received several feet of new snow, stuck inside, no place to go, because of the lockdown and dreading making another dinner. However after picturing you and Greg dumpster diving I had a good out loud giggle and felt much better.
Your one woman garbage clean up crew also reminded me of another very funny garbage collector author David Sedaris. You might know him and his story of single handily cleaning up his town in Sussex England to the point where the town bought him his own garbage truck with his name on the side. Just think how popular you’d be with Greg if you picked and he could drive the garbage truck!! “Gaye’s Garbage”

    Gaye Gould · 13 April 2020 at 10 h 25 min

    Hi Ann, So glad I can bring a giggle to you during these very strange times. I too wish I could have enjoyed more skiing this year. I feel so alive in the mountains and nature and there is nothing more spectacular than a bluebird day, any day, but spring skiing in a cloudless blue sky is epic. That feeling of warm sun on your face, while you can still smell the cold in the snow, is hard to replicate. However, if we all take good care of ourselves and let this virus get the heck away there will be another ski season ahead and I will appreciate it all the more! Take good care of you.

Linda Henshaw · 14 April 2020 at 14 h 12 min

I love the bright large yellow gloves! Clearly you are well-attired for your mindful part-time vocation. It’s always nice to hear about parents passing tips and survival skills on to their children. My dad taught me how to look for coins in department stores. There were usually a few and some days more than others. This was in addition to bottle collecting. I didn’t really have a wealthy childhood but I developed an eagle eye for loose change.

I loved your point about coffee places making recyclable cups. Seems obvious that if we have the technology to interfere in elections, spread misinformation, create a plethora of vaccines and make Dyson vacs and hot cold fans that this would be easy. Plastic bottles are ridiculous. There really is no need to buy cases of these. Reusable water bottles are cheap and easy to carry everywhere. Hydration bags are available in various sizes. There are more and more public spaces that have bottle filling stations. Imagine if everyone did this! Maybe one of the big lessons we will learn from the Covid era is that we all need to do our part and also look out for others. Enough of the me, me, me. The caremongering groups have the right idea.

    Gaye Gould · 15 April 2020 at 10 h 14 min

    Thanks for replying, Linda. I love reading your responses and I am grateful that you take the time to let me know your thoughts!Lets all work together to get those cups into recycled wonders and continue to try and influence people to get a re-usable water bottle. I am guilty of using the plastic bottles from poor laziness, as it is sometimes easy in my crazy paced life to buy some water bottles rather than wash out mine and re use. Now that Covid has made us all take a big Pause, there will be less busyness in my life, and I won’t have that excuse any more!

Sandra · 14 April 2020 at 18 h 37 min

Loved this post!! Great pic as always.
I agree the world would be a much better place with compostable coffee cups…. when independent coffee shops can do it in a small place like the Cayman Islands surely big corporate American (Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and Tim Hortons) can figure this out.
Plastic bottles are on all of us, don’t buy them, carry a reusable bottle just like you carry your keys or wallet, it would decrease bottle usage dramatically. In the meantime, thank you for your mindful garbage collecting. You make the world a better place.

    Gaye Gould · 15 April 2020 at 10 h 11 min

    Thank you for your reply Sandra! It is quite unbelievable to me that Tim Hortons and Starbucks do not make recyclable cups and lids. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I was for years feeling like I was diligently doing my part in the recycling world putting the cups into the blue bins, but then my kids told me that they aren’t recyclable. I was shocked. Lets change this!! I think it is the coating inside the cup that is the culprit?, but as you say coffee in independent shops or health food oriented stores seem to have it. They are probably a bit more expensive but come on, its for the planet!

    Gaye Gould · 15 April 2020 at 15 h 08 min

    Hi Sandra,
    As you know I am a Compassion Junkie techno neophyte. I am learning though! I replied to your comment, but it is just up the blog reply list a bit.
    I, of course, don’t know how to bring it down.
    Thanks for weighing in!! xo

Natalie · 15 April 2020 at 9 h 35 min

I also get great satisfaction from vacuuming. I also get great satisfaction from finishing something whether it be a tube of toothpaste or the entire bottle of hand cream. I am inspired on my next walk to start picking up the garbage that I am seeing. Thanks Gaye.

    Gaye Gould · 15 April 2020 at 10 h 08 min

    Hi Natalie
    I love finishing toothpaste too, or the last bag of tea in the box so I can buy another one and open it. I don’t want all this excess around me anymore that I can get overwhelmed by and never clean it up or use it up. It is this sense of completion, that by the way is in our control, right? Glad you are inspired to clean up the garbage. It is an incredible feeling picking up stuff and disposing of it properly and making your part of the planet a little healthier. Thank you so much for reading!!!! I am on Instagram now. This old gal is learning technology and coming into the modern age like nobody’s business.

Sue Lee · 15 April 2020 at 10 h 49 min

Wonderful to hear you are a lifetime member of the country ditch cleaning environmental crusading army! This group of dedicated volunteers is out in force every spring (when the snowmelt exposes all the trash). I hate to think what our rural roads would be like if we weren’t out every spring cleaning the roads. It used to be a lot worse, but thanks to MADD, there are fewer drunk drivers. (I used to get bags of wine and liquor bottles too!) Also thanks to Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, and other highway volunteers, we are helping the environment. Love the picture. (PS , i need to wear gumboots to wade in wet ditches, also ‘grabbers’ are useful.)

    Gaye Gould · 15 April 2020 at 14 h 58 min

    Hi Susan,
    I love that I am a lifetime member the country ditch cleaning environmental crusading army! Wow! Cool. We will have to call it CDCLECA, for short! 🙂
    I didn’t put it in the blog yet, but I found a relatively new looking woman’s thong up the road a piece…..Her rear end must have been a bit cold since it has been 0 around here lately, or it is a new form of mask for the pandemic. They could be highly effective……
    Thanks for your reply! and yes a reflective vest would be good. There aren’t too many cars and trucks out lately, so until Mark’s Warehouse re opens I will have to wear my bright orange jacket.

Sue Lee · 15 April 2020 at 10 h 51 min

Also, if you are on a busy highway, you should wear a safety vest.

Diane Hamilton · 15 April 2020 at 11 h 53 min

You have ALWAYS been a person who makes our world a better place. Thank you for doing what you are doing. I love the picture.
As you know I am passionate about picking up plastics. As you know I love Beaches. Ten years ago I had started a movement called One For The World after a cruise in the Caribbean .I could not get over how much plastic was on beaches. I decided to make a difference. My goal is to have one million people around the world to pick up just ONE piece of plastic from beaches,lakes and rivers. My goal is also to motivate people who travel-when we can travel again- to pick up any plastic you see on the beaches,rivers and lakes. When I have travelled I would co-ordinate with the resort to host a beach cleanup day. I am adding this to your story to confirm how one person can make a difference in our world.
Lastly I do not like vacuuming. The cord is never long enough. We also have a cordless Dyson and it always needs recharging before I finish.Be well be safe.

I love the the picture and I think I am going to design you a beer can holder backpack

    Gaye Gould · 15 April 2020 at 14 h 55 min

    Hi Diane,
    Your One for the World campaign influence me and my family greatly. After you told me about it and I watched a couple of documentaries on the plastics in the ocean, we never travelled anywhere again where we weren’t picking up plastics on the beaches. We were at this incredibly pristine national park along the ocean in Costa Rica and I could not believe my eyes the amount of plastic every time the tide would come in. You are an incredible person Diane, with a heart the size of the moon. It was such an amazing time in our lives when we created SOAR, (Students Helping Orphans With Relief) along with Myra. Getting all those kids to understand about a different pandemic than now, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and how millions of orphans were left with no parents. To see how that dream to help kids became a reality and that kids collected over 75,000.00 which went to that wonderful organization The Stephen Lewis Foundation, shows completely how if everyone just does their part the world will be such a better place. Mother Nature is telling us now how the time is way past for us to sit up take note and get our act together to save this wonderful planet we live in, one plastic water bottle and coffee cup at a time.

Barb Douglas · 15 April 2020 at 12 h 37 min

Vacuuming, shoveling snow, making beds… anything with a clear before and after impact makes my heart sing. That picture of you on the side of the highway with your “ easy pickings” is a classic. When you told me you were heading to the hwy to collect garbage and beer cans for your financial portfolio I thought to myself … only Gaye would be out there, Gaye and inmates on work detail. Lol
However, I am also up north and when I go
For my walks I find myself looking out for garbage and recyclables. At first I just laughed to myself and thought of you … now….. I am picking the damn garbage up🤷🏼‍♀️

    Gaye Gould · 15 April 2020 at 15 h 03 min

    Hello Barb
    I did think for awhile that I might look like an inmate, as I wore my bright orange spring jacket the first day I did it, and I believe that is the colour of the jumpsuits inmates wear. Since it has snowed again I have to wear my long black coat, so I just look like someone well bundled up, garbage picking. I am so glad you are up here in the hinter regions. Even though we can’t visit I feel better knowing that a friend is up the highway, around a few corners hunkered down, safe. xo

Nikki M · 22 April 2020 at 9 h 49 min

It looks like beer bottle collection was a popular pastime…it was how I earned big money as a child too! Cashing in empties and vacuuming carpets to get perfectly straight lines always brought me happiness in my youth. I remember getting upset if anyone would have the audacity to walk on the pristine, geometric lines that my coveted Electolux vacuum made. Damn this hardwood trend! Now I can only get a little fix when cleaning the small rugs thrown around my home. At least I can still rely on a little rush when I collect some change for my returns (although it’s usually my own wine bottles instead of empties fished out of the neighbours bins).

    Gaye Gould · 22 April 2020 at 9 h 57 min

    Hi Nikki,
    Thank you for your comment!! I am finding out that there are a lot of us closet empties or returns, as some people call them, collectors out there. I was never able to achieve perfectly straight lines with my vacuuming attempts, but I am easy to please as it would be enough for me just to remove the crud from the floor. There is going to be a flood of wine bottles on the market, un- like anything the recycling depots have ever seen before, after this pandemic backs off! 🙂

Linda · 25 April 2020 at 13 h 11 min

Loved your first five posts Gaye and looking forward to the next! These speak to me. You are doing your part to make the world more beautiful and making a little cash while you are doing it. So many good reminders here for this Covid Era. Daily routine is paramount! Connecting with friends. Getting outside! Keeping the booze in check! All so good! Thanks for the humour and a positive perspective!

    Gaye Gould · 11 May 2020 at 11 h 25 min

    Hi Linda,
    So glad you are enjoying the posts!

Heather Doyle · 15 May 2020 at 11 h 09 min

Good for you Gaye. I feel like you have been always doing your part making the world a better place.

We pick up garbage every time we go for a walk. I feel sad that people leave their coffee cups, beer cans, kid’s used diapers etc. along the waterfront.

Have you gotten to Marie Kondo yet? I think it’s great she gives a way to deal with all our “stuff” and how simplifying can make us happier. It hits me most clearly after travelling, when I come home to a full closet or drawers, yet have been quite happily living out of suitcase.

Looking forward to catching up with your other blog post.

    Gaye Gould · 18 May 2020 at 17 h 51 min

    Hi Heather,
    I am so looking forward to having some time to clean cupboards and purge stuff that just accumulates through the years and collects dust from one to the next and serves no useful purpose. I have Marie Kondo’s book but unfortunately have never had a chance to read it. This Covid Captivity seems like the perfect time, but I need to stop cleaning out my forest and get to my drawers and closets. I have this forest on the side of the bakehouse and it beckons me like a siren a sailor on a ship. I have raked over 100 lawn waste bags as I uncover 95 years of debris. It is magical the feeling at the end of a good rake and to see the progress!

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