115,000 households packed up and moved on Tuesday, making it quite possibly the single largest instance of a mass moving day in North America. Even on normal days there’s a lot of junk left out in Montreal streets and alleys, but nothing compares to the days following July 1st, when thousands of people get rid of surplus or unwanted furniture by simply leaving it for someone else to take.
Needless to say, this creates quite a problem with cleanliness, especially since there is usually several times more trash dumped on the street than actual reusable objects. Earlier this week, Fagstein documented the aftermath of Moving Day on his blog, snapping some photos of abandoned furniture, trash heaps and impromptu yard sales near his apartment in Villeray. “Anyone who wants to understand the vast excess of western society need only walk around anywhere in Montreal on July 1. There, you’ll find discarded furniture, empty boxes and lots and lots of garbage. What gets me most about it, though, is the thought that before today, people had these things in their homes. Now it’s so useless even people walking the streets want nothing to do with them,” he writes rather disdainfully.
Although the accumulation of trash is certainly a big problem, I tend to see Moving Day in a more positive light, if only because it transforms the entire city into a vast used furniture free-for-all. A lot of the stuff thrown into the street is junk, sure, but a lot of it is in perfectly good condition, and people place it on sidewalks are in laneways with the knowledge that, within a few hours, somebody will find a use for it. I think all but the pickiest Montrealers have at least a few objects or piece of furniture they have found on the street. My TV stand, a great solid wooden thing with a nice vintage flair, was found one evening on St. Christophe Street near the Latin Quarter; same with my dresser and a nice metal chair that my girlfriend craftily cleaned and repainted to look like new. A few years ago, one of my friends furnished her entire apartment with stuff she found on the street.
I didn’t move house on Moving Day, but a friend who had been living in my basement moved out, and as we cleared out his belonging we discarded some of them in the alley. Over the course of an hour, no fewer than three people stopped to examine it; by the end of the day most of it had been taken away. Many of them aren’t just collecting things for themselves; a number of people scour the streets looking for discarded items to sell, a trend that was covered in yesterday’s edition of the Journal de Montréal.
Here in Mile End, there are several people who hold weekly garage sales that consist entirely of stuff they have recovered from the street; sometimes they invest a lot of time and energy in restoring what they’ve found. Western excess, perhaps, but also Montreal thriftiness.
Photos by Steve Faguy