Urban Picking- Lite Edition- Community Forklift and Architectural Salvage Shops

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Following up on one of my latest blog posts, The Secrets of an Urban Picker, I have been getting a lot of questions regarding the difficulty of finding quality things to turn into projects, so I thought I’d address this with another post.

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One of the greatest things about living in a big cramped city is the availability of tons and tons of quality curb-crap. Piles of discarded loot fill the alleys and dumpsters to the brim every week, only to be flushed away and filled back up again the following week. If you’ve read my article, The Secrets of an Urban Picker, you will understand a little bit about this problem. I will continue to write about this topic and flush out some interesting ideas in the coming posts.

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This post deals with an issue that many people have and that is they cannot find anything worth picking in the city. First, this seems impossible to me, but looking harder at the issue, not everyone can look at a pile of muddy steel and see a 1940’s typewriter table. Some people just see muddy steel. But alas, you are not alone! Sometimes you are looking on the wrong day or in the wrong locations or after a Good Will truck has recently descended upon the carnal scene.

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It is this very reason that places like Community Forklift exist. According to their website, Community Forklift is a secondhand shop selling a variety of building materials & furniture including cabinets & tables. Basically, they are an architectural salvage shop located near enough to Washington DC to be accessible to most everyone. What they excel in is bringing the hard-to-find loot to one central location and charging you for it.

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It was at this very shop that I began my journey of furniture restoration many years ago. Back then, the store was just getting started and was selling amazing antiques and salvage for super cheap prices. Since then, and with the explosion of the DIY scene and YouTube, they have seen a steady rise in customers, which in turn drives up the prices and lowers my expectations.

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To say it plainly, I love architectural salvage shops. They provide you with a great selection without having to actually dive in dumpsters looking for rusty gold. On the other hand, by scouring the city to sell their much love needed items back to me at a 100% markup makes me want to stay grimy in the alleys and dumpsters. Don’t get me wrong, I whole heartedly support enterprises like this, and I might even like to own an architectural salvage shop in the future. My one beef is that the prices have gone up to a point that making a living selling upcycled furniture has gotten harder over the past few years. So while I am happy to see such a rise in the DIY community, it also makes it harder to find the good stuff for cheap cheap and make some dinero.

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So every time that someone asks me for more advice because they don’t have the creativity or time to pick alleys and dumpsters, I tell them about places like Community Forklift, Habitat for Humanity ReStores and other local architectural salvage shops, or “picking lite” as I call it. Hopefully by diving into a world of manicured isles and presorted picker gold, they too will get “the sickness” as Jimmy Diresta calls it and will become an urban picker, foregoing the florescent lighting and squeaky second hand walmart carts for the sounds of squealing rats, of stubbed toes on nailed boards, and for the thrill of unearthing a truly godly piece of american historical tradition from a pile of road junk.

The sickness is real.

I hope you enjoyed the read through and learned a little bit about the process. As always, don’t forget to head over to my Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Patreon page to show your support so that I can continue to make awesome content like this.

Thanks for reading!

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How to Stay Motivated When You Are Feeling Lethargic

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The past few months have been quite difficult for me to stay motivated. At work and home, I find myself becoming more and more depressed due to many factors, professionally and personally. I think it all started during my time in the Peace Corps last year. I was having depression and anxiety issues around the work culture and issues at my site. This led to my wife and I eventually leaving Peace Corps and coming home earlier than expected.

After much therapy and healing time, I thought I was over it. I felt better, I was getting back on my feet and the heavy, foggy, weighed down feeling of depression was lifting. And then I started work in the federal government and those crushing feelings came back. The feeling of sloth, of weight on my shoulders, of anxiety nearly paralyzing me. I was trying to deal and cope until I found myself crying one afternoon in my cube and knew it had gone on long enough.

I’ve never been one to have depression issues or need medication to stay level. Heck, I come from the disaster management field where high stress is the norm. However, over the last year, I find stress to be really stressful. It is something that I am dealing with differently now and I am learning how to cope with a whole new set of problems. For instance, finding motivation to go to the shop after work has been hard the past 2 months. I used to go all the time, but I have trailed off lately. Sometimes I feel so tired and down after work, I need to come home and lay on the couch and not move for an hour. My brain needs more time to recover and that in turn manifests physically and affects my muscle disease making me more tired and lethargic.

All this to say that my coping mechanisms have changed. I can no longer just assume that I will be going in to the shop, I need to force myself. I have put off projects due to the fear and anxiety of not making them great, but when I have just forced myself into the shop to start the project, the fears recede and the fun and joy return. I just finished up the restoration on a 1960’s typewriter table. I have been sitting on this project for 3 months. Forcing myself to put the materials in the car and promising myself that I will take them into the shop after work was a very scary thing. Once I got my hands into it though and started grooving, I felt like myself again and the project came out great.

Stress, anxiety, fear, these are all things we deal with differently. Forcing myself to just start a project until I get into a grove has worked so far for me but won’t always work for everyone. I’d love to hear what works for you so that we can help each other to stay proactive and motivated despite our lethargic feelings and various issues.

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I hope you enjoyed the read through and learned a little bit about the process. As always, don’t forget to head over to my Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Patreon page to show your support so that I can continue to make awesome content like this.

Thanks for reading!

The Secrets of an Urban Picker

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There are a lot of people that call themselves pickers. To me, it is not like the tv show at all. Personally, picking is something that happens in alleyways, backyards, and in dumpsters. I hardly ever approach someone in their house to sell me their junk like in the shows. To me, picking is free and a vital way of life that gives possibility and a new life to thrown away objects. There is no way I can rescue everything thrown away, but every time I go out picking, I come home with a car full of good usable material.

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Living in a large city like Washington DC, there is so much movement of people to and from the city, gutting historic houses, and just clearing out the grandparents belongings that it is a picker heaven! A normal day for me is driving in ever enlarging concentric circles out from my apartment down every alley. Of course, I have some secret stashes that are usually pretty good and areas of town that are better than others.

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Here are some of my secrets:

First, get there before the trashman. Find out when trash day is in the neighborhood and ALWAYS get there before. In my area, it is Friday mornings around 11am. If I can get out there by around 9-10am, I am usually good. For all the small stuff that can fit in a trash truck, this advice is good. For larger items or a complete garage or basement gutting, they require a special permit to pick up the extra large items of trash and it takes a few days, so you’re safe for a while.

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Second, find areas that are recently gentrified in the last 10 years. Usually these homes are bought by more affluent people who either took over a home from a relative or bought from an older person in a historic neighborhood. Since we have become an Ikea generation, I tend to see the best treasures come from these homes.

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Third, closely related to number two, watch the streets for signs of a new house being gutted. I LOVE seeing a dumpster outside of a gutted house. Oh man, SCORE everytime I see this. Sometimes they close up the dumpster, but that doesn’t stop me. If you can gain access to these treasure troves, you will always find gold. From old single paned windows to huge metal and wood beams, to brass door knobs and socket plates. The list of amazing things thrown away in bulk is astounding and usually I cannot fit it all into my car. Always watch for signs in the neighborhood, displayed work permits and even for sale signs on an old house that is going to get flipped. On average and in my experience, the new tenant hires a contractor to rip everything out down to the studs without care for worth, so for people like me, this is our mecca. There is nothing like filling up a hatchback with reclaimed beams, solid wood casings, and brass knobs. I salivate just thinking about it now.

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Fourth, keep an eye out for large apartment buildings. Especially in this area, apartment dwellers are for those that are up and coming financially and are constantly upgrading everything in their lives. In the days of Amazon, no one is fixing older things and people are getting new things constantly. I have found perfectly great flat screen led tvs, a desk made during WW2 in England, so many antique chairs that need some glue, screws and love and so much more. Big apartment buildings usually have an overflow or large object room for bulky trash. If you can, get access to these or wait for them to throw it outside in the dumpster. I hunt in these areas every time I go to see a friend in an apartment and 6/10 times I am rewarded with picker gold.

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Alright, I think those are enough tricks of the trade for now. I will write more about this soon but can’t give away everything or I would be out of business.

I hope you enjoyed the read through and learned a little bit about the process. As always, don’t forget to head over to my Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Patreon page to show your support so that I can continue to make awesome content like this.

Thanks for reading!

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On Being a Part-Time Maker. The Musings of a Desk-Jockey.

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I hope this doesn’t get too existential.

Part-time maker. Can anyone actually be a part-time maker? I feel that being a maker is a full-time job no matter if you actually do this as a full-time paid job. My mind is constantly working. Seriously, I cannot turn it off. At work, I am doodling or imagining new projects, on walks I always find myself in alleys taking pictures of unique doors, finding fun garbage or jumping into a couple dumpsters looking for beams or metal. I find inspiration EVERYWHERE.

I have a full-time office job like many  makers. I would LOVE to make this a full-time paid gig, but for right now, that isn’t financially feasible because we are saving up for a house and a kid. Sorry if that got too personal.

But just because I am not at the shop working on new projects or making videos as often as I would like, I am constantly using my skills as a maker to keep busy. This is why I feel that I am a full-time maker regardless of the fact that I am actually a desk-jockey by day.

After reading hundreds of maker blogs, listening to thousands of hours of maker podcasts and personal conversations with makers much more popular than I, I realize that being a full-time paid maker would be very difficult. It is a 24/7 job that requires a lot of attention to so many different variables to actually make a buck. It sounds like a daunting experience and I am wary that we will not make enough money to keep the lights on. These are my fears. These are the thoughts that keep holding me back from pursuing this as a full-time paid job. I am very comfortable with taking on client work as I have done for years. I have started YouTube channel and would love endorsement deals but those are VERY hard to obtain. Will it all be enough? Will my wife make enough money to float us and so that we can have a kid in the next few years? There are so many variables.

Despite all my fears and trepidations, I cannot think of anything else on this planet that I would rather be doing. I wake up thinking about creating and go to bed wishing I had done more that day. I have spent years in the NGO community working on disaster management and now I am a Federal worker, yet nothing gives me more pleasure than being covered head to toe in saw dust or metal shavings or picking glue out from under my nails. My family has a history in the trades as far back as ancestry.com can tell us. From farmers, to tradesmen, perhaps it is in the blood? Ok, so passion is not a concern because I have never been accused of a lack of that. Can I deal with hard work and pressure? Well, you try managing 40 different-aged volunteers in a disaster shelter, while caring for over 2,000 evacuees while the mountains are on fire a few miles away. Ya, I think I can deal.

So it appears that the scary parts of pulling the trigger on this aren’t so scary when I break them down 1 by 1. And hey, if I can’t make money, I can just find a job again, right? At least on a part-time basis…

In the end, I may be a part-time maker for now. But in my mind and my spirit, I am and always have been a full-time maker. One day, I will hopefully get paid to be one.

I will leave this post as I should leave all of them, with a poem, a musing, I wrote on this topic.

What is it to comprehend and explain one’s true purpose in life? How do I try and explain to people who I am and what makes me unique? When I look deep into my soul, I am a tinkerer, a creator, a maker of things. But I cannot be held down by those simple explanations. Inside, I am a fixer, an organizer, a methodical maniac, a restless and irritable introvert. I find it hard to explain my purpose and what I feel is my life path. If I had the option to live my passion, I would work for myself, alone, tinkering away in my workshop, teaching others, inspiring to create, living my dreams. I want a boat. I want a wind powered vessel to carry me to adventurous locations, to sleep on the waves, to risk life and limb in the pursuit of finding peace in my heart and mind. I am a restless person who gets bored easily and I need constant activity and newness that comes with working for myself, being unaccountable to an overreaching overlord. Freedom for me is forging my own path, working for the soul benefit of my family, and not ever apologizing for my actions, thoughts, or dreams. Too many wasted tears have been spent in the pursuit of other’s goals, of working towards other’s wealth and happiness. The next phase of my life will be spent fulfilling my own selfish goals of rewarding work for acceptable pay. The next years will bring happiness, contentment, and a rejuvenation of my original purpose.

I hope you enjoyed the read through and learned a little bit about the process. As always, don’t forget to head over to my Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Patreon page to show your support so that I can continue to make awesome content like this.

Thanks for reading!