Local artist Mathias "Spider" Schergen has spent years collecting creative fodder in local alleys. He shares his tricks of the trade to help you mine for treasures where others throw their trash.
Hit up a neighborhood the night before its garbage collection. People put out their trash at the last minute in order to avoid creating a mess or an eyesore, especially when it comes to fragile objects like mirrors.
You’re bound to find a mix of crazy leftovers such as random toys, games and fake flowers (the kind of stuff no one wanted to purchase) right after a yard or block sale.
You’ll know a family is moving an elderly relative when you see groups of items like a half-dozen tools or ten rolls of unused upholstery (dust collectors from someone’s basement) in the alley. This kind of move can take multiple weekends to complete, so hit up this hot spot on a few consecutive weekends. You just might score some vintage gems like leather purses and floral wallpaper.
Sure, lots of richies reside in the Gold Coast, but high-rise condos keep their trash indoors and in big metal Dumpsters. You want neighborhoods where people dump their belongings beside the garbage cans, ideally even in front of their houses rather than the alley. Try the upscale Northern ’burbs.
Ride your bike to go scouting, then come back with a wagon, car or friends willing to drag your load home.
Avoid becoming a pack rat by taking only what you think you’ll use and tossing out items that just sit around for a year or more.
Think twice before collecting upholstered furniture; who knows how many times those pieces have been peed on or what kind of creatures are coming along for the ride?