What is “stealing”?

So I’ve been living in the Heights for almost a year and my sister and her husband have been in the Heights for about 4 years. I just recently became the recipient of a large amount of furniture (redid my entire apartment) and have been giving my old stuff away to friends and family. I had two office chairs that were just laying around doing nothing (chairs don’t usually do much besides just sit, hence their role in society). My sister started to explain how things work in the Heights when she came over Friday evening. Sister said, “Yo, brother, all ya gotta do is take the chairs and put them out by where you put your trash. Someone will come by and grab ’em.” Again, this was on Friday and the trash isn’t picked up until Monday. I’m not a real big fan of just throwing furniture out on the curb like this but I was suddenly intrigued by this suggestion. The chairs spent the night outside. Sure enough, the chairs were gone in the morning. I fully expected the chairs to be there until Monday. Maybe I’m living in the ozone but does anyone else find this a bit strange? What kind of people go around looking for stray office chairs in the middle of the night? I’ve heard of dumpster diving before, but this just really struck me as weird.

10 Comments so far

  1. Dan (unregistered) on December 2nd, 2006 @ 7:32 pm

    I lived in the Heights for years, and now live in Montrose. We call this “curbside recycling”


  2. Joturtle (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2006 @ 1:43 am

    How surprising to hear regional differences and attitudes about scavaging! In Metro Detroit on bulk pickup days,it is perfectly acceptable to help yourself to anyones discard.(some areas have ordinances against this practice, but law enforcement tends to “look the other way”)

  3. adrian (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2006 @ 2:41 am

    Maybe its because I kinda grew up in the heights, but that seems pretty normal to me. To say “one man’s trash is another mans treasure” is a bit cliche, but kinda like a low-tech Craigslist.

    Its not really that people go foraging in the middle of the night, its just a given that if you see something out by the curb and you like it, just grab it. And in equally common practice, you don’t put anything by the curb if you want to keep it. :)

  4. shawn (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2006 @ 6:51 am

    Yeah, it is interesting to think of the differences. I was curious about what is “stealing” because putting the chairs out there like that could rather be looked at as a kind of communication. It’s accepted that putting the chairs right there means they have been “kicked to the curb”. My way of saying I don’t want them. The place that I put them in was next to where the trash is picked up, further communicating my lack of desire for the chairs. Let’s replace the chairs with a wallet, which is practical since the trash pick up is next to a sidewalk where anyone could easily drop a wallet. Does the wallet, which fell in the same “symbolic” place where the trash was, get taken also? I know, this goes deep but I think it’s interesting how people assign value and meaning to different things.

  5. kathy kelley (unregistered) on December 3rd, 2006 @ 6:09 pm

    As one of the scavengers, my thinking is along the lines of…I could take this, what I know to be a discard, and use it in my art or I could buy the same thing NEW. Not a hard choice. The refuse of society is the source medium of my art. I am careful to make sure I only scavenge what is clearly setout as trash. I don’t consider harvesting what is headed for our landfills to be stealing.

    I have to admit that when I first began doing this I was very uncomfortable, and it actually does feel a little like stealing. People look at me like I am strange. I have had a number of people come out to see what I am doing, most express a little relief to see what they once saw as precious not go to the dump.

    Speaking of dumps, go visit one of our landfills, they are amazing in their sheer volume. I am a non-tree hugger, but I was floored. Mass production requires mass consumption which in turn requires mass dumping. During a visit to one of Houston’s BFI sites on McCarty Road (11013 Old Beaumont Hwy, 77020) in Fall 05, they were dumping ~60 18 wheeler loads an hour. They operate 24 hrs a day. This is one of 10 active landfills the service Houston. It was mind blowing the sheer volume of trash. I believe the mound was 11/2 miles in diameter and taller than reliant stadium. It is literal a small mountain. One cool thing though was that BFI was harvesting the methane gas from the landfill. It can be used immediately and is pumped directly into Enron’s gas distribution system.

    Go drive by its worth the view.

    I began harvesting from big trash pick up after my visit to the landfill. So ultimately I do not feel so bad about taking your trash.

    Kathy Kelley

  6. Chris Doelle (unregistered) on December 4th, 2006 @ 8:54 am

    It is one of the “understood” things and it has been this way for decades. I have often used this method of “giving away” things that I no longer needed but thought someone else might.

    Now, I freecycle instead. http://www.freecycle.org

    There are several groups in the Houston area and are a great resource for re-homing quality items and slowing your impact on the landfills.

  7. Chris Doelle (unregistered) on December 4th, 2006 @ 8:56 am

    And both my sofa and recliner were found on the curbside and are still in great condition. Someone obviously decide to redo their living room in another style/color etc.

  8. Luke Gilman (unregistered) on December 4th, 2006 @ 12:06 pm

    Curb-side recycling has its dangers. When I lived in Boston, I was walking home through Beacon Hill with some friends at 2am on trash night and found all kinds of great stuff on the curb. It wasn’t until I looked up and saw a terrified young woman cowering in the doorway with a box in her hand that we realized she wasn’t throwing it away, she was trying to move in. ;-)

  9. Becca Satterwhite (unregistered) on December 8th, 2006 @ 7:40 pm

    This is in no way a Heights specific phenomena.
    Record time disappearance at Hazard and Alabama: Two large comfy chairs from a dilapidated living room suite gone in 25 minutes. We put them out on on the corner, went to get ice cream, and they were gone by the time we came back.

  10. webelder (unregistered) on December 12th, 2006 @ 6:25 pm

    “One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure”…as they say…but What really hurts is when they bring something back…


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