Category: trash is gold


you guys know i’m crazy and nerdy so i’m sure this post will come as no surprise.

here’s a little bit of financial/fanatical history to paint a personal picture as to where i’ve been and where i want to go.
i grew up poor as shit by pretty educated people. at age 14 i got my first job which i kept for 9 months until i switched to another job and ultimately worked consistently from age 14-17. when i was 17 my partner in crime and i moved out of our parents places and got a sweet duplex together in the humble and hispanic neighborhood that we called “ave R” or “Our Avenue”. short after getting our own place we felt the only way to complete this new found freedom would be to quit our jobs (and somehow get rich to avoid ever working again). freedom guys, that was goal then and that’s the goal now. i had a few homeless vacations and lived in the woods without plumbing for a year all with the feeling of freedom in mind and trying to see where i fit on the spectrum of freedom in respect to lifestyle.

while freedom is a blanket word there are two means according to webster with a total of 11 variations on that. at a daniel vitalis (oh yeah, that guy….boring) said at one of his jazzed up talks that things are fucked when people think that free means “something for nothing”. so let’s think about all of these things, freedom; the quality, the state of being, the restriction and the privilege.

then add in a few more thoughts.
1. we only have the mental capacity to focus on and execute a limited amount of tasks so we can’t do (or undo) it all. “we can do anything but we can’t do everything” – http://affordanything.com/about/
2. being aware that often perfect is often the enemy of good (which keeps us all stuck)

From age 17-28 I thought on varying degrees of consciousness that i hated money. the system of money is illusive and the system of slavery is dependent on making this making of cash-money. when i was 28 and we saved $24,000 in 18 months it was completely coming from the place of wanting to drop out of the system for a variety of reasons. i was really wound tight and thought dropping out would chill me out. when we saved the first $8,000 it was like, “i don’t hate money. my quality of life hasn’t changed and i’m the same person. having money and not having money is seriously a non issue to who and what i am, point blank.” money did impact how i was in the sense that i could buy quality things; paying local farmers for their goods, local artists for their tattoo art, donate a shit load of money and contribute to services that won’t get by with moral support. There was nothing bad about having more numbers on a dead screen saying “you rich, bitch!”. we never had anxiety about making ends meet, shit was good. but i was building up to drop out so there were limitations to that goal. limitations being that now 1.5 years after leaving our land we’re on food stamps and not even scraping by.

jumping into selling full time on ebay did 2 shifts in my thinking.
1. i love money. i never get a sale and feel defeated or unsatisfied. when i make $$$ i feel great because i love money.
2. all i care about is selling fancy, quality, expensive and/or rare shit. period. i used to hate fancy brand, not any more.

humble sales are a thing of the past, we’re over dumpster diving to make a living. dumpster diving food is still great but since trash digging is a bit more out of the loop for our lifestyle we’re paying for food too.

loving food stamps (which i do!) is an extension of me loving money. i think loving money is okay even if i don’t love having a standard job. i love money because it the glue that connects me to the things i love so clearly it’s more about the things than the money itself. if there was another magnet stronger than money then i’d go that route instead. getting things & having options is the root to my love of money. for me, money is freedom. it isn’t the only form of freedom and for most of us (debt) is far from freedom but it’s all in how you use money. when you love something you tend to treat it well. when i thought money was shit i pissed it away. now money is a cute little kitty or puppy that i want to take care of and grow and sail on to some rainbow filled, unicorn dancing future of love and freedom.

while i’m new to loving money i will admit that i don’t fully understand it. using mr money mustaches website as inspiration i’m back in the head space that saved us $24K except this time the goal is early retirement via saving ultra crazy amounts of money (instead of pissing it away).

Mr money mustache and his wife retired at 30 years old!!!!  TEN YEARS AGO! and it all makes sense. what they’re doing makes total sense to my nerdy brain. money is the only math i like. him and his wife had fancy jobs so they lived simply (on maybe $25k a year) until they were 30 years old. They had something like $700k (i’m new to their blog so i don’t remember) and found the 4% – 6% interest pays them $28k a year to live FOREVER. maybe this is totally boring to you but i’m beyond jazzed up just writing about this! we’re living on $18k (or less) so the idea of maxing and relaxing while the dollars roll in just seems like a maricle and it’s more than our bottom dollar lifestyle. and they own their own home and they are always investing the interest and have grown that hundreds of thousands of dollars….it’s all too good, i’m completely on board.

i would like to retire in 10 year or even be million times closer than i am today. i care about my future self. today i scrape by and have to think about where our money is at and making ends meet, i’m not stressed but i could do much better. it’s completely possible to gift my future self by getting my shit together. i actually think we’re in better shape to save now than when we saved our first $24k because we spent way too much of food, way too much on art, way too much on hobbies (well, not really but you know what i mean).

here’s my plan: mark’s taking off of next semester. well, maybe he’ll take just one class. we’re going to get balls to the wall strategic with selling on ebay. we’re going to take concrete steps towards “A to B” goals and see if we can surpass our current plateau. (hopefully we can afford to grow) we’re going to get on the grind and see where we’re at! we’re doing about $1k a month, not shit, so quote me in 4 months to see what our progress may be. in 4 months if we’re not seeing reward for our work then mark will get a temporary job before going back to school. i love ebay so i hope it doesn’t come down to me getting a job but i love early retirement more than ebay so i’m willing to walk away even though i’m hoping i will not have to.

freedom for me is working smarter now to sail on further, longer and easier later. saving them $579 per month and investing this savings would compound into about $102,483.00 every ten years. all i’m saying is that i’m seeing a more passive future ahead.

if you have a different plan towards freedom let me know!

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MADISON,WISCONSIN

 

once a year this college town has it’s move out day, August 15th.

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this blog post will be like you’ve come along for the adventure but just the fun parts. no walking door to door looking for gold, no 15 hour drive there and 15 hour drive back, no sleeping in a cramped car for you.

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there’s a lot of curb diving, lots of piles and a life time supply of mattresses. this year due to rain all of the mattresses were dragged through the mud. fuck it! who shows up to this  woodstock of dumpster diving wanting mattresses?!
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dumpsters (as pictured above)  for apartments were the minority, it was mostly residential trash cans for apartment buildings/large houses and curb diving.
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my goal was to 100% fill the car which we did in 20 hours. thank god we could only be there for less than a day before we had to come back to texas. i would cry me a river if we had more days to dive and our car was full by the first day. i’d either cry or pay to ship items home. this way we got our feet wet and did the most with the least amount of time and car space.

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this is about 48 items of clothes, mostly cheap mall brands and 3 jackets. the picture on the right is the jackets. the top jacket is a leather jacket we bought from the thrift store for $10 because it was 59 degrees when i woke up and many of the sweaters we dumpstered were wet from the rain. DSC_2548

sweet ass shoes

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the foil looking art we dumpstered but the water color on the left we bought from a thrift store to resell. a piece by the artist has sold for over $200 in the past so we figured why the hell not, only $25 investment.

DSC_2571trashed posters

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random shit.  we still need to test out everything. i’m hoping the keyboard works.

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not a whole lot to say about this. i imagine it has resale value.

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half of a bottle of sailor jerry spiced rum without a lid.
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5 bottles of unopened wine and a bunch of beer. mark was thrilled.DSC_2630

the electric scooter doesn’t work but we *might* be able to fix it. this raleigh road bike (bottom left) was a curb find. as mark was taking it apart to get it in the back seat this college guy comes out of his apartment building and was like “i have a bunch of tires and a raleigh mountain bike you can have too”. yes please. very tight squeeze but 2 bikes in the back seat made the car 100% full.

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this is the list of everything we found. about 70 items  not including booze or menstrual pads. with 70 items if we sold everything at $10 each we’d make about $700.  gas cost about $320 so earning $700  for this experiment / adventure is a success in my mind but it’s likely that the 2 bikes could sell for the amount we spent in gas. *if* the scooter works (and that’s a big if) that’s $300-$500 right there. one of the nikes is worth about $40 resale and the other about $80. the dress shoes might be $50. so $700 an item is likely the lowest we’d get. plus this was a hella good vacation is we want to start throwing that word around. we really LOVED the town. super bike friendly, bike paths, bike lanes, bikes you could rent sitting on every corner. madison couldn’t make it any easier to just show up and start riding. very cool, we’ll have to go back to bike the town.

as far as dumpster diving goes i was expecting more GOLD-GOLD but as you can see we didn’t find any. no apple products, no diamonds or jewelry, no bags of fancy clothes. nothing like i was thinking but we were only there a day. one day out of a week of trash picking so i’m very happy and would like to go back with a van or truck next year. there was a fair amount of scrappers rolling around in their trucks but there’s more than enough to go around. the trash that week is so much that the city has multiple dump trucks collecting trash DAILY! i was sad to see all of the dump trucks get most of the city before i could but it really wasn’t a problem. i heard about this annual event from the 7th interview we did for our podcast about a guy who lived on a commune for 13 years in texas but currently lives in or near madison wi. so glad he mentioned it and very glad i wrote it on my calendar last november.

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I stopped working at a “real job” when it was beyond clear to me that putting my all into my job was draining parts of me related to my well being. It’s insane that there are really pronounced parts of my brain that believe I can override needing to eat and that my body can be a workhorse working 15 hour days. There’s this semi-conscious idea where my brain thinks that it’s in control of my robot body. I stretch myself to the point of breaking and wonder how can I do the same thing in a different way. Where’s the loop hole to not needing food or having a balanced life because the last way didn’t work? I think I’m doing it wrong and I need more willpower. “Fuck harmony, I need results” has been a motto I’ve embodied a lot.

zen quote on being busy

I tried pursuing a life of “flow” when I was on an 8 week break in between jobs from Texas to Arkansas. I had so much time to think, I couldn’t enjoy a second of the freedom I worked really hard for. I just felt so anxious. The way I saw it then was that the world was crumbling and I wasn’t doing shit. I wasn’t working to make money to contribute to different radical groups who were on the front line really making a difference. i believed anything thing but the front line needed to play (financial) support for them. My fantasy of soaking up AC while pissing my time away at the dollar theater was in major conflict with the role of playing support. If I cared about this world and all of the life in it then I *should* be contributing to dismantling the problems. Shit’s too fucked to take a passive role. If you’re not helping then you’re part of the problem… and that line of thinking paralyzed me from doing less than shit for 8 weeks. No dollar theater and no AC that Texas Summer. If you want to not live your dreams, the fastest way to chemically shut your brain down is to have anxiety! *self induced anxiety*

At the end of 8 weeks of being on the edge of panic attacks from my brain reminding me that I, the jobless loser, wasn’t helping shit, it was time to go back to work. I threw myself into work and upped the ante. At the end of 1 year I was so burned out that I felt deflated from my robot high horse. The day before we decided to move back to Texas and rearrange our lifestyle my human eyes looked in the mirror and saw a stubborn robot. I remember thinking that I just needed to whip this work horse into shape and was seriously thinking of ways to corner myself into getting shit done with even more ante “for real this time”. Then the robot’s chest started to expand in a way that signaled a human heart would explode as the result from future pressures if I continued. then I gave up.

We moved back to Texas and I tried to get jobs but it really wasn’t in the flow. After hearing my friends 10 years of part time successes of selling on ebay, I decided to give it a go. I figured if she worked part time and earned enough causal money then my drive to over achieve could surely do the same. I got fixated on ebay insider information and read the ins and outs of it all. I watched videos, I lived on ebay facebook pages, I got very obsessed. It was refreshing to learn something new, it really put a cap on my abilities which forced me to tone shit down.

The way I felt (and continue to feel) while working on ebay is refreshed. There’s a LOT of steps to ebay. Sourcing is no small piece and that’s just the beginning. Then cleaning, lots of researching, taking pictures/measuring/writing down descriptions and imperfections then the longer process of editing (which I obsessively love and resent, I over edit pictures unnecessarily so) then writing posts while researching more and storing the item. Add in shipping, managing supplies, general organization, answering questions, refunding shipping overcharges, blah blah blah. But while I do this I can be me. I can go to the bathroom whenever I need and eat when I’m hungry (which is not the case in the food industry). I can listen to stand up comedy or podcasts. I can completely blow off work and get life done (like go to the store and run errands, hang out with friends, help out where I’m needed, go take pictures, go for a bike ride, record a podcast), my life is extremely flexible. Flexibility creates a lot of room for potential creativity which has been the first thing to go when I worked a “real job”. In short, I feel much more in my skin because I’m not people pleasing 40 hours a week, something I’ve gotten very accustomed to doing for the last 17 years. Customer service is wired into my brain at this point and it’s hard to remember the me before it or without it.

And all of that is the pleasure. Having room to breath and feel my living breathing body wake up when I want, go to the bathroom when I need to and eat when the signals are there is very empowering. It feels like I’m winning at life and shit’s coming together….

But there’s huge pressure there as well. Every day I wake up and every night I go to sleep thinking “I’m going to conquer this, I’m going to knock out all of this work” and more often than not, I just live life and put ebay off for another day. No work = no money so me working very little has us living on the edge. A very thin line of comfort that we could easily fall off of if the gods were not on our side. So there’s pressure in telling myself to get around to doing something important and not doing it; that pressure is similar to “are you calling me a liar!? I said i’m going to do it later…” (finger points to self). There’s pressure in sourcing items. For a while there we always had a surplus because I was being too casual and not making goals (like “take pictures of 8 items today”). Once there’s a mental quota and I start actually getting shit done, a surplus doesn’t last long. We get the majority of items from dumpster diving and that is very much a scary cool thing to do. I noticed a pattern that started a few months back, that we’d strike gold (metaphorically and literally) and I’d feel blessed by the dumpster gods… until I’d get everything listed and panic. WHAT IF THERE’S NOTHING LEFT IN THE TRASH CAN?! What if the gold runs out? What if we stop finding shit?

exceptional dumpster gold

exceptional dumpster gold we found when we first started diving for ebay, we’ve yet to top that score

Part of the way ebay appears to be set up is the more you list the more you sell. So I have 375 items listed right now and if I stop listing my sales stop (maybe ebay hides my listings). So if I run out of items to list then my sales (already low due to of my distracted/”in the flow” lifestyle) come to a halt. Remember me saying that we’re living on the edge? I can’t afford for our sales to come to a halt, I actually could use a boost if anything. I’ve noticed that compulsive energy of “yay we found a gold mime” today then a few weeks later “maybe we’ll never find anything again” rejoice /despair is the swing of the pendulum then I decided that I was simply misinterpreting my brain. Rehearing the despair as a question and not as a statement has really taken some of the pressure off (for now). So my brain is not so much stating in the form of a question “what if the gold runs out” but rather is saying “will the gold run out” which is my que to say “no, it’s unlikely but in case it temporarily takes a dip we can buy stuff from the thrift store to get by until the gold refreshes”. Not to mention that trying to get help from Mark often feels like pulling teeth, not always but often, which is more pressure. He’s a great diving partner, excellent shipper but not motivated to do the actual ebay shit so thank god he’s in school! (ultra thumbs up).

So we’re living on a quarter of what we used to live on. We have more rent to pay than in the past but the trade off is we find free food and shop at the discount food store that has a wide selection of raw vegan snacks to total junk food and pastured animal foods on the *wicked cheap*.

While my gratitude for having the flexibility and room to think and breathe is such a big deal, I will admit that if the cards were aligned just right I would get a job (most likely waitressing) in a heartbeat. I loved working with friends, having a total chit chat with the ladies 5 days a week. Plus making a constant wage is no joke, very empowering. Plus having a real job separates your life from your work whereas self employment has married me to my job. I’m always on the clock in some respects. It would be nice to just turn my brain completely off of work but it’s not going to happen.
There’s no complaints here.
*Side note. I help out at a badass ice cream shop weekly and I’m always down to take photography gigs as they come up.

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DSC_7454 REi am nervous as fuck. i’ve been nervous for the last 6 months or so, nervous in my body but not in my head. my head is the most relaxed it’s been in 30 years. when i sit really still i can feel the ever present anxiety in my chest swell up bigger.  i’ve speculated that i’m just too sedentary. my sleep is fucked up too and most nights i lay in bed trying to get my body to submit to my will, “just go to sleep, everyone else is asleep at this hour. ” then at 6 am i arrive at my bodies bedtime and i fall asleep & wake up when ever i damn well please (9-12 hours later). i’ll stay up late playing on facebook & have a pity party about my pathetic life. i’ll scroll through the 8 hour old feed and see memes about camping putting the whoop ass on my sleep schedule. the memes seem lame but resetting and unplugging sound amazing! sitting at my computer for most of my day (work and leisure) feels like it’s sucking me dry.
i’m the last generation in this country to know life before/without internet. the first 20 years of my life was spend with friends, going on bike rides, long walks, getting in trouble, watching movies, reading books. even as a little kid i watched as much tv as i played outside. each show had a definitive end unlike playing on facebook.

so i’ve been thinking about unplugging and resetting. a month ago a wild friend said their wild little family was going to bike up the west coast and were to live on bikes indefinitely. i invited myself along and my innovation was accepted a week later. mark dropped his summer classes 2 days before they started to come on this trip with me. with 3 weeks to get our shit together we hustled about $300 between selling stuff on craigslist and to the pawn shop. we pulled some of our last dollars together to get everything we need to live outside for an undisclosed amount of time. i know we wont be gone more than 2 months because mark has school and was contracted to build a bass for a deep space metal band. due to timing conflict mark and i will be traveling without our homies.

since we’re going to be homeless with no way to hustle trash money and no fridge full of free food i’m hoping to recreate those wonderful elements on the road. i’m hoping to dumpster and busk our way up the coast…. we’re poor as fuck so we’ll see how this unfolds. i’m scared of some things about this trip. this seems way more dangerous than train hopping. biking up 6,000+ ft of elevation freaks me out, plus strong winds, heavy summer traffic, blind corners, no shoulder, etc. but scared or not i’m getting on greyhound in a few hours and moving forward with the plan.

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i wrote this article and it is awesome. dig through it even just to look at the pictures. ENJOY!
http://brinkoffreedom.net/politics-and-economics/dumpster-diving/Image

I wrote an ebook on dumpster diving!  I the book on our website, http://www.cakeordeathradio.com

it’s a short 13 pages, half of those are pictures. The PDF is $4.99 but it’s also FREE for those who prefer that.

it’s not just a story, it’s a HOW TO DUMPSTER FOR FOOD & MONEY

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http://www.cakeordeathradio.com/dumpster-diving-book.html

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trashed gold mine

okay so there were a few more things in the trash that didn’t make it in the picture. the 2 chocolate chop cookies i ate on site didn’t make it and the kombuchas were drank too soon, didn’t make it for the family shot….most of this was gifted away. tons more goods that we didn’t want to take with us were left in the gold mine

mi trash art is a brown bag

nadas art is the glory of this:

let me let you a little story.

for our wedding in the woods i made a sign-collage to point where to go when walking the trail. the night before we left for austin i made the collage…the day after our austin wedding of the woods we received a high honor of a wonderful friend who legally married us randomly (very divine) in the produce dept at whole foods….


last night sitting on our bed mi husband looks over to the collage on our wall and says did you notice the married couple in your collage is getting married over produce?

you should have seen the look on my face…or heard the sound of the record scratch to a stop….

click on photo to see up close what i’m talking about