Moving: Why Is It So Hard To Find Boxes?

May 16, 2011

It used to be you went around to stores and asked for boxes. That isn’t the way it’s done anymore. Ever since cardboard became a sellable recycling commodity, stores hoard their boxboard and just glare at you if you ask.

We’re moving, and we need boxes. We investigated our options, and found them lacking, until a few nights ago when I was driving home from work in the small hours and spotted a dumpster behind a pharmacy; it was stacked high with boxes. Real boxes, too, not those folded-flat jobbers. “Opportunity knocks,” I said, lowering the volume on the new Beastie Boys CD and quietly pulling the minivan into the empty back alley.

Within a few minutes I had filled the van with boxes big and small. I think I might have been criminalizing a bit. But these were beautiful boxes, man … all different sizes, sturdy, clean … some of them say “Adult Sanitary Garment” on the side, which will be funny when Tarzan eventually makes a fort out of them.

As I looked into the dumpster to see if there were any more, I spotted something weird: a briefcase. An old, worn briefcase, the kind with the three-digit combination lock. So I grabbed it.

Note: I take a lot of ribbing for my scavenging habit, but the simple fact is I grew up dirtier poor than dirt poor, and we learned early on how to reclaim and recycle discarded items. For my entire life, I have kept my eyes out for things other people don’t notice, which is how I have found two iPods, several thumb drives, a walkie-talkie and a samurai sword in the forest just in the past 12 months.

I tossed the case into the van, noting it was very, very heavy, and headed for home. “Drug money?” I thought. “A biker weapons deal cash drop? Stock certificates?” Anything could be in there. When I got home, I went to work on the lock and soon had it open, only to discover …

Cutlery. A plastic bag filled with old, random forks, spoons and butter knives. There was also a booklet on counting calories and a broken pedometer. What I had was someone’s failed attempt at either dieting, exercising or trying out for the Mystery Men.

The whole case went back in the trash. I had my boxes, and that, in this day and age, is treasure enough.



  1. Maybe it’s just mismanagement at LCBOs in Toronto, but they still seem to have lots of boxes for the taking.

  2. When I was about 8 or 9 my brother and I stumbled across a bag full of old Penthouse magazines in a dumpster. We spent the rest of the apartment complex living era of our childhoods seeking to replicate that magical dumpster dive.

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