Did I Give Up a Six-figure Salary to Pick Trash?


Not every day is filled with exciting travel.

Since quitting my job, we spent half of this summer on the road traveling to new places like Colorado, and Nova Scotia. We got to take in breathtaking views, enjoy new cuisine, and got introduced to fun local activities with Airbnb hosts. We’ve been able to visit more family and friends – some of whom I hadn’t seen in a decade.

But to be honest, not every day has been filled with exciting travel. Being at home and having more time also means more projects keep coming up. Prior to quitting, I had been cultivating quite a few FI lifestyle hobbies, and now they are devouring every minute of my time. I thought I would be spending the summer in our hammock relaxing and reading books, but it’s been quite the opposite. A lot more of my time has been spent gardening, chopping wood, and doing home renovations. Most days, I’m exhausted. Everything came to a head the other day when I was disposing of some construction debris. When I got to the dump, I came to the realization that not everyday is going to be filled seeing new places, trying new food, and fishing. No, some days are even better.

Over the last 4 years, I’ve renovated every room of our home, except a small storage space below an addition on the house. The drywall was never completely finished, and the taping was starting to come apart. The door to the room was a solid door with no windows. It was a dingy hole of a space. I enjoy doing home renovations, so with extra time on my hand, I got to finishing the last bits of drywall. I re-taped, patched the holes, and found a new door with a window on Craigslist for $50.

I made some extra space in the doorway by taking out a step that was unnecessary, and cut the new door to size. I packed up the old door with the rest of the debris for a dump run. The door was metal so I pulled up to the metal recycling dumpster. I was about to unload the door when I saw something that made my heart skip a beat.

Staring up at me was a Bosch SDS‑max Demolition Hammer looking like an alien plasma canon that had seen some action. When it comes to power tools, this is the shit. While I love to build and create, sometimes you have to destroy first. And nothing is more satisfying than blasting concrete to smithereens with one of these. This one looked like it had been through hell, but it was not going through a compactor until I made damn sure there was no hope for it.


I’m not giving up on you, buddy.

Although I had an ongoing project to complete, I was now officially distracted. I tried really hard to keep focused on the project at hand, but the Bosch Hammer was calling my name. Overly excited, I couldn’t hold myself back from the new toy. Maybe just a quick check…

I plugged it in and flipped the switch. Smoke started pouring out of the motor – it’s seized up. I started to take apart the motor and noticed the plastic fan on the rotor was melted onto the housing. I pried them apart and after looking for what made them touch, I noticed I was able to push a bearing on the end of the rotor out further. It must have worn down and moved in allowing the cooling fan to touch the housing. I pushed it out as far as I could, and put everything back together. I flipped the switch again and it started up. But with the motor vibrating, the bearing got pushed back and the motor seized again.

How to repair a seized Bosch SDS-Max 11316EVS

I opened it up again, pushed the bearing back into place, and this time, I manufactured my own copper lock ring out of 14 ga electrical wire to keep it in place. After installing my contraption, I started and stopped the motor a few times – it kept running.  Now I just needed a bit. I found one on online for 9 bucks and a few days later I was ready to bust some rock. Connecticut is called the granite state for a reason – our yard is littered with boulders. I found one that was sticking up out of my yard enough to nick my mower blade, and decided to give it a haircut.


That copper ring looks like it belongs there!

I took the Bosch Hammer, and flipped the switch, “Brrrrrrruup, Brrrrrruup, Brrrrrrup!” Chips of granite went flying and a big grin stretched across my face. Holy Crap, I had my own jack hammer! Of course, this one wasn’t new. In fact, I think I’ll call him Oscar the Grouch because he used to live in a garbage can, isn’t pretty, and can have a nasty temperament – at least toward granite.


Oscar blasting boulders.

There have been days I’ve questioned doing what I’m doing instead of going to work and making real money. And I come to the same conclusion each time – it’s because I love this shit. It’s because finding something cool in the trash made my day. It’s not worth much, but I’ll remember the moment I saw it in the dumpster. I’ll remember the grin on my face when I brought it back to life and saw it busting up granite. Compared to my last bonus, Oscar was probably worth 1/100th of the money. But to be honest, I’m not sure because I don’t even remember how much that bonus was.

Living with less not only helps you appreciate what’s around you, but also how much we have. I mean, our trash is literally filled with treasures. It’s so easy for us to make money that possessions needing a little TLC just get thrown in the garbage. When working 40+ hours a week, you have to weigh your time carefully. We can’t be bothered with taking time to fix things, when in the same amount of time we can earn enough to buy new. This leads to incredible amount of waste. But it also means there is a veritable playground of treasures at the dump. Time is money, but if you have time you don’t need much money, and I am the trash king.


18 thoughts on “Did I Give Up a Six-figure Salary to Pick Trash?

  1. I’ve been picking roadside trash for years. I inherited the tendency from my Mom who refinished furniture from the local thrift shop. I just picked up stuff on trash days. Dump picking sounds even more awesome. Congrats on finding such a treasure. Sounds like your scooter all over again.

  2. Bravo for your awesome trash finds! Don’t ever feel bad about turning trash into treasure; that’s freaking awesome. 🙂 FI is all about doing stuff that you actually want to do, and that includes getting dirty; it’s not all hammocks and sunshine!

    • For me having fun often means getting dirty. Not everyday is hammocks and sunshine, but today might just be that day – it’s gorgeous outside right now 🙂

  3. That’s awesome that you saved that item out of the trash. I’ve been an avid dumpster diver myself ever since I discovered this was a thing about a year-and-a-half ago.

    I wrote about this a while back, but in one apartment building I lived, I found and sold over $1300 worth of stuff I found in a single dumpster in my apartment building. People move out and instead of giving their stuff away or selling it, they just toss it out. I’ve found perfectly good coffee tables, desks, chairs. I once found a Keurig Coffee machine that was in perfect condition. I even found a jar full of coins once. Literal money thrown in the trash.

    The great thing about dumpster diving is you can make some money and feel good about saving something from getting tossed.

  4. Time to tinker. I miss having that. I don’t know if I could successfully repair a demolition hammer; in fact, I’m pretty sure I’d fail, but it would be fun to try.

    More fun than that? Destroying rocks. Have fun with your new toy!

  5. Nice find Mr. Crazy Kicks! I’m an avid tool fixer too!

    Most tools are built to be pretty sturdy, but inevitably one small part fails. Rather than fix it, most people just throw them in the trash.

    It’s a terrible waste, but it also means guys like us get practically free tools!

  6. That last pic of you holding the alien plasma cannon looks like it oughtta be on the cover of a science fiction DVD. That’s awesome!

    So, I’d have had no idea what that thing is if I’d found it in the trash. And I’d have had no chance of fixing it. But I think I might’ve been able to enjoy obliterating rocks all the same.

    The interesting thing (to me) about this post is that, if you were getting paid to fix plasma cannons and obliterate rocks and (occasionally) renovate the house, your enjoyment of that stuff might be way different (and lower) than it is when doing it as hobbies. Some things I do for “fun” I’d probably hate doing if I viewed them as work. ‘Course, none of those things is blasting rocks. Which I might still enjoy!

    Cool post, Mr. CK! By the way, next time I can’t get the remote to work I’m calling you.

    • Haha, sure I’ll take a look at your remote 🙂

      You are right about the context of these activities. If I had to get up and work 9-5 doing these things, the fun factor would die out quickly. And we all enjoy different things too – Mrs CK for example loves school and has racked up 6 degrees, whereas I finished my bachelor’s in 3.5 years and never went back, preferring to learn hands on.

  7. I love dumpster diving. My wife and I have been able to find some amazing treasures that people threw out. Honestly most of the time we have no idea why they threw it out because with a little bit of work it’s like brand new. Most of the time we flip the items but every once in awhile we find something that we love and keep. Congrats on the awesome find!!!

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