Who was around for the Millenium Falcon wrapper last summer?
Now there’s a Halloweeny skull in the back hallway.
We’ve all done it, seen it, or heard about it.
That one piece of trash that doesn’t get picked up.
You step around it, on it, over it. You make pass after pass with the vacuum, wishing and hoping. You say it’s not your job. You wait for the wind to blow it away. You ignore it.
But sometimes, it’s something else. Maybe not an emotional attachment, more a sense of everything having a place.
Or it just reminds you of the Millennium Falcon and you enjoy that bit of extra cheer in your day.
I passed this gum wrapper in the bowels of the mall for almost three weeks. I could have picked it up and thrown it away, but I didn’t. For all I know, I’m the only one who noticed it until it was swept away.
I’ll admit it; I grew fond of it. It became a friend to greet when I went to storage for champagne flutes or desk accessories.
Little spearmint Falcon, you may not have made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, but I knew you were there. I hope the trash compactor sent you to a galaxy far, far away.
There’s a challenge going on over at veggie sausages: who needs it? It’s all about the clutter.
Challenge number two is about the emotions behind clutter and decluttering. I have a few, here and there.
I haven’t chosen an area to do actual, physical decluttering, because, well, screw it, that’s not a priority right now. R. Sativus is. OMG, I just totally put myself first. Sorry, that realization is a little distracting. But trust me, I have done a lot of decluttering in the past. Ian may have moved in with a TV and one box of stuff, but I happen to have years and years of
junk accumulation experience. I promise, every time I move, I toss a bunch of crap. But I’ve always replaced it. And of course, we’ve added to it plenty over the past almost nine years.
Most of it, sure, no big deal. Sort and trash. Done. But since 2009, a lot of that junk has taken on a whole new meaning for me, not in a good way. I remember the first few times I ‘went through’ stuff. I kept and filed away all the things I’d written, the letters to Ian, the letters to myself, the pages of my side of the fight from that day I was physically unable to speak due to fury/grief/who-knows-what. The few things he’d written in return. I kept all that hate and bitterness, because it was something real. When your world is completely smashed to bits, evidence of reality becomes exceptionally important.
After I quit my job in 2010, there was even more. I’d had to keep all my uniform shirts and hats and name tags, the jacket I’d received from the company for my first Christmas, the fancy World Record Breaking hat from the event I’d participated in (one of two in the region), my 30 second pizza pin (only one in the region, y’all!). Slowly, that stuff became less important as a reminder of what I’d done and more important as a reminder of what he’d done. So one day I threw it all away. And it felt good. I went through every room in the house to make sure I had it all, and I bagged that shit up like nobody’s business. It was freeing. It was glorious. It was a big fuck-you to everyone there who’d given me a hard time. Even better than the high school ex-boyfriend photo bonfires we used to have. You remember those.
The car was another thing. I can’t take credit for getting rid of it, but that was another day of emotional decluttering.
But the words were another story. Words are precious to me, even those horrible ones. I still needed them. I still needed their reality. So I kept keeping them.
Until I didn’t. We were in counseling, and I thought I was finding out the things I needed to know. I thought I was finding our new normal. It doesn’t matter that I was wrong. It matters that I could go home and throw all of that paper away. It mattered that when, on occasion, I happened across something else that belonged in that file, I didn’t even need to read it anymore. It could go straight in the trash without having the chance to hurt me again. It was still real, but it wasn’t now.
I’m glad I threw all of that away. There have been plenty of days since then that I would have dragged it all out to read, to make myself even more miserable. It’s better that I don’t have that option available. I can understand that, and I can even say that it’s been a while since I even thought about being able to do that. So that’s good.
Getting rid of bad stuff is good. And it makes me feel good.
Ian and I have been dumpster diving and ‘trash digging’ for years. What we call ‘trash digging’ doesn’t really involve much digging, just driving around neighborhoods the night before trash pickup to see what we can see.
He wanted me to write a list of what we’ve scavenged, but as I considered, I came to realize how little we’ve actually spent over the past seven years on furnishings, decorations, and entertainment. We bought our mattress set new, and probably spent more on that and our television than everything else put together. That’s as it should be, right? A comfy bed is priceless, even more so when you spend a lot of time lying awake in it.
Our dishwasher and entertainment center were freecycled, Abby’s toddler bed was consignment, and our couch, love seat, and coffee table were Craigslist. And the washer, dryer, refrigerator, microwave, and dresser that came free from friends or family.
Wow, I’m impressed with us. Sorry, got a little distracted.
Anyway, we dumpster dive.
Our favorite places to go are Michael’s, Kmart, and Dollar Tree. We have had a lot of new development recently, but almost all of those shopping centers have compactors. Compactors make us sad.
Michael’s is where we get all my frames, most of which are only thrown out because the glass is broken. There’s the occasional crafty stuff or mat leftovers as well. Their dumpster always looks so happy and sparkly from all the ground glass on the surrounding pavement. Closed toe shoes are a good idea.
Kmart is next door to Michael’s, so they always get hit as a pair. Ian once came home with two large garbage bags full of single socks. Those took hours to sort and match, but the end result is we may never need to purchase socks again. Our kitchen is Halloween-themed year round, from a haul of hand towels and potholders a few years ago.
The thing about Kmart that I hate is the destruction. They slice up their display models of carseats and strollers, that could easily have been donated to people who need them. It’s so frustrating to see that. When we find usable items that we don’t need or want, if we don’t know someone who does, we clean it up and take it to a donation site.
And Dollar Tree. They just don’t care. If one package is damaged in a case, the whole case is thrown away. We’ve gotten shampoo, dishwasher detergent, cat litter, all because nobody felt like cleaning up the undamaged containers. And once, a dead beaver. We did not salvage him. That discovery remains a mystery.
But my personal favorite is the Asian grocery. I don’t know how many fruits, vegetables, and labels I’ve googled to find out just what exactly is this weird thing. We haven’t been there in a long time, though.
There are some guidelines we follow. First of all, make sure dumpster diving is legal in your area. In Louisiana, once you throw something out, it’s fair game. A cop once stopped to see what we were doing and had to google to find that out for herself. Obey private property signs.
Also very important, but something that would seem to be common sense is to never climb into a dumpster alone. I’m talking to you, Ian! He almost got stuck once getting me a pair of jeans because the only other thing in there was cardboard, and not much of it. Fortunately, I was there, and he got out okay anyway. If you are climbing in, make sure you don’t lose your shoes.
You don’t have to climb in. A grabber, or even a cane or broomstick, is usually all you need to shift things around and protect your fingers.
Food? I’ll eat dumpster food. All of our grocery stores compact, but I’ve heard good things about Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Wash your produce and leave anything canned or bottled if the seal has been compromised, of course. Shelf stable items that are individually wrapped inside a larger container are ubiquitous, and find homes in our pantry.
What do you think?