lessons from the garbage dump

August 23, 2008

i made some time to do some work around the house today and decided to take a trip to the garbage dump. over the last three months, i have thrown countless things into our garbage cans for the garbage man to haul away. but we have also amassed a small pile of “large items” that won’t be picked up curbside.

i loaded up the family mini-van with old vacuums, a chair, suitcases, a garage door opener, two old doors, weed whacker, sheet rock, a medium sized bag of tools, two large toys, and some other miscellaneous trash. while at the dump, two things struck me.

1. i paid $15.50 to dump the junk. while i was actually quite happy with the price, i couldn’t help but think, “this is so ironic. i’m giving you good-for-nothing junk and you’re charging me money? i mean, i already had to pay for this stuff once, i’ve got to pay again just to get rid of it!” it got me thinking… essentially i just paid them $15.50 to purchase some space for my junk. i am simply buying real estate in some hole somewhere in the earth to store my stuff. now, i’m smart enough to know that there are other costs that go into running a junkyard such as tranportation, machinery, and labor… but essentially, i’m just paying them for space in their garbage hole aren’t i?

that reality led me to lesson #1. whenever i make a purchase, i am forever responsible for finding the space to store that item – whether it be a baseball, a vacuum, or a sofa. unless i can sell the responsibility to somebody else, it will always be my duty to find space for it to exist (even if it means a one-time fee of $15.50). and that seems like a good way to think though any purchase.

2. i helped a young man unload a treadmill machine from the back of his pick-up to leave at the dump. i was thinking of the good feeling that i was experiencing after removing the large items from my home and i said to him, “i bet it feels good to get this out of the house.” “it sure does,” he responded with a smile on his face. lesson #2 – never buy a treadmill.

related posts: the story of stuff; minimalism in america, part 2

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3 Responses to “lessons from the garbage dump”

  1. Dasha Says:

    Is there an active freecycle or craigslist in your area? You’d be surprised what people will want for free. Even broken stuff1 A lot of artists and handy-inventor types look for cheap supplies that way. Someone came by to pick up two broken wall clocks from us! I recently saw an installation involving old suitcases and plastic flowers. Just something to consider for next time.

  2. Michelle Summers Says:

    I second “Dasha’s” comment / question.

  3. Meg Says:

    I third that! I love Freecycle! And if I don’t want to wait for someone to pick something up, I’ll take it to Goodwill or another thrift store. I hate to see usable items go into landfills.


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