What does your garbage say about you?

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time~~T. S. Eliot

recyle grocery bagsI woke up this morning thinking about garbage. Do you ever do that? Probably not. But listen on.

I think that life can be like a swing ride in a very high tree. 

We start at one point, swoop way over to the far point, and then, if we are lucky, get to tip back to the beginning once again.

In a way,  garbage has been like that for me, too.  Let me explain.

Childhood recycling

I was raised in a small Midwestern town, and recycling was a way of life. Not because we wanted to or thought it was good for the environment, but because it made economic sense. My mom would save bread wrappers for us so that we could ‘wax’ the slides at school to get a really zippy ride.

Milk was delivered in glass bottles, which were washed and set out for the milkman to replace with new ones. We saved jars that jelly came in to drink that milk at the supper table.

We had a garbage delivery of sorts, but they charged by the amount you put out, so we kept ours to a minimum. My dad had a big garden, so the ‘wet garbage’ was tossed into the compost bin. The dry stuff ended up in the incinerator, a 50 gallon oil drum with the top cut out and strategic holes punched in the bottom half to allow for a good draw. 

My dad was liberal in his interpretation of what went into the incinerator, and some days the burning smells wafting back to the kitchen from melting glass jars and empty tomato cans got pretty interesting!

Diapers, of course were cloth, and hung on the line along with the overalls that got stiff as a board in the winter cold. We didn’t so much gather the clothes as we harvested the sheaves, bringing in loads of stiffened clothes to soften by the oil burning stove. I got second-hand clothes from an older cousin, and I passed them on to a younger sister when I outgrew them.

Life wasn’t better then or even more simple. In many ways it was pretty rugged. But we didn’t waste a lot. 

Youthful extravagance

As a young, modern bride, I vowed never to live like my parents did. I bought with wild abandon, and the filled trash can was a source of pride. It some strange way it proved that I had made it. That I had enough and then some. 

Plastic had come out by then, and we used lots. Paper plates, too. And disposable diapers. Nothing but the very best for my family.

Return to the Land of Re

And now, I’ve come full circle, returning to where I began, the Land of Re: Reuse, Re-wear, Repair.

In some ways this occurred naturally. I have moved several times over the last few years, and each time became an opportunity to purge ‘stuff’ no longer needed or necessary. Some ways of being more thrifty are still works in progress. 

But here are some of the strategies I’ve found to work, and those I am still trying to fit into my lifestyle:


I am down to classics in my business wardrobe, and being a traveler, I sometimes don’t visit the same spot on the same days. I made a list, numbering each outfit I like to wear. Each morning I just note the number  of my outfit on the calendar. It eliminates wearing the same outfit twice to the same place.

Working on: I used to carry the kitchen sink with me when I traveled. I am working at more efficient ways of moving from one spot to another. Saves jet fuel and wear and tear on my bod hoisting those heavy suitcases as well.

Kitchen middens

  • I do (usually) dump my coffee grounds out in the garden. The earthworms thank me.
  • I have done away with paper plates and actually wash dishes again. I find I like the feel of real plates better.
  • I still buy bottled water, but I now save the bottles and wash them out for reuse. Makes sense for me.
  • My cats get dry cat food, and an occasional canned treat. I wash out the small cans and use them for watercolor wash containers.
  • My university library sends me requested books in small boxes, which I then reuse to send materials on to other folks. Amazon, thank you!

Working on:

  • I find that I am continually throwing out green slimey things in the bottom of the fridge. Perhaps a note on the front telling me what is in there might eliminate some of the waste?
  • What to do about all the plastic and paper cartons and boxes food comes in? These don’t recycle well. A possible solution for me might be to go to more whole foods? Less TV dinners and more meals from scratch. ZenHabits posted a good and simple Vegan way of eating that I am going to try. Thank you, Leo!
  • Reuseable bags for groceries. I got the bags and they reside in the trunk, where I remember them, too late, when I am loading in the groceries. Definitely a work in progress. But I’ll get there.


Working, working working on it!

  • I print out way too much stuff from the Internet, but it is a time saver when I am researching. And reading a lot of material at 72 dpi is just too hard on these weary eyes. I don’t have a good solution for that, yet.
  • Newspapers: I do get the Wall Street Journal, but I note that it has been downsized. I try to think of ways I can use the paper: for packing, for window cleaning, school projects. I recycle the rest.
  • I think the way of the future for me is two-fold: to be aware of what I am wasting, on a daily basis. And to then figure out a way I can stop the waste at its source. Recycling is good, but not having the trash to recycle is even better.

 I have heard that the new mantra is to give away two items for each new one that comes into the house. Ouch! That definitely takes the fun out of shopping.

A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.~~George Carlin

Perhaps a better solution is to give away what is already here and not acquire anything new? That would be cool, too. I find that the less stuff I have to care of and find a place to store, the lighter and freer I feel.

Tell me, what has worked for you?


About Author, Pegasus Quincy Mystery Series

I write a mystery series about a young rookie deputy on her first assignment in the Verde Valley of Arizona.
This entry was posted in -Earth-, Ecology, Green, Simplicity and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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