Thursday, June 17, 2010

Garbage: Now Guilt-Free!

I've always felt guilty about throwing things away.

When I was growing up, my dad was very frugal.  My mom says they used to live like they were in poverty (cinder block furniture, for one, and those cinder blocks still clutter up their backyard because my dad always finds a reason to suggest them as a solution for something), and truthfully my dad does a good job as a do-it-yourself-er -- as long as he can avoid throwing it away.  

For example (and if you've known me very long, you've already heard this little anecdote), on one occasion in high school, I was about to throw away some bagels (it may have been bread?) that were growing mold.  I made the mistake of announcing my logical actions, because my dad snatched the bag out of my hands before I reached the garbage and said that he'd eat the non-moldy bits.  Ever since, my mom always quietly instructs me to take rotten food straight to the street can and bury it, and to make sure my father doesn't see! 

Of course, sometimes things aren't even safe on the street.  Halfway through high school, I complained to my mom of a sore back.  She wondered how old my mattress was, and if I was due for a new one.  Turns out, I had been sleeping on the same mattress my brother had before his double bed, and before that, my dad grew up sleeping on it (and possible some of his 4? younger siblings).  My mom put it out as a "large item" for the garbage men to take away.  When my dad heard the garbage truck loudly beeping and shuffling and for some reason repeatedly backing up outside, he rushed out to drag the retired mattress back to the side of the house.  My mom?  Oh so livid.

I'm sure there are a few dozen more ridiculous stories somewhere in the back of my childhood memories, but the point is that while I grew up resenting his hoarding ways, I picked up his anything-but-wasteful ways.

This will probably make me a good mother some day, if not merely economical, because if I get full before my plate is empty, I will force myself to eat beyond comfort just to avoid wasting any, and I will keep things that are broken by rationalizing that I will fix it...some day!...and it will be so useful I would be glad I didn't get rid of it, even though I usually get rid of it years later when it is obsolete and much higher quality stuff is available for far less than it would cost to fix the old broken thing.

I probably have 3 broken point-and-shoot digital cameras lying around, positive that I will sit myself down and open them up and repair the lens mechanism that jammed when I drunkenly dropped it on the ground New Year's Eve, or fish out the one sand granule keeping the lens from completely extending or retracting, or unsticking the shutter button that now will only take a picture when you first turn the camera on.  Forget the fact that I have a much newer replacement point-and-shoot, and a DSLR that takes much better pictures than any of the others ever could. 

Seriously, why do I still keep this crap around?!

I have discovered, however, two sure-fire ways to get rid of stuff I don't want anymore, guilt-free! 

Looking to free up some closet or counter space so you can buy that new Kitchenaide blender or Oreck upright?  Just cart your old Target-brand and DustBuster out to the dumpster!  The secret is not putting it in the dumpster, just next to it!  This works best if you live in a low-income neighborhood, as this assures you a higher volume of dumpster-divers.

This also works for recyclables.  If you had a cheap landlord like I did in college, recycling pick-up was not included.  You could save it up and seek out a recycling bin somewhere, but why not just bag it and set it next to the dumpster with your unwanted crooked TV stand?  Your local homeless man will thank you for saving him the trouble of climbing in and sorting it from the refuse himself.

You're not only being a greener citizen, but a humanitarian as well!  Pat yourself on the back.  Go ahead, I'll wait.


Okay fine, so you can get rid of that junk that you kept around because Good Will won't take it, but what about food you don't want?

I'm not advocating pawning off rotten goods on others just because my daddy taught me it was okay to eat mold (it's not, and that's gross).  I'm talking about food you bought at Ralph's because it looked tasty when you foolishly went grocery shopping on an empty stomach, or because it marketed itself as healthy so well and you want to start eating better but man wholesome food tastes like garbage!

So the food is still good, and your friends don't want it, but you have too much garbage guilt to throw it away, and while one girl's trash is another's (dear blogger: why is that not a word! why you gotta bring out that red squiggly??) treasure, even the best food put near the garbage screams "poisoned" (or peed in).  So what do you do??

You bring it to your place of employment and slyly put it in the break room while no one is looking.  In no time at all, scavengers for free food will snatch it up and, even if they take one bite and toss the rest, the guilt is off of your shoulders! 

Don't believe me?  I have anecdotal proof!

I recently bought some of those really soft cookies from Safeway, which are always the same really soft butter cookies with different colored/flavored frosting and sprinkles based on the closest holiday.  Apparently the closest holiday was Key Lime Day because these were far too key limey for me!  I ate one (I hated it after the first bite, but couldn't waste the rest of the cookie! so I suffered through it), and left the rest in the plastic box on top of my computer tower.  I stared at it guiltily for a few days, wondering what to do with it.  If I offered it to my roommates, they'd wonder what's wrong with them.  If I managed to get them each to try one [bite and throw the rest away], I'd still have some left over!  Then I remembered once someone left a giant bag of oranges from their tree in the break room at my work in pure, "I need to get rid of this goddamn fruit!" way -- because I tried one and it was gross (again, I finished it, but grudgingly) -- and the bag was gone, at least by the end of the week!  And so I brought the cookies in that Friday and snuck them into the break room when no one was in there, "casually" glancing in every time I walked by to see if they had been eaten yet.  They were gone by lunchtime.

And that, my friends, is how you get rid of your unwanted things, guilt-free!  It's a real secret to being a responsible adult.

You're welcome.

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