Recycling


Garage sale

Image via Wikipedia

Spent some time purging drawers and closets in anticipation of the hamlet-wide garage sale later this summer.

Dee has outgrown nearly everything, which caught me off guard because normally I shop for her every other year. She’s put on exactly zero pounds but shot up an inch-ish or better. It’s all legs. Devilish hard to fit the child’s waist. Girls’ clothing these days are vanity sized and reflect the chunkier body types that have resulted from our processed food/low-level of energy lifestyles. Dee is not the shortest kid in her class anymore, but she’s got a Scarlett O’Hara waist compared to nearly all of her peers. Tiny waist and coltish legs spells difficulty in sizing her, so just about every pair of pants I got her back in late February are now floodies and still a tad too big around her waist. Hobbit-legged and thick-middled, the girl ain’t.

I rummaged and purged my own rather meager collection of apparel myself, sticking slavishly to the rule that “if it hasn’t been worn in a year, its history”. I continue to pride myself on the fact that every article of clothing I own could be neatly packed into a large Rubbermaid tote should the need arise.

All this pro-activeness called to mind the agony of purging and packing for the move to Canada before Rob and I married back in June of 2007. In fact four years ago yesterday, we left Des Moines behind.

I sometimes miss the idea of that house.  The openness and space. Some of what we’ve done in our recent renovations replicates it in a way, but we are far from done and even farther from achieving liberation from boxes of packed away stuff that is never thought of much less in danger of every being used again.

Over lunch today, Rob ruefully expressed what he called his “buyer’s remorse” about the renovation project that never ends. Selling and buying new, however, was never an option. Real estate around here is overpriced and much of the newer stuff is poorly constructed. For a little bit of debt, we can create spaces in our existing home that will more than suit as opposed to taking on the monumental debt of a brand new mortgage for what amounts to overvalued real estate on a prairie that is downwind of various petrochemical plants. It’s somewhat of a no brainer.

It’s doesn’t make the process less cumbersome or tiring.

The last time I purged a house, it was slash and burn. Goodwill, friends and friends/relatives of friends benefited tremendously from my zeal to simply lighten my load. I gave away more than I sold and simply threw away everything else. And with only the occasional exception (it would have been nice to have kept that Pampered Chef pizza cutter because the one I have now bites in comparison), I haven’t missed anything.

That’s the thing about stuff that most people can’t wrap their minds around – it honestly won’t be missed once you are able to pry your fingers loose of it. In all likelihood, you will never waste another thought on it again.

I toy with the idea of just getting a waste-bin  delivered and just have a chuckfest. But, of course, I won’t. A lot of what constitutes clutter isn’t mine, and though I am convinced that it would be years – if ever – that anyone would ask after the departed items, I respect the fact that what I deem useless and spent embodies something important for others.

Accumulation of stuff seems to be a condition of life – unless one is a monk of some kind. Renunciates are what they are called in yoga. Renunciates eschew things in an effort to seek the balance between living in a physical world without placing too much attachment on it while Householders do the opposite while still being expected to rise above it all. I think the latter is the more difficult. Having fewer things, as I have learned, spoils a person. The more room I acquire the less I want to fill it up. The more stuff one has, the harder it is to decide what’s necessary and the greater the likelihood that one won’t recognize the tribble like nature of stuff. Stuff breeds because it feeds want.

Too much stuff blinds us as well because it fairly demands that we attach value – monetary and emotional – to it, making it harder to get rid of and easier to let pile up in one way or another.

I suspect I will spend the better part of the rest of my life waging a quiet war of attrition with clutter and accumulation. Most days I am zen about that but today it’s raining and cold and my hair is frizzy. Not that this has any bearing, mind you, and I have just been thinking  – again – about how to lighten Rob’s load without any success. Maybe banana bread and cookies? At least that’s not permanent clutter.


When in purge mode we make dump runs. Sunday we hauled the remains of cement forms and more cast-offs from early reno dreams to the Cloverbar sanitary landfill which lies between The Fort and Edmonton off Yellowhead. We had Dee and her bff in the back seat happily gorging on Dairy Queen and the good fortune to be sent to the transfer station instead of up Mount Garbage.

The transfer station is where “clean garbage” and recyclable stuff is tossed. Mount Garbage is an ever expanding tower of dirt over crap that  no one wants but is too lazy to donate before it becomes worthless.

While Rob was tossing old wood and windows beyond reclamation into our assigned dumpster, a youngish appearing couple backed in next to us and proceeded to offload a truck bed plus a back seat’s worth of children’s stuff. Toys and clothes by the bag full and in decent condition, a serious collection of Disney movies on vhs and dvd and a hodge-podge of what might have been the accessories of a little girl’s bedroom.

Dee and her friend watched with horror as the women carelessly flung a jewelry box with nary a blemish that was quickly smashed to bits by a back hoe as it attempted to make more room in the dumpsters by squashing the contents.

One of the accessories the couple tossed was a beautiful wood framed full length mirror. The back hoe made short work of it.

The couple had unloaded without much conversation and were quickly back in their truck and gone as the sanitation worker directing traffic, Rob and our two little females in the back seat watched with interest that kept falling off the edge of disbelief.

Why would people throw away nice stuff? Why not donate it?

My mind fell to some horribly tragic scenario of  loss and indescribable pain. But that’s just me.

The old guy driving the back hoe parked and climbed up to get a peek at what we were all gawking at and shook his head.

“I never throw anything away,” he said. “My wife’s always at me about it, but I have a basement full of stuff I won’t get rid of.”

It’s the Oprah Intervention People who will survive the coming Apocalypse while the rest of us are staring blankly at our dark screens: computers, televisions and iPhones, they will be rummaging through their stash of ancient, but useful stuff, that doesn’t need a grid or even batteries.

The couple drove off. Him rather stony-faced and her all business. I still wonder about the little girl who is missing her stuff.


Woke up yesterday morning to warm, sun, and what passes for humidity here, and I thought, “Summer?” The question mark is essential because Rob believes we are in for a non-summer this year. Great. Let’s punctuate that with a heaping of Swine flu when school starts up and snow before Halloween too, shall we?

I long ago lost my taste for blistering Iowa summers which draped a person in hot moist air like a towel in a steam room. Back in the late 90’s, when I was still very much on my own, I loved that kind of weather. I ran around all summer in cut-offs, bikini tops and halters, went to the pool every afternoon and took long runs in the evenings. A decadent lifestyle. 

Humidity now feels like someone is stuffing a wet towel down my throat while kneeling on my chest, and I have neither the figure for a bikini top nor the patience for kid infested afternoons at the local pool. And long runs? Not to my knees’ liking. 

Ten years. Where have you gone? And what have you done with me?

Monday was lazy. Dee and I went into town to run errands. One of them was taking deposit containers back to the Bottle Depot, a filthy, disgusting time suck of a chore. I may have mentioned that the family that runs the place have a relative notion about hours of operation. Although the sign says 10am to 4PM, open and close have a 20 to 30 minute give or take on both. Knowing this, I just did a drive by around 10:30 and found customers backed out on to the street. Off we went to run the other errands, which included fortifying Dee with take away lunch because I was sure we’d still end up sitting and waiting a good half hour when we tried the Bottle Depot again.

While we were at the grocery, Dee spied two Army light-armoured transports and wanted to go over and take a peek as the soldiers were clearly on lunch break. One invited her to climb aboard and check things out. She did. She loves heavy machinery and uniforms. Rob says this is how they begin their seduction of the youth.

As we walked away we discussed the fact that soldiers are the ones who “stand on guard for thee”. Dee takes this duty of all Canadians very seriously.

“I watch all the time except for when I blink and am asleep.”

When do we lose that? The first time we single issue vote?

Later, as we sat at the Bottle Depot (40 minutes), I watched the car ahead of me. A young man not too many years younger than the soldiers we saw earlier. Iron Maiden shirt. Camouflage shorts. Cigarette dangling from his lower lip and hauling box after bag out of this little Nissan, each filled with beer cans. I wonder if he still stands on guard for Canada?