On Taking Out My Own Trash

This is an entry in a synchroblog started by my favorite yurt-living-lady Esther Emery. Once a month she wants to talk about the spiritual practice of environmental justice. She is light years ahead of me and my family, and she is so generous and gentle in her teachings that it makes me think that perhaps I could be better, that perhaps there is freedom in a better way. You can follow this conversation by checking out #spiritofthepoor on Twitter, or looking at the rest of the entries here.

I was thirty-years old before I ever took out the trash. I know, it is hard for me to believe as well. My dad always took out the trash when I was growing up. In both of my parent’s houses growing up it was a boy chore. We didn’t have any brothers around so my dad was stuck with it, he still is. 7 grandchildren later, there is still no one to help him take out the trash.I got married pretty young, we decided (well, I decided) in pre-marital counseling that Christian would be in charge of taking out the trash. Before that, I guess my roommate must have done it, because I am pretty sure I never did.

This, of course, did not occur to me until my husband was at a conference and the trash cans were overflowing. Suddenly, it was up to me.Y’all. Those trash cans are heavy. And we have three of them. And they were full. FULL. From about a week of living. Three trash cans, full from one week of  our little family. Three full trash cans. I really had no idea.

Speaking of no idea, I don’t really have any idea where that trash goes after it leaves my curb, or who lives next to it, or if it gets shipped to a country with less rules about children wandering in trash heaps. I vaguely heard of that happening once and thought it was terrible. But I never connected that practice to my own practices.

You see, I am a chucker. There are savers, people who won’t throw out clothes that haven’t fit in years, or the last but of yarn. “You never know” they say, as they tuck away something that looks like trash into their already bulging attics or basements. Then there are chuckers. People who hate clutter and clean out their children’s toy boxes and shrug their shoulders when the kids ask what happened to the toy that found its way to the trash. (But seriously, does the plastic mate while I am not looking? Because I did not buy any of it, and yet, it multiplies.) I am a chucker. If it doesn’t have a place or a function, it needs to go. I hit the Goodwill at least once a month. No receipt needed, I just want it gone.

If I don’t have time for the Goodwill, I just put it in the trash. I don’t need it anymore, and it has to go. And it does. I put it in the kitchen trash, my husband takes it to the curb, and I never have to deal with it again. But just because it disappears from my life, doesn’t mean it disappears from the earth. I mean, I suppose I know this, but it had never really occurred to me before. And it had never occurred to me before because I never had to take out my own trash before.

But someone has to be responsible for my consumption, and the trash that it generates at an alarming rate. If I am not the one dealing with my own consequences, and you can bet that the people dealing with my consequences have fewer resources than I do. Shit rolls down hill. And that includes the shit I throw out because I am tired of looking at it.

It was Esther (the host of this link up) who introduced me to the idea that I need to be responsible for the things that I buy. Not just when I am using them, but also after I am done with them. I need to think about the consequences of my own action, at the very least I need to stop thinking that there aren’t any consequences just because I am not the one dealing with them.

Loving my neighbor means caring about the reality that my trash is ending up in her backyard. I need to learn how to be more responsible with my consumption, and for me, that starts with learning how to take out my own trash.

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6 thoughts on “On Taking Out My Own Trash

  1. Abby,
    So glad for your contribution. It’s amazing how a simple change of routine can make us see things we never saw before. The trick is to voluntarily take some of those detours from our routines to see more and more. I have seen children rumaging through a dump in Managua. Now that was a life changer. But I really appreciated your telling this story. It is a perfect example of how we learn and change.

    Newell

  2. You had premarital counselling about the TRASH? You must be destined for a long and happy marriage if trash was a big issue.

  3. You do well to recycle. I am trying to reduce. I find I do have choices at the grocery store. Prepackaged produce or individual broccoli for example? Sometimes the individuals are even cheaper and they don’t spoil.

  4. Abby, thank you for your honest post. I love your story, not only in it of itself, but also as a metaphor for all of the “trash” we use and waste in our lives without thinking of how it impacts others.

    It is so difficult to know how much our own waste (our own privileges and lifestyles) harmfully impacts/oppresses others when we don’t see how much “trash” is in our lives and don’t know where it goes when it leaves our homes or how it even gets into our homes in the first place. I battle with this tension constantly. Your quote says it all: “Loving my neighbor means caring about the reality that my trash is ending up in her backyard.”

    May God open our eyes to see and our ears to hear as we continue to ponder and struggle over this trash that both stinks up our lives and the lives of so many others around the world that we too often don’t even consider.

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