One of the things that makes me feel stuck in my garage-clearing efforts is figuring out what to do with all of the junk – and the good stuff – that I don’t want anymore.  Small trash is a no-brainer.  The clothes and small items in good condition are easy, too.  I make regular donations to a local charitable organization that drives to my house and picks up the boxes and bags.  Out the door with very little effort, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that someone else might find a little joy from these once-loved things.

The problem comes with the items that the charity won’t take, like mattresses and furniture and microwave ovens.  So one day I figured out that I could simply drive these sorts of things over to our local dump, and, for a small fee, I could get them out of my crowded garage.

I decided I would start with just a small load, to see how the process worked.  If it was as easy as it seemed, maybe I would rent a small truck later and just clear the whole shebang. I felt so proud of myself and happy as I followed the directions to the landfill.  This was going to be great.

But nothing prepared me for the enormous, towering piles of trash left to rot and decompose under special tarps designed to speed the process.  I drew my breath in sharply, and continued to the main gate, where they weighed the vehicle and directed me to the appropriate “do-it-yourself” dumping area.

The road wound around behind the giant hills, and I felt like I was in another world.  Even on this gorgeous Saturday morning, bulldozers and dump trucks crawled over the grounds, like ants gathering food for the anthill.  It was overwhelming in a sickening sort of way.

Once there, I watched in a daze as a man shoveled out loose trash and junk from the back of a large box truck into a huge dumpster set up smartly at a lower level, so there was no lifting required.  My turn.  I pulled out some smaller pieces first, and easily tossed them in the big hole.  It felt great.  But as my son’s small dresser and a twin mattress from the girls’ old bunkbeds went in, I had a very hard time.  Breaking the emotional connection wasn’t a big deal.  But knowing that I was throwing away perfectly good household necessities and adding to that mountain of garbage down the road brought a wave of guilt and remorse that I hadn’t tried harder to find them a good home first.

The experience made me more mindful of the waste I generate.  It made me never want to buy another thing and to recycle as much as possible, even if it requires a bit more planning and effort than simply tossing things in a dumpster.  Maybe our children should all be required to take field trips to the local dump to fully understand the impact of our consumer-driven greed.  I have too much stuff.  And for what?  Clutter only creates stress and then we have to figure out what to do with it.  From the store to the landfill – what a waste.

I’m starting to think those tree-huggers aren’t so weird after all.

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