Lately, I have been trying to un-aquire stuff. Trying to peel down, through layers of accumulated possessions, that grew up around us in our 30 years of marriage. The layers that moved with us from MD to PA last summer, and currently fill FOUR storage units and our apartment. Yes four. It’s embarrassing. I had no idea the homestead contained that much stuff.
Now to be fair, CoVid is partly to blame — when we were boxing up and clearing out, Goodwill etc were non-operational. Plus people felt weird about handling secondhand goods. Its been a relief to start to tackle the problem, to find happy homes for that pile of acquired possessions. It’s uphill work.
But let’s get real. Those large objects are only the most obvious examples of our explicit and intentional generation of “stuff” — the things we meant to buy. What about all the things we didn’t even mean to buy, the things that are such a part of modern life
Even when nothing is growing in suburban gardens, stuff is growing in suburbia. Mounds of stuff. You know. Plastic cups, dishes, masks, laundry bottles.
But yesterday, I found myself staring into wastebaskets. Have you ever taken note of a restroom trash can? Washing hands is a very good thing at any time in human history, never more so than with a pandemic hovering over our shoulders. But all this washing hands yields an enormous unintentional harvest.
The photo documents half a morning’s worth of my paper towel. About two hours. In and out of bathrooms at the gym, and at Panera where Owen and I write. A small mountain, with much more to come. All day long.
Waste baskets and waste baskets and waste baskets mostly full of paper towels. Damp and mostly clean (since you already washed your hands), single use paper towel. And every basketful encapsulated in the plastic trash bag that transports it. The plastic bag that prevents contact with water, air, and sunshine that would degrade the paper and return it to soil.
I can’t take it anymore. So I am stuffing the wet and basically clean paper into my pockets. It won’t hurt me there (joining who knows what all else). I can add it to our compost bucket at home.
I know this is a micro problem in a world of BIG problems. But I have better things to grow than garbage, even in a suburban winter. The cleanest of all garbage: Dirt.