Tag Archives: trash


It’s fall trash pickup time here in Brisbane and we have been sorting items we want to discard. We put a bicycle and a stroller out to the curb and both were snatched up almost immediately by one of the many roving trucks that make daily trips through the neighborhood looking for treasures. Some houses have massive piles of junk out front that have been well picked over and look like a junk yard. 

Yesterday I cycled into work and past the hoarding house I keep my eye on. Sadly I recognized all sorts of new junk piled in the front of the yard and onto the back of two trucks. I have watched this house for the past two years and I know that these items are not going away to good use any time soon. Children’s toys and plastic garden chairs topped off the mounds.

ImageAt least in our house some purging is happening. We scrapped an old barbecue, we’re giving away the bike trailer S. used to ride in, and I’ve been putting our old t-shirts to good use. I’m making D. his own rug. So far it contains seven tees, with number eight balled up on top. 

oh hoarder

Every day I bicycle past a hoarding house. It has a run-down camper parked in front and two other cars that seem not to work. The front yard is littered with large machinery type objects and at least three rusting wheelchairs. I can see in the front windows: there is stuff piled up 3/4 to the top. It’s a nice neighborhood with homes worth near the one million dollar mark on the same little street. This one looks like a leftover.

Yesterday as I was bicycling along, I noticed a trailer on the back of one of the cars. On that trailer, a newish looking treadmill. I smirked uncomfortably. No space in the house for a treadmill and likely no one will use it. I’m sure they got a fantastic deal somewhere. Today, the treadmill remains rusting in place.

Once upon a time, I also got a great deal on a treadmill. I bought it third-hand, and D. helped me bring it home. I used it maybe three times. I always had an excuse for not using it: primarily, if I was going to run I should be running outside with the dogs. I didn’t run with the dogs. It went into the garage to make room for our baby. I sold it very easily but 4 years later and for half what I paid for it. A wonderful machine for the right person. For the hoarder in me: junk. Space filling stuff. Accumulation. Debris. A reminder of what I should be doing but wasn’t. 

Oh dear hoarder, I know you will not stop. So I watch daily as the pile grows. I imagine you picking through your neighbor’s continually growing trash heap. I wonder if it feels good to not have space, to feel the weight of those things anchoring you in your spot, if hoarding is essentially an anxiety disorder – a need to be physically hemmed in. 

forgotten coffee


I’m a spoiled girl. My husband packs a lunch for me in the morning. I just have to put it in my bag and go. Yesterday I realized I forgot to bring a fork: but never fear, the hoarder is here to save the day! I opened a desk drawer I haven’t looked in for months, and of course I had a plastic fork. I also found a mystery baggy with frightening grey turd-like crystals. Who knew freeze-dried coffee could become desiccated and moldy?

Inspired by Joanna’s blog, I Won’t be a hoarder too, I snapped a picture and threw it in the trash. This is not so much something I held on to, but a perfect example of me keeping things “just in case” and then forgetting about them until they are ruined. Classic COH.


We move in one week and we’ve begun to sort and pack up things that we don’t immediately need. Having only been in this house for 5 months, the task is not monumental. Still, I find myself both invigorated by the ability to discard and compelled to keep trash. This little ball went to the “bin” as S. calls it.



learning to hoard

Having just watched Toy Story again with S. and just given her another Happy Meal toy over the weekend, the following post which I discovered thanks to ifiwereahoarder.com rings only too true. Derek Boik writes “Teaching our kids to hoard (and making them feel bad about it),” analyzing the progression in the Toy Story series from cute life imbued toys, to collector’s items, to discarded pieces for whom we mourn. How are we supposed to let anything go when it has feelings, life, purpose, and needs us to exist? Boik’s title just needs to be tweaked to “making them feel bad if they don’t.”

hoarding others’ memories

Last week I discovered that D.’s ex-wife has been blogging her memories. D., quite respectfully, has said that they divorced a long time ago and he is not interested in reading it. I, however, cannot help myself. It’s like watching an autopsy in which the pathologist is mutilating the corpse, and I simply cannot look away. I can list a hundred excuses why I’m reading the perspective of this woman I’ve never really met (it’s even related to my field of research!), but it feels more like a sickness in me than anything else.

What’s fascinating me most, though, is her willingness or desire to rehash the past. She goes at it with a hoarder’s eye for detail, recounting textures and senses, shadow and light, with precision that doesn’t seem possible for memories that are as many as 40 years old. She has overtly taken a stab at scientific observation and objectivity, trying not to speculate on stories that are not her own, but the complex images she draws only lead me to believe that these are well-rehearsed memories. I don’t believe scenes from our childhood or even five years ago can remain vivid if they are not continually conjured. This leads me to an even more sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach as she has just begun to blog about meeting, dating, and living with D. Her project, which is reading as a journey into finding and heeding an inner voice, is setting up their entire relationship as a big misstep. I cannot read it without thinking about my own first marriage which I would certainly recount as something I should not have done but that taught me a number of important lessons. But would I take the time to go down the paths of memory and recount excessive details of meeting him and so on? The very thought makes me shudder with nausea. It just simply isn’t a consideration – I have a beautiful life right now, even when it’s difficult. D. turned out to be the love of my life. We have a beautiful daughter, successful careers, and a love between us that I had given up believing in when I was still a teenager. One person’s trash, another’s treasure? From your hoard to mine?

It’s excruciating to watch someone else dissect the person you love so deeply and to have no control over how they put those words out into the world. I’m only thankful that he turned out not to be the perfect person for her, because he really is the perfect man for me.

spongebob hoarderpants

Yesterday while S. was playing next to me, I caught a glimpse of the beloved SpongeBob in an episode called, “Sentimental Sponge.” During his regular spring clean up, SpongeBob innocently takes his trash to the curb only to be convinced by Patrick that his trash has real sentimental value. SpongeBob descends into hoarding hell and begins to collect used ketchup packets, chewed up gum and even his own sweat. Squidward calls the health department, they threaten to condemn the unlivable house… you know the drill.

How did SpongeBob overcome (kind of) his hoarding problem? He decided to photograph every item before he trashed it, until his house was overrun with photos.

This is especially poignant today as I threw away countless useless (and many poorly taken) photos of squirrels, geese, old buildings, and people I do not need to remember.

clarity, optimism, or just unloading stuff

Yesterday a dear friend/former student and her husband came to say goodbye to us for the n’th time. I gladly took the opportunity to unload more books, but especially the TV that has been sitting to the right of my desk for the past several years. Now that it is gone, I moved the printer to that spot and the sunshine is suddenly flowing unobstructed through the window. It just feels good to give items away to a good home. In fact, it’s my biggest problem with holding on to stuff. I’m generous by nature and I hold on to things people have given me and things I think someone else can use. Throwing something out, just into the trash, is painful for me. Recycling is OK … trash is painful.

So thank you, M., for taking a bunch of our stuff off our hands again yesterday. She also offered to take my family portrait from when I was four years old. I first said yes and then retracted the offer. I’ve never known what to do with that relic of my family before it was entirely fractured (or before I was cognizant of the fissures), but maybe my daughter will want to look at our goofy clothes and my toothy smile someday.

Stuff out the door and I’m feeling lighter already, even if there’s a lot more to sift through here in our home.

death of Sophie

As S. has grown over the past two and a half years, I have consistently given away her toys, books, and clothes to family and friends with small children. I did, however, keep her two favorite baby toys and intended to put them away in a box for her. My parents had done the same for me – kept some baby outfits, my baptismal candle, and a JCPenny catalog from the year I was born. Those items have long been lost in their hoard, but I know they existed, and I remember looking at them at least once during my early adolescence with curiosity and appreciation.

My two selected toys to keep were Sophie the Giraffe, the iconic (and ridiculously expensive) French squeaking rubber chew toy for babies and a little cow/teether/mirror thing that was the first toy S. brought to her mouth on her own on her first major trip while we were stranded in Milwaukee.

About two weeks ago S. found Sophie and asked to bring her to the bathtub. Sophie’s leg quickly sprang a leak, which S. picked at until it became an unfixable hole. Today I laid Sophie to rest in the trash.

It has never been excessively hard for me to throw away broken toys or ruined clothing, but the moment when I had to hide Sophie in the trashcan so S. wouldn’t try to drag her back out again was a little disconcerting. It almost felt like burying babyhood but without the celebration that should entail.

even dora’s friends are hoarders

Benny's Treasure

The other night I discovered with our two-year-old that Dora the Explorer is now available on demand. We turned on the “Last Chance” episode, “Benny’s Treasure,” only to discover that Dora’s friend Benny has a serious hoarding problem. He was so excited that it was Junk Day that he spent the entire time sifting through people’s trash to repurpose items, like a curtain that became a princess gown for Dora. I’m not too sure I want my two-year-old to learn to save items from other people’s trash so she can wear them. I have enough trash collecting problems of my own for the moment.