Thursday, April 19, 2012

Throw It All Away

 Maybe it is my early love of the Velveteen Rabbit or the letter R, but I get seriously excited about this week.  I'm done with the facade.  YES, I have a small mental list and am a little more than excited to drive down the streets during unlimited garbage week; I've been taking the long way in hopes that I'll find a more perfect little wooden end table for beside the reading chair or possibly some new garden pots (don't worry friends, I generally pull into the driveway so as not to block up traffic)*.

It's Earth Week, for those of you who don't have school dwelling children and are hence not currently bombarded with The Eco Lunch Nazi (that was me yesterday, and let me apologize publicly for accidentally over-enforcing the guidelines when I didn't realize that "waste-free / no garbage / no recycling" was making exception with the school milk.  I hope that I did not inadvertently crush your child's spirit while zealously fulfilling my liberal eco-freak agenda duty.  Any cursing about me being a socialist / granola / tree-hugging / fanatic was warranted and expected.  Sorry.  I hope we can still be friends). 

That said, in conjunction (probably coincidentally although I'd like to think it is all part of a master plan) with Earth week, our town does an "unlimited garbage day" once a year.  Normally we get one can but on this very special day, ANYTHING can be put out at the curb: Couches, tables, beds, toilets, construction material... you name it, it is out on the curbs.  Homeowners start nearly a week before, piling their year of refuse and discards on the parkways, and my eco-heart gives an excited thump when I see it.

At this point you are probably asking yourself why piles of garbage make me so happy.  It seems like garbage would be an Eco-enthusiast's (I'm really more of a hobbiest), nightmare.  And to some degree it is.  To see the mounds of stuff collected over the years, and tossed out for something newer and shinier, is a little disheartening but I prefer to fixate on the greener side of things.  People are constantly shopping the streets to throw treasures into their trunks.  Trucks are filled to the brim with metal and driving street by street, looking for more metal to recycle.  It is "Reduce/Reuse/Recycle" at its best, and I am right there in it.  When we put something at the curb, our family takes bets on how long it will last and we watch (at one point, I went to pour a glass of wine and it was gone).  Often when someone is slowly eying our curb, I'll run out and say, "Wait, if you like that! I have more!!"

It makes me more willing to part with something, hoping that rather than sitting in a landfill, it is moving onto a new home.

I particularly hate buying new items.  I am "proud" that nearly everything in our living room and dining room was pre-owned.  Honestly, there are very few things in our entire house that we have purchased, but our living room in particular.  We have couches from a great Aunt (that she got as a wedding gift some 60 years ago and have been through 3 other family members), display tables holding the rocks that my DH's grandparents collected throughout their many travels, china from Great Grandparents, and afghans lovingly made.  Chairs & sofas unusable in family redecorating projects.  A chest made by my dad (he even planed the wood). Fireplace mosaics from the local closeout home store.  Decorations are gifts from dear friends or purchased on our trips from local artists.  Most of the wall hangings are photos / art by me, the kids, friends, and family.  Just looking at our cozy living room makes me happy and reminds me of so many people and so much love.

Not all of the items have familial stories.  Some are treasures found on Craig's List or Freecycle or a garage sale (note to self: do garage sale blog soon).  Like a perfect solid oak Amish china cabinet with not even a scratch being sold for a fraction of what it should be.  When I asked the seller why (as I was looking for some sort of catch, like it has the habit of spontaneously combusting when the light is left on for more than 10 minutes), he said, "This is my lovely fiancee'...and my former fiancee' picked the china cabinet out".  To which we excitedly and instantly paid cash for the cabinet and brought home.

Others have even less glamorous stories of tables being discarded behind a remodeled Eddie Bauer and a wooden valance, wallpapered with soccer balls and left at the curb.  I slowly walked by that valance for a week on our way to school.  It was a perfect fit for my son's room, and in soccer balls.  Finally, moments before the garbage truck crushed it, I carried the enormous 66 x 66" "L" piece home, like a mouse with a piece of cheese.  It sat forlorn in my son's room until my dad came to visit and couldn't wait to help me install.  Now it proudly holds all of my son's soccer trophies.

So, I'm done quickly stashing stuff in my Odyssey in hopes that I'm not caught.  I'm coming out:  I love unlimited garbage day.  I love to re-purpose something tired and worn.  I love to see someone happily take my old kitchen table (well, really, our old neighbor's kitchen table that we took from them), and hopefully, I will find a more perfect end table for our reading chair... even better if it goes with the theme of the rest of the living room... FREE.

*As a child, my dad was always garbage picking as my sister and I were ducking in the backseat so that no one would see us.  Let's hope my poor kids are not traumatized by this.  My Dear Daughter is totally fine, she actually helps me look on the streets... it is that almost middle school boy that I'm sure is horrified.  I'm not too sure my DH is all on board either :0)

~~The title of this blog is from a really obscure song by Toad the Wet Sprocket called "Throw it all Away".  It is one of my all time favorite songs and starts whatever project I'm about to do.  A great reminder that all this stuff and minutia is just bogging me down, and to let it all go~~

~~If you have little kids, you should really rent Jack Johnson's Curious George Soundtrack from the library, especially for Earth Week.  It has THE BEST songs for kids.  When the kids were little, we played the cd while we cleaned up.  The songs are catchy and easy to sing along with and really help kids (and adults) understand how to make the world a better and happier place. 


  1. You are an inspiration and I am going to do some google searches today for garage sales to start finding my treasures too! I love it! Josh and Leanne need a kitchen table and TV for their new apartment but don't have the money to buy a new one, maybe I'll get lucky or blessed on my treasure hunt. Nonetheless Kelly you are my treasure hero forever! :)

  2. Oh good!!! That is very much how our "theme" started. We had no money and people would give us stuff... then people would give us other stuff that we liked better than the originals and it just kept moving on. Eventually, even when we might have been able to afford buying something new, we liked the idea of only pre-owned. Now we only buy new if we can't possibly find something used (like our bookshelves). Happy Hunting! And remember, at first it isn't always perfect, but eventually you "upgrade".

  3. letitiasuk.wordpress.comApril 19, 2012 at 8:08 AM

    I am trying not to jump in my car and come over and prowl the streets too! Our home is furnished the same way, our kids call it "Eclectic Americana." Love your style!

  4. Eclectic Americana (love your kids) puts the best spin on this style! I am totally adopting it (I'll give you credit). Thanks!

  5. When we lived in Germany those nine years we got to enjoy a day like this 4 Xs a year!! Some of the missionaries shamelessly walked (small town) the streets in search of gold before dark, but others of us were too embarressed to be seen in the light of day, so went out with flashlights after dark. You have to understand that the Germans thought only the Turks and Romas should be caught doing this!
    I had no idea any place in the US offered this wonderful opportunity to upgrade household items. How blessed you are Kelly! :-)

  6. Dear Kelly,
    Being an Indian I understand recycling,reusing and reducing. I wonder how do I have a house so full of wonderful things that they lie under big piles of beautiful things making it very difficult to use them.
    I am planning an estate sale, this can't be a garage sale. I have so many things to get rid of that i can't possibly bring them all out.
    I would love your input to see if i can do it in an efficient way. And let me know if you would like to take something. I think I have the perfect end table for your wonderful chair.

  7. I have to be honest, it isn't quite evidenced with this outpouring of support here and on FB, but not everyone in Suburbia loves unlimited garbage week; they are sick of the slower traffic and the streets crowded with people from out of town. I'm pretty sure most of my friends would not consider taking something from the curb but I am happy that our town does this. Hopefully people will slowly begin to enjoy reusing and repurposing what others are done with. Thank you Debbie.

    and my Indian reader / friend, You will feel a weight lift if you only keep what you need or love and sell the rest but I know in your case, there are just so many beautiful things to love! Baby steps are okay :0)