The dumpster

One day there was a construction dumpster in our driveway. We share a driveway with our neighbor and she explained she was having work done on her house. She went on to say that we were welcome to use the dumpster to throw away anything too big for the weekly garbage pickup. This was great news. We had been dragging things out to our unattached, un-insulated, 1950’s ramshackle garage for years. Broken things, worn out things, things we were bored of, things we brought from our old apartment and never looked at again. Here was a chance to purge the overflowing flotsam and jetsam without having to buy a pickup truck, locate the dump or even more unlikely, organize a yard sale. A shiny red dumpster, in our driveway; we were a mere swing and toss away from pulling out the lawn mower without knocking down three bicycles.

We put it off and then realized that the dumpster would soon be hauled away. We had to act fast. Fortunately, my husband had a day off during the week. We decided he would begin the sorting process and then ask me questions when I got home from work.

The following night, I immediately went around to the back of the house to check my husband’s progress. The garage door was gaping. Objects were spewed in piles around the lawn. I imagined the garage gratefully vomiting up our junk after an endless bad stomach ache.  

Stepping through the mess, I was exasperated that he had not made more decisions. “Why are we keeping this?” I held up a duffle bag that had housed many litters of mice. My husband said, “I like the shape.” “It is covered in mouse poop.” “I will wash it.” He was feeling defensive and pointed to several Styrofoam cones. “What about those?” “I need those to winter the roses.” “You haven’t used them for five winters.” I looked at him incredulously. “It has not been cold enough.” I was distracted by a tiny gloved hand reaching out of a green and red long box. “This has to go,” I said. My husband said, “We are not throwing away Psycho Santa. The boys like him.” This vaguely automated figurine had been sent by my mother when our children were small. The last time we displayed it the boys put a knife in his slowly waving grip. I was resolute. “We have not pulled that thing out in years, besides it comes alive at night.” He reluctantly moved it a few inches and then put it down. “The boys like it”. He put it back on a shelf alongside our college textbooks and a plastic tub of yarn balls.

This went on. He argued for a dented turkey roaster, a rusted 10 lb weight and a rotting arm chair with “good bones.” I felt justified that we needed the bag of broken ceramic shards for future mosaic projects and the boys would certainly want the sixteen boxes of elementary school artwork. “When?” My husband asked. “Someday,” I said and moved the box of Legos out of the Goodwill pile. “Grandchildren,” I said.

We were discussing the fate of a dresser with no drawers when our neighbor approached us. “How is it going?” she asked. We smiled and mumbled some variation on “OK.” She sighed. She told us that she had been cleaning as well. Her husband has passed away unexpectedly less than a year before and she had been slowing going through his stuff. Recently she had found a box where he had saved all of the cards and notes she had given him over the years. She said, “I read every one and then shredded them.” Her voice cracked. “I don’t want to come across them again.” She then explained that her son had found his dad’s old Davey Crocket hat and kept it. “It had holes and I told him to throw it away, but he still wanted it.” We chatted for a few more minutes about the dumpster and she went back inside.

My husband and I looked at the piles still left to debate. Things we believed at one time to be useful or meaningful, whatever their current state of disrepair. But we had lost momentum. We swept a bit, threw out some old cardboard and silently dragged everything back in the garage. We went in the house and had a glass of wine.

The next day the dumpster was gone.

5 responses to “The dumpster”

  1. T-Mo says:

    I loved this! I’m so glad to see that your posting again, Ramona.

    I’m a bit of a hoarder myself, and I sympathize greatly with the tension between the impulse to toss stuff out and the desire to find potential value in stuff that is damaged or in disrepair.

  2. T-Mo says:

    Er, “you’re posting again,” that is. I wrote that after very little sleep and in a hurry to leave for work.

  3. LP says:

    Yes, glad to see you here again, Ramona! And what a timely post. RB and I will be moving soon and we’re debating whether to go through our boxes of stuff and cull, or simply drag everything with us to the next residence. The problem is, the longer you’ve held on to a thing, the harder it is to get rid of it.

    Oy, maybe I’ll just start with that glass of wine.

  4. Dave says:

    This was great, Ramona.

  5. Kirsten says:

    I wanna see the psycho Santa the next time I come visit…