lessons from the garbage dump

i made some time to do some work around the house today and decided to take a trip to the garbage dump.  over the last three months, i have thrown countless things into our garbage cans for the garbage man to haul away.  but we have also amassed a small pile of “large items” that won’t be picked up curbside.

i loaded up the family mini-van with old vacuums, a chair, suitcases, a garage door opener, two old doors, weed whacker, sheet rock, a medium sized bag of tools, two large toys, and some other miscellaneous trash.  while at the dump, two things struck me.

1.  i paid $15.50 to dump the junk.  while i was actually quite happy with the price, i couldn’t help but think, “this is so ironic.  i’m giving you good-for-nothing junk and you’re charging me money? i mean, i already had to pay for this stuff once, i’ve got to pay again just to get rid of it!”  it got me thinking… essentially i just paid them $15.50 to purchase some space for my junk.  i am simply buying real estate in some hole somewhere in the earth to store my stuff.  now, i’m smart enough to know that there are other costs that go into running a junkyard such as tranportation, machinery, and labor… but essentially, i’m just paying them for space in their garbage hole aren’t i?

that reality led me to lesson #1.  whenever i make a purchase, i am forever responsible for finding the space to store that item – whether it be a baseball, a vacuum, or a sofa. unless i can sell the responsibility to somebody else, it will always be my duty to find space for it to exist (even if it means a one-time fee of $15.50).  and that seems like a good way to think though any purchase.

2.  i helped a young man unload a treadmill machine from the back of his pick-up to leave at the dump.  i was thinking of the good feeling that i was experiencing after removing the large items from my home and i said to him, “i bet it feels good to get this out of the house.”  “it sure does,” he responded with a smile on his face.  lesson #2 – never buy a treadmill.

related posts: the story of stuff; minimalism in america, part 2

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

Follow on TwitterLike on Facebook


  1. Dasha says

    Is there an active freecycle or craigslist in your area? You’d be surprised what people will want for free. Even broken stuff1 A lot of artists and handy-inventor types look for cheap supplies that way. Someone came by to pick up two broken wall clocks from us! I recently saw an installation involving old suitcases and plastic flowers. Just something to consider for next time.

  2. says

    I third that! I love Freecycle! And if I don’t want to wait for someone to pick something up, I’ll take it to Goodwill or another thrift store. I hate to see usable items go into landfills.

  3. Catz says

    we have recyccling centres in the UK. I don’t know if you you guys in America do, too? But it’s free to take your stuff. You must sort it into categories. They take almost EVERYTHING!! And then they sell the stuff to companies who need the plastic/ metal/ compost/ glass etc etc etc. That’s how they make their money. It’s good business and good for the environment,

  4. di says

    I’ve always taken good care of everything I have and rarely repurchase. When I give things away or bring them to Good Will, they’re still like new. I usually part with things, because my lifestyle has changed and they’re no longer needed.

  5. karen says

    Even with freecycle – it will still eventually end up in the dump – if not by you then by someone else. Good topic. Some serious thinking needed – hopefully before I buy the next “thing” I think I must have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *