Hit by dumpster fever.
COLUMN: The Beaten Path
My wife, The Megger, and I recently rented a dumpster. I believe that the rental was a response to her recent affinity for the television show "Hoarders" - where people are profiled who live in the midst of extreme, almost unreal amounts of junk. The Megger has a secret fear that we will somehow slide from our current level of "people with some stuff in the basement" to "people who sleep in a bed feathered with Quarter Pounder wrappers." I do not share that fear, but friends who have seen the state in which I keep my office have gently suggested that perhaps I should be at least a little concerned, so I agreed to the dumpster rental.
As a side note, this is actually the second dumpster we have rented. We had one two or three years ago. But, the day after that half-empty container was carted away I walked into the basement and saw piles and piles of stuff that should have been thrown away. In fact, to demonstrate that I can be a bit of an idiot, I admit that I hadn't even looked in the basement for things to throw away. As a result, those forgotten items aged like bad cheese while other items piled up around them - resulting in another chunk of change for a dumpster this year.
This year's dumpster sat innocently enough in the driveway, but its mere presence created a type of mania in our house. We quickly discovered that once you develop a taste for it, throwing things away can become quite addictive. This was not helped by the fact that using the dumpster was actually quite fun - we could simply open our kitchen door and fling stuff into it. The unwanted item would rise into the air, seem to hang there for just an instant, and then land in the dumpster with a reassuring thud.
We started with the obvious stuff. Broken mirrors, dilapidated patio furniture, a dead garbage disposal and an old screen door all sailed into the metal box. But, we found that we still weren't satisfied once all of the obvious stuff was gone. There were pangs of a need - no, call it a hunger, a hunger to purge. On car rides, we would turn down the radio and have intense, excited discussions about what might and might not be used to fill that metal box.
Soon, every item in the house was carefully scrutinized and evaluated for its continued value. (It was during this period of time that the dog acquired a nervous look and began spending all of her time in the back yard). We tried not to throw anything away that could be recycled or donated, but in the end, our addiction got the best of us. In our frenzy to liquidate, even functional items failed the test: For example, the coffee table from our living room, a perfectly good suitcase (whose only crime was that I don't travel much), and my old, but functional bowling shoes - thud, thud, thud.
(However, none of the Christmas ornaments and decorations that my wife has accumulated over the years - we have about seven large bins full - were touched. Let's just say I'm not that much of an idiot).
Our fervor even transformed the job of emptying the kitchen trash barrel from the usual Jenga-like test of endurance into a totally different type of competition. Bags that were only half-empty were suddenly through the door and into the sky. I found that I could get some really nice slingshot action on the bags with the handles.
Heck, even the baby's diaper pail ... OK, I have to be honest: No one rushed to empty the diaper pail.
However, after a week of riding the dumpster wave, my wife and I were worn out. On the last night, we found ourselves standing in the basement, searching the darkest corners for wayward lawn chairs or cinder blocks. Our eyes met, just for a moment, and we both knew that we had had enough. There were vague promises about getting up early for one last expedition, but when the time came we were both just too tired (to be fair, it was before 7 a.m. and we were both sleeping when the truck came and woke up our entire neighborhood).
We were sad to see the dumpster go, but were glad to have come through the experience as stronger, less cluttered people. The Megger and I will surely see dumpsters around from time to time - in front of stores, or at construction sites - but those heady days are behind us now. I think that a return to the slow routine of trash stickers and curbside pickup will be good step for us. After all, we're only human.
Tim McCaffrey is a freelance columnist who lives in Clinton. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.