Want Not


One of the more frustrating things I had to deal with in my final years living in Toledo was how Mom’s trash cans were taken from her at one point, and despite promises of them being replaced by the family member generally responsible for these things, that promise was never delivered upon, until I had to spend my own money buying new garbage cans (at a time when I was barely getting paid anything at all). On more than one occasion, Mom simply hauled sacks of garbage down to the end of our driveway, only for them to be torn apart by animals and their remaining contents blown into a neighbour’s yard by the wind. That neighbour came very close to assaulting me at one point because of this, making the broken promise I mentioned earlier all the more frustrating to deal with. There will be a time when I can talk more freely about this, but more of the other people involved will need to die before I can do that.

When Mom began her final hospitalization, I noticed that the amount of garbage our house created quickly went down to about twenty percent of what it had been. Mom did a lot of cooking every week, but nowhere near enough to account for so much additional trash, and one of the things that’s puzzled me these past five and a half years is just what Mom was doing to generate so much garbage. Since I’ve been living on my own, I’ve generated maybe one large trash bag’s worth of garbage every four weeks. (I have been generating more recycling because I’ve been doing a lot more online shopping since I first came to Wisconsin, but Mom hardly ever ordered anything that got delivered to us, so I’m fairly certain that packaging couldn’t account for all the extra garbage that Mom created.)

Making as little money as I did in Toledo, I learned to live frugally, and those lessons continue to influence my shopping and consumption patterns to this day. I always buy in bulk whenever I can, I always keep an eye out for sales, and I generally try to avoid major purchases until they’re absolutely necessary. (I just squeezed over three and a half years of life out of a $99 smartphone until it finally started having problems rebooting.) Maybe that explains why I don’t throw that much out, because I simply don’t buy that much to start with, but I still can’t believe that there was such a wide discrepancy between Mom’s garbage patterns and my own.

Then again, with November just a few moments away here, I’m thinking that maybe I just do what I can to avoid having to go out in the cold to throw things out. Especially as I need to make the most of my time here while I continue to recover from being sick (and catch up on work that I fell behind on during the worst of my illness), the fewer trips I have to make to my apartment building’s dumpster, the more time I have to work on all that other stuff that continues to weigh heavily on my mind. I had to stop buying furniture for my new apartment (I moved from a furnished apartment to an unfurnished one last month) while I was too sick to put it together, but that’s finally starting to change here, so maybe I’ll start generating more garbage as I work to make this new place feel more like a real home for me.

This past Saturday marked the sixth anniversary of Mom’s passing, and of all the questions I wished I could have asked her, how she generated so much garbage is pretty darn low on the list. Still, on those rare occasions when I do have to take out the trash, I can’t help but wonder how Mom could have generated a volume of trash several times what I seem to go through. I’ve even tried doing a mental inventory of the old house in Toledo in my head, just to figure out what she could have been throwing out there, but I can’t come up with anything. I’ve got more important things to do with my life than think about how much trash Mom used to generate, but like so many other things, it’s a curiosity that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely eliminate from my head.

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