Our garbage cans have been in a sorry state for some time now, so we finally found time to get new ones. We spent weeks searching for just the right kind. Was it sturdy enough? Do the wheels roll straight? Is the cover tight? Can we justify spending more than $250 on three cans to hold stuff worthless enough to throw away? Who knew shopping for something to dump trash in would involve so many decisions?
After finally heading home with the brand new cans, I looked at our old ragged eyesores and wondered: how do you get rid of old garbage cans? If you leave them out on the curb with a sign that reads “TRASH,” won’t the guys who come to collect it say, “Uh … you think?” And if it’s made of plastic, should you instead put it out with the recyclables? Should you cut it up first so they don’t leave it behind, thinking how can people stand having such sorry-looking cans?
And so more weeks passed with the new cans unused, until I finally called the town to find out exactly what to do with the old ones. Which I could have done much earlier, if not for inertia, the incidental entertainment of coming up with different ways to do it (there was comedy in it somewhere, I could smell it), and just plain laziness.
So the old cans are finally gone, but the whole thing got me thinking about other things in my life that I keep around simply because I don’t know how to get rid of them, or just don’t want to make the time to throw them away properly. (Of course I would extrapolate from the trash can incident. Otherwise, this would just be a boring story about disposing of some old garbage cans that would serve no purpose other than proving to myself that I got yet another trivial task done.)
I’m not talking about the material junk we collect, although I could use with some major sloughing-off in that area too. I was thinking of ideas, beliefs, and old habits that linger past their usefulness, beyond their initial validity. They have a way of sticking around, not for any real purpose or benefit, but simply because they’ve always been there and I’ve sort of stopped noticing their presence, or just tolerate their space because I can’t be bothered with dealing with the change.
Some I keep for sentimental reasons. Like old friends with whom I no longer have anything in common, but whose company I enjoy still because just being around them reminds me of my history, the past persona from whom my present emerged. See, those still have their value. They don’t just take up empty space and fill it with dead weight.
And then some are like those Fisher Price tool sets I played with as a child (I was a rebel; I refused to play with dolls). They were fine for that time, because, well, my pre-school hands were clumsy and uncoordinated, and the bright colors mattered more than their actual utility. You know what I mean. You probably played with the same toys as a kid. Maybe you still have your set in your attic somewhere, packed in an anonymous brown box that may never be opened again. But that’s okay, because you can’t use them now, and you’ve just about forgotten completely about them. Except when you see some child playing with a similar set, and suddenly remember how much fun you had with yours.
We, too, have ideas and rules that we’ve outgrown. They were fine for their time, and they’re good for those nostalgic walks down memory lane, but they should have no more bearing on our important decisions. That would be like trying to use your toy tools to do major construction on your home. You won’t get much done, and the little that you do finish is poorly made. You’ll be wasting your time expending so much effort for so little, and chances are, you’ll end up with some inane work injury in the process.
Life sometimes surprises us with unexpected bruises. We don’t need to add self-inflicted ones. We shouldn’t make things harder on ourselves.
I think I should set aside some time to take stock of my life’s inventory. Some need to be filed away for my life’s scrapbook, others need to be simply discarded. We accumulate so much clutter and forget that our space is limited. We may be hanging on to our old, ragged stuff because we’re too oblivous, or too lazy to throw it out. So that is the new entry on my to-do list. Spring cleaning for the soul. Never mind that the first day of fall is just around the corner.
By the way, in case you were wondering, the town’s recycling department said I should just leave the old garbage cans out with the rest of our regular trash, and attach a sign saying, “Please take this can with the trash.” Don’t you wish everything else was that easy?