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> Disposing of Things
  De-Sentimentalization (2)
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Disposing of Things

I hate to throw away perfectly good things. If I don't want something, I'll usually make a serious effort to find a good home for it, no matter how small or cheap the thing might be. It's stupid, I know, a waste of time … but it suits me, and I'm allowed to do stupid things.

After I'd been doing that for a while, I realized that the phrases I was using to describe the action, for example “make a serious effort to find a good home for”, were really not very convenient for thinking. Apparently there was a concept in there that I needed a name for, and after another while I came up with one that I liked: “dispose of”. That has just the right meaning! It's not even a stretch … the dictionary definition already has most of what I want.

  1. To attend to; settle: disposed of the problem quickly.
  2. To transfer or part with, as by giving or selling.
  3. To get rid of.

All I'm adding is a motivation (avoid waste) and the idea that it might take some effort.

Another thing it took me a while to realize is that there's a whole little process I go through. It's not set in stone, but it's solid enough that I can write it down. So, when I want to dispose of something, I'll usually proceed more or less like this.

  1. If I can think of a friend or family member who'd like it, I'll give it to ver.
  2. If it's worth, oh, $5 or more, I'll try to sell it. A book, for example, I'll take around to the used book stores. I like to try real-world stores first, mostly because it's a good excuse to go for a walk (or a bike ride), but if that fails, I'll put it up on eBay or Amazon, or get someone else to do it for me. If I still can't sell it, I'll move on to the next step.
  3. If it's only worth a buck or two, I won't be able to sell it … there's not enough margin for anyone to buy it off me and then resell it, and I can't sell it directly to anyone online because of the shipping costs. So, in that case, I'll give it away. The destination depends on what the thing is. If it's a book or a DVD, I'll usually give it to the public library. I like to imagine it'll get added to the collection, but if it gets sold to raise money, that's fine too. If it's something fairly specialized, like a model airplane kit or a comic book, I'll give it to an appropriate store, to sell or pass along. Otherwise—if it's a toy, an article of clothing, or some other general-purpose item—I'll give it to whatever charity happens to be located nearby. Recently that's been the Salvation Army or the Humane Society.
  4. If I reach this step, I know the thing is essentially useless. So, if it can be recycled, I'll do that. That's particularly easy for me here because Boulder has a very good recycling infrastructure. The trash service handles the two most common kinds of recyclables (paper and cardboard, cans and bottles), and there are also various places where one can dispose of more exotic things. For example, some grocery stores collect used plastic bags.
  5. Otherwise, it's trash, and I'll throw it away.

I can't resist saying a few more things about trash cans and recycling. First, trash cans are a perfect example of separation of functions. It would be a huge pain to have just one trash can per house (or per neighborhood, or per city); obviously the right thing to do is to have many trash cans, one for each location where trash is generated.

Second, I'd like to tell you about the trash cans in my apartment. I have five of them: three in the kitchen area (one for trash, one for each kind of recyclable), one by the desk, and one in the bathroom. The interesting thing is, the one by the desk is for recyclable paper, not trash; somehow I realized that I don't generate much trash there.

The other thing I have in my apartment is a dispose pile. The name isn't perfect, since “dispose pile” isn't really parallel to “trash can” (but is to “recycle bin”), and since sometimes the “pile” consists of one thing, or none; but that's how I think of it. What's the pile for? Well, it often happens that I'll have some thing, and want to dispose of it, but not want to make the effort at that exact moment. In that case, I'll throw it on the pile. Then, when the pile is large enough, I'll go through and dispose of everything all at once.

Actually, having a dispose pile provides three related but different benefits. First, as I said, it allows me to delay the effort of disposing. Second, it allows me to delay the effort of deciding how to dispose. That's usually not a large effort, but sometimes I just don't want to be bothered. Third, having a dispose pile can reduce effort as well as delay it. If I have two books, I can take them to the library together, saving one trip; and similarly for other things. (I'm sure that has something to do with multiple passes.)

That's all I have to say about the idea of disposing of things.


  See Also

  De-Sentimentalization (2)
  How I Cleaned My Room
  Modern Form, The

@ December (2007)