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Friday, October 1, 2010

Skirting the Edges of Too Frugal?: Garbage Edition

Now that the temperature is no longer in the 90s, Mr. FS and I ventured out for a stroll through our neighborhood after dinner. As I mention now and again, my neighborhood is filled with big fancy houses and little tiny houses. There are even some medium-sized houses, such as the one in which I reside. I like the diversity, so unlike the cookie-cutter suburbia in which I grew up.

It happened that one of the streets has garbage pick-up tomorrow. As an amateur sociologist I find it interesting to scan the recycling bins. People drink so much alcohol and diet coke!

You can probably see where this is leading. To add a bit of suspense, let me ask: have you ever read Laurie Colwin? I love her fiction, which features urban people with lots of education and interesting careers. She also wrote wonderful books on cooking.

One of her novels, Happy All the Time, features a character named Misty Berkowitz. I kind of identified with Misty because she has these great one-line zingers, not that I could ever have thought of them. Misty is also sullen and moody, just like me. In spite of her moodiness, the wealthy Vincent Somebody-or-Other falls madly in love with her. He lives off a trust fund, but works as a garbage analyst, writing important studies.

One of Misty's zingers to her garbage analyst is "Rich people make me sick." I can't remember what prompts this comment, but it does not deter the smitten Vincent.

Anyway, Mr. FS and I passed the once-beautiful, now falling-down house, that, according to Frugal Son who knew two of the girls who lived there, has rooms filled with garbage.

We went by the new, fancy house that sold for almost a million dollars. It was built on the site of a house that was torn down. A man who had killed his mother had lived there after he was released from a mental institution. The new house is quite ostentatious. There, next to their garbage can, was a giant cardboard box. I stepped closer to investigate. I never did figure out what was originally in that box, but I saw a grocery bag filled with hangers. At the top of the bag was a new-looking pair of white shoes.

Now I don't wear white shoes, but I took them anyway. I will donate them to Goodwill, where someone will be delighted to get a pair of Sesto Meucci flats.

We continued on our walk, stopping to talk to people who run a business called Holistic Pet Care. When we got home, I said to Mr. FS, "I'm going to go back and get the bag of hangers. The thrift stores are always asking for donations of hangers."

So I walked back and got the bag. Once I was home, I peeked inside. Under the hangers--neatly folded--was a pile of clothing, quite current, from Talbots and Rickie Freeman for Teri John. The latter, especially, were of the genre I call "rich lady clothes."

UGH. Why don't people donate these things? How horrible to just throw them out.

What would Misty say?: "Rich people make me sick."

Misty, by the way, ends up marrying the garbage analyst.

If you need some wonderful escapist reading, check out Laurie Colwin.

Her real masterpieces, I think, are her books on cooking.


Marcela said...

Maybe they think they are donating and that someone will pick those items up...

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

This happens in our neighbourhood but there is usually a FREE sign on the items...they never last long at the curb!
I have been known to pick through and see what might be of wicker table and rocker were the last freebies.

Duchesse said...

Here, people don't donate b/c it's easier to put them at the curb, and they get picked. We put out some stuff, gone in 30 seconds! Also, if it ends up at thrifts, it costs people 'something', at the curb it's free. I have also used Freecycle, a community bulletin board where you can post what you have and people reply and come to get it.

Maybe the rich people in that house are wasteful but I know many, many middle and barely middle class women who buy clothes, bags etc and never wear them.

metscan said...

I have no idea what people over here have in their garbage cans, as on the countryside, houses are quite far from each other. And, to tell the truth, I would not be able to look inside one. However, there are large containers near stores. Containers for clothes, paper and glass. Getting rid of old furniture is a bit difficult, if you don´t have means of transporting it away yourself.

Gayle Ann Berg said...

Good for you for salvaging and donating the discarded items!

Our neighborhood also puts a FREE sign on usable items. Anything without a sign has been designated as garbage.

Anonymous said...

I applaud your foraging and your intention to donate these items.

Anonymous said...

Based on the fact that the items were in a box next to the garbage can (and not in it), I'll bet they were hoping someone would come by and take the usable items. (They could have just as easily thrown those shoes in with the kitty litter & rotten food garbage.)

I feel lucky to live in a neighborhood where I can just put something out on the curb and it's gone in 5 minutes. And that my city is full of thrift shops and has an active freecycle community. I think our local culture of recycling has really helped a lot of people who would otherwise be struggling to clothe their children and furnish their homes.

Shelley said...

Waste is waste - how can not wasting be too frugal?

Frugal Scholar said...

@Marcela--Based on the position of the bag and the fact that it looked like it was filled with hangers, I would say, sadly, no. Also it was put out around dusk. Garbage pick-up is at dawn.

@Hostess--We put things out--right AFTER--garbage pick-up, with a free sign also. Once-a refrigerator!

@Duchesse-Our neighbors put things out w/ free signs--and we do too. See above for why these people probably weren't thinking about someone picking up the discards. No freecycle here, alas.

@metscan--That sounds like a great system. Honestly, in our little town, one has to drive only around a mile for 3 thrifts. Easy to do. Sadly, many toss things in the trash.

@Gayle Ann--Thanks! Yes-we use free signs also.

Frugal Scholar said...


@Ms. M-Based on the position of the bag and the fact that all the good stuff was at the bottom AND the fact that it was put out at dusk and that pick-up is at dawn...sadly, I must conclude these people were not hoping for a needy soul to pass by. But you're nice to look for the good in the situation!

@Shelley--I don't know. For some, it would be high on the Squeam Factor.

Anonymous said...

Those books look neat!