Tag Archives: hoarding

From a Bag Lady on Earth Day

In Photoshop, Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, restores a picture of three-year-old Marika Warden as a garbage monster, wearing a dress made of plastic bags.“I don’t think I can do this.” I stood over my bin of plastic bags. “Earth Day’s coming, and I should be able to do this one simple thing for our planet,” I told myself. After decades of hoarding plastic shopping bags, I was considering eradicating them from my routine. But I kept coming back to all the things I do with these bags. Like carry gym-clothes and potluck dishes. Like use them for trashcan liners and dog-poo bags. They make great stuffing for stuffed-animal art projects. And long ago, inspired by Tom Knight’s song, The Garbage Monster, I even taped a bunch of plastic bags together into a dress for my then three-year-old daughter to wear in a costume contest where she won 3rd place.

Call me a Closet Bag Lady. I’m very attached to plastic bags. Even though they release toxic chemicals into the soil and oceans when discarded. Even though they’re produced from crude oil (a non-renewable resource), and their manufacturing process results in chemical pollution. And, while they are now made with a percentage of recycled material, they are not biodegradable so it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them. So animals find them and mistake the bags for food, and die choking and strangling on them. Nasty bags. For a long time I wondered if all the old plastic bags and bottles I found in my daughter’s room had something to do with her getting cancer. I kept saving bags anyway.

We’re destroying the planet,” friends wail. “Pollution, ozone depletion, carbon emissions, strip mining, fracking, … ocean acidification.” They write letters to congressmen and go to marches, keening like they’re grieving, “Habitat loss, deforestation, climate change…” laments that sound eerily similar to my bemoaning all the complications of my daughter’s disease. Seeing my planet in trouble reminds me of the helplessness I felt trying to hang onto Marika through the wilds of cancer. In the end, nothing could save her. But there ARE things we can do for Earth.

On Earth Day, all over the world people will be planting trees and picking up trash. Earthlings will take to the hills, to their gardens, to community Earth Day events. On any day, not just this holiday, we can recycle plastic bags and other recyclables, set up bird feeders, learn about the environment, investigate community composting, … to help make the planet a better place to live.

I don’t know for sure if I can really give up these darn bags. But the Earth is my home. Our home. So I hereby pledge: for the love of our beautiful planet, starting now, I will shop with reusable cloth bags. What one simple thing will you do?

 

 

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Cleaning Out the House

Robin Botie of Ithaca, new York, photoshops a mandala of an avalanche of papers and books falling from her closets when she cleans out her house.“Don’t give me anything unless I can eat it,” I keep telling family and friends as holidays approach. Meanwhile, the health club hounds me to participate in some program where I can win prizes. “No more stuff. Please. I have too much.”

My material possessions are weighing me down. They’re increasing my carbon footprint. And having cleaned up after several deceased loved ones, I can’t bear the thought of anyone I love having to clean up after me. So I’m unloading the contents of my house.

I used to be a tosser. For every new thing I brought home, I’d toss out two things, or ten. But then they started charging for garbage disposal. I began to stash things. My house, designed to have no wasted space, had closets and cabinets built into every soffit, staircase, and odd-angled corner, for maximum storage capability. And over the years I stuffed them to the gills.

I’ve read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up book by Marie Kondo. And each year I’ve done spring-cleaning rituals, but stuff comes in faster than I can remove it. I needed help.

I was embarrassed to ask. Friends think my house is clean and orderly, never having opened one of my cabinets to then be blasted by an avalanche of books and papers. My sister, with brutal sisterly honesty, would accuse me of being a closet hoarder and point out the relationship between hoarding and obsessive-compulsive disorder. If only I could hire some young adventurous person just starting out in her life, at the collecting-stuff stage, I thought. Someone who was my size so I’d be inspired to give away more of my clothes. Someone who wasn’t afraid of mice. Who could cart away all the things that threatened to bury me. Who’d say, “Why do you need this?” and “Does it really bring you joy?” Someone committed to redistributing and recycling, not simply ditching it all at the dump.

“Do you know anyone I could hire to help clear out my closets?” I asked the guy sealing my windows with shrink-wrap, who had gathered boulders and built a patio next to my pond this past summer. The one who had calmly walked away instead of strangling me during one of my most obnoxious hissy-fits. The Buddhist.
“Yes. Me,” he said. And it took a moment to let go of the image of the young clone of myself I’d imagined, and it took another minute to remember how Buddhists believe that attachment to material things is a major cause of suffering.
“Can you deal with mouse droppings?” I asked.

 

Are you a tosser or a hoarder? Can we gain more happiness from having less?

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