Three tickets to purge-adise

Dumping the failures, helping the poor, cashing in

May 30, 2012

Not counting arson, there are three ways to dispose of unwanted possessions: The landfill route, the charity route and the yard sale route.

The relative cost/benefit analysis of the three is fairly straightforward.

The landfill is the least complicated, but most expensive. I have been to the landfill, and I can say with confidence that the men and women who work there do not judge. You will get no disapproving stares as you dispose of unfortunate decorating choices of the past 30 years, the pink flamingos of life, to which we all occasionally succumb.

Landfill employees will not care. Unfortunately, if you have an ecological conscience, you are bound to worry about taking up valuable landfill space with household items that a family less well-off than yourself might have happily put to good use.

Also, when you toss mass quantities of items you once held dear into the dump, you are throwing a part of yourself into the dump along with it.

The dump is an admission of failure. Failure to pay for a gadget of top quality, failure to choose art that would stand the test of time, failure to understand that the day might come when you might not need a set of life-size, inflatable Josie and the Pussycats cartoon dolls.

The dump forces you to swallow hard and divest, but on the positive side of the ledger it can have a cleansing effect if done properly.

Meanwhile, the charity route (Goodwill, Mission, Salvation Army et. al.) would seem to be the most ideal. It’s free, and it helps others. However, the downside issues it brings with it are time and categorization.

I will stand there for 10 minutes with a 1940s-vintage olive fork in my hand, alternately toggling among thoughts including, but not limited to: 1) Is this good enough to give to the poor? 2) Is this too good to give to the poor? 3) Will the poor even have the slightest idea of this implement’s intended use? 4) In relation to Nos. 2 and 3 above, does this not indeed make a mockery of the poor, by festooning them with a symbol of a station that they cannot possibly hope to achieve? 5) Is this the proper use of the word “festooning?”

And while the Goodwill types are not necessarily judgmental, they are not as purely nonpartisan as the landfill employees. Go there often enough with enough stuff that teeters on the edge of out-and-out junk, and you will eventually get the sideways glance that says: “You don’t really think anyone can use this, you’re just trying to avoid landfill-tipping fees.”

So sometimes it’s best to bury our past and not hang it like an albatross around the necks of the unsuspecting less well-to-do.

Of course, then, there are people out there who, with eyes open, will seek out your past chattel, no matter how embarrassing. Not only that, they will pay good money for it.

I speak of course of yard sales, an underground stream of commerce worthy of admiration, if not respect. In this world, those Josie and the Pussycats dolls will be greeted not with a sideways glance or a sheepsfoot roller, but with an enthusiastic, “Josie and the PUSSYCATS, why I REMEMBER them ...” and presto change-o, you’ve exchanged your latex for loot.

All this serves to preface the fact that, in our recent move to the mountains, we were forced to employ one of these three options. In an upcoming column (I can’t swear to when, due to my chronic lack of focus), I will tell you which option we chose and what happened.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at

The Herald-Mail Articles