Our Saturday morning began just like any other. We didn’t sleep in, the kids dragged their feet, and we departed our home at approximately 9 a.m. to peruse the local farmer’s market.
To the outside eye, it may have even looked like we had it together. After all, I teach an environmental health research class, we drive a Subaru, and we pay each month for curbside recycling. An air of confidence swept over me: We are saving the Earth.
Only my husband decided – at that very moment of peace – to remind me of reality: there was a mildewed child’s mattress in our trunk that needed to be thrown away. The mission itself seemed simple enough until we saw – quite literally – the writing on the fence: “No household or bulk waste.”
A bit stunned, my husband and I looked from the sign to one another. What are we going to do with our trash?
To be honest, it’s a problem that has bothered me for some time. Consume, consume, and consume some more without a care as to the consequences. If you live in the United States, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And, parents, well, we get the worst of it.
New big houses!
And new electronics – hey, they can be educational, too!
But the dark secret to the excess is this: You become your things.
Looking back, one of the happiest seasons for my husband and I was our year in California, where we learned to live in about 500 square feet of apartment. Think IKEA. Although we were able to store many of our possessions, our non-essentials had to go. And, truthfully, we needed the money.
One by one I sold wedding gift after wedding gift for a fraction of its worth. Every Craigslist ad, my heart knew, meant letting go of the items I thought we’d keep forever – the appliances, the furniture my children would never learn to use.
But this amazing thing happened when we no longer had open space in our home: we stopped trying to fill our lives. We stopped buying books, we hung up artwork we already owned, and we ceased pursuing goods we knew we didn’t need.
And yet – despite all that contentment we found in living with less – we let our own “green” fairy tale slip away…somewhere between Child #1 and Child #2.
But just this last year, my husband and I had “the talk”. Where did our heart for sustainability go? To be honest, it had become hidden in all the junk that none of us ever really needed.
And so begins The Great Purge.
As for the mattress, I am relieved to report that we did find a dumpster that happily accepted our donation. But the yearning to lead a life of environmental stewardship remains. And, one day, when my children come to their own chain-link crossroads, I hope they never have to question if it was love or the stuff that mattered.