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The Recyclist: A clutter buster's vow to stop living
such a disposable life

February 1, 2010 | 10:42 am

I realized I had a problem when I set my clock for 5:30 a.m. on trash day. I wanted it to be dark out when I skulked over to my neighbor's house and deposited my garbage in his garbage bin.

You see, once again I found myself with too much garbage and not enough garbage bin. My container was already jam-packed, and the trash in the kitchen was starting to stink up the place. Worse, our recycling bin also was overflowing. Boxes from Costco. Magazines that had stacked up, unread, until I admitted defeat and tossed them all. Junk mail, a bunch of catalogs and, of course, a week's worth of newspapers.

It's just me and my husband and two dogs. How could we possibly produce this much trash in one week?

Granted, part of the problem was a post-Christmas, clean-out-the-garage, clean-out-the-fridge spree. There were also items that charities won't take, such as two tattered throw rugs. I can come up with all kinds of justifications. But the reality is, I live a largely disposable life. I like to think of myself as an environmentalist who is down with the whole "reuse, recycle, reduce" thing. But I drive an SUV, I rarely use my cloth shopping bags, I have yet to consider packaging when I make a purchase, and, frankly, I'm kinda lazy, so if it involves a lot of work -- like professionally cleaning and repairing those rugs -- I'm just not going to do it. Hey, I didn't say I was proud of that. I'm just saying it's the truth. It's also true that this certainly wasn't the first time I had to avail myself of my neighbors' garbage cans.

But I'm determined that it will be the last. 

I'm not about to get extreme: I won't be turning those Costco boxes into furniture worthy of Frank Gehry. (Although, wouldn't that be cool!) Instead, I've resolved in 2010 to take small, reasonable steps toward reducing the amount of stuff that comes in the front door and the stuff that goes out to the garbage. Bonus: less clutter. I can't tell you how many times we've opted to sit on the couch and eat with our plates perched on our laps because it would otherwise mean tackling the piles of mail, newspapers, magazines, tools (!), CDs, DVDs, laptops, cellphones, keys and more that have taken up residence on the kitchen table. And all that stuff is there because our respective desks are also buried beneath clutter. 

Ugh. Just thinking about it makes my blood pressure rise.

So here's my first teeny tiny step: I've placed a sign over the garbage and recycling canisters in my kitchen. It says: "What am I throwing out?" It's reminding me to pause and look at what I'm about to deposit into the landfill. Can it be recycled instead of thrown into the trash? Cleaned and reused a second time? Can we change our household purchasing habits to cut back?

I'll chronicle my efforts -- and your responses -- here on this blog. Am I the only one filling up the landfills? Or do you struggle with similar clutter issues? If so, do you have any advice for me? My neighbor would really appreciate it.

-- Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

Photo: This is just part of the recyclables my household has produced in one week. Credit: Rene Lynch / Los Angeles Times