Monday, February 20, 2012


This post is about trash. Sorry.

Dealing with garbage in Japan is a more complex ordeal than it is in the states. Once upon a time, I saw the world through a black and white lens of "garbage" vs. "recycling." It was a simpler time... *sigh*

Since living in Japan (with detailed trash-sorting guidelines), every object that passes through our front door sends me into a refuse-induced panic: is it burnable? Non-burnable? Glass? Aluminum? PET plastic? Other kind of plastic? Cardboard? Corrugated cardboard? A mixture?? How am I going to get rid of this?? Why do we need all this stuff?? How did we become such gross over-consumers??

It all came to a head over the past couple of weeks when (after each of us living away from home and all our "stuff" for months on end came back to feel smothered by piles of useless crap) we decided to clean out our whole house and get rid of all the junk bogging us down. So we cleaned. As we purged our way through years worth of randomness stored in the house, we accumulated a large pile of non-donatable trash that we weren't sure how to get rid of. By the end of the week, the guest room temporarily and necessarily became "the garbage room." Then we moved it all to the garage and could barely fit our car next to the giant pile. This was garbage of a magnitude above and beyond the garbage threshold of our twice-weekly $30/month pickup service.

There was a simple solution in the end (although it required calling our mean crazy landlord which is quite possibly my most dreaded thing to do in all of life). We booked a special garbage appointment. Our garbage was examined, we were given a quote (7000¥, roughly $93 today), and once we paid, we were free from our detritus burden.

Back home, we would have shoved everything in a dumpster and called it a day. It would have been easier. And cheaper. And goodness knows I wouldn't have minded not stressing out about GARBAGE REMOVAL for several days. However, next year around this time I'd probably be going through this whole thing again, dumping loads of junk I'd accumulate over the coming year. That definitely won't be happening here. We're very set on not piling up on stuff we don't need. So there's the whole life lesson, change of perspective, thinking about your actions affecting the planet side effect. Maybe this will help us learn to lead organized, less "stuff"-driven lives. It's definitely for the best in the end.

But... garbage, you are annoying. And that's what I have to say about that.


margaret said...

So Patty - do you STILL want me to send you the boxes??? I'll wait to hear from you before I do!

Patty said...

Wow, that sounds like an ordeal. And yet, it seems like perhaps we should adopt a similar situation out here.

Oh, and you got rid of our TV box? We have ours because we put it back in there when we move. It's the only box ever that is the perfect size!

Margery said...

Good for you guys. That's really impressive. Our garbage is still mixed in with our "important" stuff and even though we have a small place it's amazing how much there is of it despite our trying to do what you've done. Congratulations on your purge and determination not to re-accumulate. It re-inspires me about ours!