I live in a small college town that cycles with the currents of student life. This means that Fall is a busy time, with football games and the return of students to campus, and that Summer is a quiet time where the locals of our town enjoy pedestrian-friendly streets rather than the ones populated by texting undergraduates during the academic year. It also imbues August as a month of special significance:
Moving through the neighborhoods of my town during the month of August, you will be met with piles upon piles of furniture, carpeting, and various other home furnishings (not to mention the seemingly requisite mattresses) which have been deemed unusable by the oldest and/or newest tenants of a student rental.
The exchange of goods is staggering. Lined up curbside are numerous pieces of furniture, still fully functional if not fully modern, appliances, student artwork, and yes, as I already mentioned, lots and lots of mattresses. Buried deep in the rubble are other offerings to the landfill. Items of clothing no longer preferred, decorative pillows, and boxes and boxes of student life de rigeur: air purifiers and dehumidifiers.
I often wonder at the process of this material overflow. What are students thinking when they cast a pillow they more than likely spent at least $20 on into a curb-side pile to be ruined by the elements? Why stack towers of books and line up upholstered furniture indefinitely until our beleaguered garbage carriers have enough room in their normal routine to pick up the overflow? Why are bundles of seemingly clean t-shirts cast off into the street? Better yet, I have to question the logic that requires every piece of furniture be discarded and replaced by a newer version when moving.
Overall, the abundance of discarded objects littering my town right now saddens me. It seems so clear that simply a touch of care, an extra few seconds of packing, or a single trip to the Good Will drop-off only minutes away, could have found another use for much of this supposed ‘trash.’It begs the question:
Must a clean slate always come with a rejection of the old?
If our next generation finds gently used pieces so distasteful, I can’t help but wonder what they will do with us, those older and wiser than them, when we lose our shine. Will those past the point of modernity be deemed disposable?
Moving through the streets of my small town, past guitar cases and dusty milk crates, next to formica tables and computer desks,