A Vulture In the House?

Have you ever seen a vulture? They aren’t pretty. In fact, they are downright ugly. Few people would want one as a pet. I love birds and feed them all winter long, but I’m hoping to attract robins, woodpeckers and bluebirds, not vultures.

However, vultures play an important role in nature, and having one around might actually come in handy.

Vultures are scavengers. When small creatures die, vultures perform the much-needed task of disposing of the dead material. The process isn’t glamorous, but they seem to get the job done without fanfare. The other day I saw a turkey vulture high in a tree, waiting to descend on a squirrel who looked to have been recently hit by a car. As I quickly walked by, I wondered, “What would the world look like if we didn’t have scavengers?” The pileup of roadkill and deceased creatures would be overwhelming!

Clearing away things that are “dead” is important. Admittedly, few people would keep a dead animal in their home, but many hold onto items that are no longer vital or relevant. When helping people clear space, I often come across:

  • Clothing tags (and the plastic pieces that held them in place)
  • Candy/snack wrappers
  • Empty paper cups and juice boxes
  • Used plastic utensils
  • Dead batteries
  • Broken pens, pencils and crayons
  • Dried out markers
  • Bent nails, staples and paper clips
  • Empty rolls of tape
  • Dried up glue sticks
  • Old receipts
  • Manuals/instructions for items that are no longer in the home
  • Empty ink cartridges (and the plastic pieces that protect the pad)
  • Expired food
  • Old fortune cookie fortunes
  • Out of date calendars, magazines, catalogs and newspapers
  • Empty bottles and cans
  • Outgrown clothing
  • Over-stretched rubber bands and hair bands
  • Old contact lenses and unused cases
  • Old agendas, meeting notes, itineraries and calendars
  • Dead plants
  • Dried out nail polish
  • Expired medication
  • Unidentifiable frozen food
  • Invitations for events that have passed
  • Empty boxes
  • Silicon freshness packets (e.g. from new shoes)
  • Old/used Kleenex
  • Ticket stubs
  • Old phone books
  • Old light bulbs, motor oils, paint etc.

In most cases, items like these accumulate because we are busy “in the moment” and simply stick, stash or drop items on the nearest surface. We have a vague intention of coming back and dealing with them later, but never get around to it. Over time, they get covered up, kicked under a bed/furniture, pushed to the back and forgotten.

Since a vulture is unlikely to fly through and get rid of everything you no longer want or need, it is important to embrace the process of clearing such items away. If the task feels overwhelming, break the challenge down into small pieces, tackling one at a time. For example, go through one drawer/shelf a day. Even if you don’t take the time to organize it all, clearing away the trash will free up space and leave you with less to manage.

Most trash fits into one of 5 categories:

  1. Trash can material
  2. Recyclable (varies by town, but typically includes at least paper, some plastic, glass and aluminum)
  3. Shred-worthy paper (anything with account numbers, social security numbers and private data)
  4. Special disposal required (e.g. old paint, motor oil, medication, antifreeze, electronics, light bulbs)
  5. Donation worthy (belongings you no longer want, but are still in good shape)

As you go through the process, there are a few tips you can use to help make pitching things quick and easy.

  • Put a trash can in every room. Empty trash cans on a regular basis. Get cans with lids if pets or small children are tempted to explore.
  • Get the largest recycling bin possible.
  • Keep a container for shreddable paper and schedule time weekly to complete the process.
  • Establish containers to hold items that need special disposal
    • Hang labeled zip-top bags in a closet or on the back of a door for old batteries and light bulbs.
    • Establish a zone or bin to hold chemicals until your town’s hazardous waste pickup day.
    • Label a box “Donations” and invite family members to drop anything they no longer want inside.
  • Set aside time each day to walk through and clear away any trash that has been mindlessly set down.

*     *     *     *     *

The best way to avoid buildup of trash is to be mindful about getting it into an appropriate receptacle right away. It takes a bit more effort in the moment, but in the long run, it saves you time, effort and space!

Do you tend to accumulate trash?