7 Reasons You Need the Free Crap We Set out on the Curb

I’m an accomplished trudger.

Every time I carry a basket of dirty clothes from the master bedroom down two floors to the basement, I adopt a full-on trudge.

Usually no one’s home when I do the trudge, but even if they are, they don’t care. The ingrates hardly notice my slow, heavy footfalls. Yet there I am, with my slow, heavy footfalls, hefting an over-filled, creaking basket–and they’d see me if only they’d lift their heads from their books and sparkling clean t-shirts–a martyr within my pretty little white life, sighing dramatically, reminding all the non-caring, non-seeing people that I suffer on their behalf.

If only they’d lift.

Their heads.

At the sound of a trudge.

One downside to a solid, I-wish-this-would-induce-some-guilt trudge is that it increases the time I spend moving past our ever-growing heap of Goodwill donations. For months, the pile of Life Discards grows on our basement floor, gaining life and mass across from the washer and dryer. Then, because we are less motivated to jettison than to accumulate, the pile will linger for months, particularly those months of intense rainfalls, when an inch or more pounds down in the space of a few hours. When this happens, our sump pump can’t keep up with the amount of moisture attempting to seep in. Invariably, after a powerful rain, we get water in the basement. Under the cheap carpet in front of the washer and dryer. At that point, we (read: Byron) have to move all the many bags and games and clothes and toys intended for Goodwill so that we (read: Byron) can lift up the wet carpet, prop it on some folding chairs, aim some fans at it, and let the whole thing dry out for a few days.

During the airing, all the Life Discards get elevated to the staircase. Which is where they are right now. ‘Cause September entertained some fierce storms in Duluth. And even though the floor is dried out, and the carpet has been returned to its usual place, we can’t be bothered to re-heap the heap.

Can we pretend stairs are a purposeful system of organization?

Enter Jocelyn on a trudge.

Step by step, adjusting the laundry basket so as to clear a path of vision, I consider each mini-stack of Life Discards.

Yup, there’s that stupid yellow teddy bear, a farce of a stuffed animal, free of personality or character, and how dare any stuffed animal sport flat affect and a fearsome case of Dead in the Eyes?


Yup, there are those weirdly shiny grey corduroy leggings I bought at Sam’s Club four years ago. Note to self: Sam’s Club isn’t actually a clothing store. Learn from that.


Yup, there’s the pink-red-orange bathroom rug we made Allegra use in her bedroom for a bunch of years before she decided she gets to be a grown-up and ejected it.


Yup, there’s that striped hoodie I got when I was 30 and which, for 18 years now, has pooched out over the tummy in a way that does even my natural muffin top a huge disservice.


Yup. Right down to those damn Merrell shoes that always rub bloody raw spots into my heels, all of Life’s Discards are awaiting the discarding.

Someone (read: Byron) really should pack them all up and drive them down to Goodwill.

It will happen. I feel the urge to action growing. It’s October, the month of imminent transition, of an impulse to shed, of glorious slanting sunshine and a burgeoning inner scream that sounds something like, “I’MMM NOT REAAAAADY FOR ITTTTT TO BEEE TWENTY BELOWWWWWW AGAAAAAAIN.”

Today, as I trudged–you could hear my sighs from where you sit, yes?–up and down the stairs carrying other people’s smelly underwear, only grousing a little bit inside my head about the ailing Achilles tendon that has me chasing no-impact days, my brain recalled something I wrote a year ago this month, when someone (read: Byron) had cleaned out our single-stall garage, making space for one of our cars to be parked in it during the winter.

Below is the piece I wrote then during the season of shedding; last January it was published by the fun and awesome website called In the Powder Room. Since then, some part of me has been itching to post it here, too–to bring this baby home and cram it into the overstuffed closet that is my blog.

I’m nothing if not a hoarder.

So here, in the spirit of cleaning house before hunkering down for a long winter, I present

7 Reasons You Need the Crap We Set out on the Curb

Free Crap

1) Little Caitlin is five now, right? The net from our cast-off soccer goal can be used to teach her to fish–so that she can feed herself for a lifetime. Slap some floaties on that girl’s arms and send her to the lake to snag a catfish for Wednesday’s dinner.

2) Disassembling our old beast of a snow blower (manufactured in 1978) will provide experiential learning for your young Joshie. So will a trip to the emergency room for a tetanus booster when the rusty carburetor gasket slices open his palm.

3) Our rickety metal tables beg for re-purposing into a jerry-rigged cider press. Not only can those high-energy twins of yours burn off some of their rammies by climbing the crab apple tree and tossing down the fruit, you know Madison and Cody were born to mash the sweet Johnny Appleseed out of that harvest by slamming the apples between our cruddy tables. The resultant juice will pair beautifully with Caitlin’s catfish.

4) When a toddler rides in our old bike seat, the kid is essentially a sack of fluids capped by a helmet. It’s a simple leap, then, to imagine strapping a wine bladder into the bike seat–no helmet required–and riding woozily around the block with your new booze coozie.

5) You know how you’ve walked into a cute boutique, spotted a dress that you adore, and discovered from the snooty salesgirl that it’s only available in Size 2? The great thing about grabbing our old deck umbrella is that you’ll always have a shopping partner who’s a perfect Size 2. Umbrella fits all sample sizes and, with a flick of her narrow ribs, can out condescend even the nastiest Sloane clerking at Shabby Plaid.

6) More effective than a time-out in the corner is taking your wailing Jayden outside, strapping him to one of our pairs of cross-country skis, and giving him a gentle shove. His tantrum will be put into perspective as you watch his small form, frozen into a rictus of anger, slowly recede down the hill. It’s okay to raise your hand and wave slowly as his cries become more muffled. This gesture assures him Mommy cares.

7) There’s a profound causal chain that will happen in your life if you grab our 1960s bicycles. First, you will have the cachet of owning “vintage.” As your children grow up surrounded by this vibe of retro, they will learn to appreciate All Things Hipster, including bad poetry. Eventually, when Moses is twenty, he’ll drop out of college to pursue meter and verse. Wearing black framed glasses (no lenses) and a fedora, Moses will spend the next three years meditating in your basement, and you know you weren’t ready for him to leave when he started college. Thus, if you take our vintage bikes, you’ll get bonus years with your boy! Even better, once you’ve had it with his vegan demands and kick him out, you can loan him a bike to ride to his interview at Citigroup. Again, as your lad disappears into the distance, it’s okay to raise your hand and wave slowly. Then strap a wine bladder into the toddler seat on the other old bike and joyfully roll your Happy Hour into the sunset.

Free Crap Vintage







6 responses to “7 Reasons You Need the Free Crap We Set out on the Curb”

  1. Maria Avatar

    I would LOVE to give stuff to GOODWILL. But, alas….I live with a pack rat who refuses to throw anything away. She actually saved a coupon we got in the mail for Rogaine to give to the janitor at her school. It is STILL on our mail sill. She no longer works in a school. She works for a non profit where she is the oldest person there. We have a basement full of Liv’s old toys. Bing is certain that Liv’s future children will want that doll that only has a half head of hair because Liv was playing hairdresser. I would just be happy for a pile, so stop your fussing, missy.

  2. jenny_o Avatar

    I’ll see you your pile of crap and raise you a pile of crap from my husband’s discontinued business …

    Oh yeah baby, I’m a pro.

  3. Bijoux Avatar

    I’m the opposite of a hoarder…..a minimalist? Our basement is virtually empty now. At our old house, we had serious flooding issues every two years. After that, I refuse to hang on to anything.

  4. more cowbell Avatar

    I never thought I was a hoarder. Until I left a three-bedroom house with garage (aka junk room) complete with three kids (who were no longer “kids”) and all their accoutrements, got on a plane with some suitcases and a dog, and moved to a tiny apartment in a tiny country to marry a man whom I did not yet know was The Anti-Hoarder. I can’t even have a junk drawer now. I mean, I try. I put things in there, like bread ties and tops to the empty yogurt containers I try to save. They disappear. I should’ve been suspicious by the fact that he only owned six days worth of underwear, but love is blind and all that.

    The booze coozie is an excellent idea.

  5. Leigh Ann Avatar

    I love bulk trash days. It only happens twice a year, but it’s like Christmas in reverse. Guilt-free purging of the things that are too big for the trash, but too crappy to donate! And it’s almost all gone by the time the big truck actually comes around to haul it away.

    Now the donations, that’s another story. They tend to sit in my garage for months. Okay, years.

  6. alexandra Avatar

    Ha! and yes, this, because I’m a hoarder too (It’s still good!) “to bring this baby home and cram it into the overstuffed closet that is my blog.”

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