Unexpectedly, last weekend, my husband and I found a new apartment. The lease on our current place isn’t up until April of 2016, but on a walk through our neighborhood last Sunday morning, we saw a “For Rent” sign on a building a few blocks away. On a whim, because the sign said the apartment was two-bedroom and dog-friendly, with a garage parking spot and shared backyard, we called the landlord.
Two days later, we signed the lease. We’ll move into this new place on November 21st.
This happened so quickly and so surprisingly that I’ve been feeling a lot of anxiety about it: What if we can’t find a subletter for our current place? What if this new apartment doesn’t feel as comfortable as where we now live? What if it snows the day we move?
And—what do I do with all of my plastic? First, I’ll have to deal with the hoard I’ve chosen to collect this year, both the moving and new storage set up of that hoard. But second, I also know I’m going to find plastic hidden in the backs of cupboards and tucked into hard-to-reach parts of our refrigerator that I’ll now have to decide what to do with. Do I keep all of it? Add it all to my collection? Transport that, too, to our new home?
Moving, in my experience, comes with lots of dumping. It’s a time both of stress, trying to carefully box precious items while fearing their total destruction, yet also liberty, letting go of unwanted belongings to start fresh in a new space. There is a wonderful lightness in getting to escape the clutter of a previous home.
I love this promise of a clean start in a new apartment, but when I started my plastic challenge, I didn’t anticipate that I’d have to move in the midst of it. I thought, at the end of April 2016, I could take an inventory of all of my used plastic, figure out how to estimate its weight, find some “results” of how much I’d accumulated in a year, and then set it free—all before May and the end of our lease.
Now that isn’t going to happen. I’m going to have to cart my plastic garbage across my neighborhood to my new, yet-unspoiled apartment. And my collection still creeps higher. It has now outgrown its green bin. I’ve used a large paper grocery bag for collecting plastic food containers, and that is now full. What kind of lunatic am I to actually move this crap?
This move is really going to test my commitment to this experiment.
With this move, I’m not going to have the typical dumping luxury. I’m going to have to decide what plastic containers get added to my collection, items like nearly empty lotion bottles, unwanted chapsticks, or half-consumed salad dressings that I wouldn’t otherwise have tossed.
I’ve decided that whatever items I originally purchased, or ones that I exclusively used, I’m going to keep and add to my green bin. Otherwise, if I dump them, it feels like cheating. This move will force me to assess and deal with the junk that’s been sitting undisturbed in my overstuffed apartment, which, I guess, I should deal with even if I wasn’t moving.
This is a normal part of an American life—having to throw out the old to make room for the new, and having to deal with the constant reality of too much stuff. Yet, though we can move to new homes, purge what has become unwanted, the world cannot. My moving dilemma has made me reflect more on the state of our oceans, our landfills. There is really no such thing as “getting rid of” plastic. There is actually only moving it.