Earth to Ethereal
H. A. O'Connor

About the author : Earth to Ethereal: Eclectic and Eccentric, Spiritual and Sublime When it comes right down to it, I guess I just really enjoy sharing the human experience, whether through writing stories and poems which, hopefully, resonate with readers or by following the path to a simpler, more earth-friendly lifestyle. Thanks for sharing the experience with me!

The Noble Act of the Dumpster Dive

Earthy, Ethereal, Neighborhood Homesteading, Parenting, Searching for Inspiration 6 Comments

Think about it, just for a moment. Dumpster diving probably doesn’t conjure up pretty images for most of us. Not for me, either.

The other morning, though, I was needing a little self-TLC, feeling tired and a bit lost, so of course I found myself on youtube, looking up videos of Nigerian Dwarf Goats. What else, right? I watched a few and then I came across a video of a single mom, raising her kids on a farm and supplementing their lifestyle with dumpster diving. Since dumpsters don’t sound like pleasant places to dive, I opted instead for another video of bouncing (literally) baby goats. But that mom and her children and their dumpster trips were still there, along the side of the screen, waiting patiently with all their viewing potential.

jlwaswilson pixabay

Image via pixabay/jlwaswilson

Hmm, baby goats? Dumpsters? Baby goats? Dumpsters?

Okay, I’ll bite, I thought. So, I watched, ready to cover my eyes if the woman started sifting among messy, smelly dumpsters. Instead, what I found was a sweet young mom, raising her family on a farm in the midwest, spending her day feeding chickens and ducks with the help of her kids, going over homeschool lessons, pushing them on swings and sharing quiet laughter. It all looked pretty peaceful, to be honest. Sure, there were piles of clothing on her furniture and clutter in the corners of her rooms. She’s a single parent of four. I’m a co-parent of three and there are days when I wonder what the Health Department would have to say about our house. Still, she had yet to take her viewers on a dumpster tour, so I wasn’t sold on anything.

I didn’t have to wait for long. The woman broached the topic by mentioning she’d recently picked up some coffee from a dumpster, saying the package had been resting on the top–sealed, uncontaminated. Still, my stomach waited, threatening to turn. I don’t drink coffee (caffeine doesn’t like me), so this remained safely-distant territory.

Glen Carrie

Image via pixabay/Glen Carrie

No coffee for me. Definitely no dumpster coffee for me.

Cue the next scene: the woman parked beside a dumpster outside of a craft store, pulled out one of those long, reachy, grabby things (sorry–dysnomia moment), and got to work. Instead of extracting an item that looked like it was ready to crawl from a lagoon, she pulled out package after package of…craft supplies, each one perfectly sealed and clean as could be. On another stop, she found brand-new toys and, later, games, and books. All these items–the ones she plucked from the dumpsters–were fine. Better than fine. If someone had put them back on the racks inside the store, I suppose anyone would have bought them. Instead, for whatever reason, these items had been tossed into a dumpster and were destined for a landfill.

I started thinking: if I were in this woman’s shoes (she also found a pair of unused shoes in her size, by the way), would I do this? Well, maybe I’d cross state lines first, but…. Really, though, who am I to judge her? Pride is stupid. It’s useless. So, what is this woman doing? She’s going around pride. She’s doing the best she can for her family, simple as that.

I am not a single parent of four, but I do know something about having to struggle with finances. So many of us do, don’t we? Times are tough and people’s salaries aren’t necessarily keeping up with the demands. My husband is talented at what he does, but his paycheck doesn’t always reflect this as much as we might wish. I, on the other hand, have gone from being a stay-at-home mom for a decade and a half, to working 30 hours a week and writing on the side, to dealing with health issues that have me home again and looking for a work-from-home situation, which hasn’t shown itself on the map yet. So, yes, we are financially stressed and, no, I don’t usually treat my kids to many extras, unless it’s to celebrate a birthday or a holiday or an end-of-year reward for good grades. That said, my kids are fine. They’re happy and healthy and I couldn’t be more grateful. They understand there are limits to the things we can afford, but not to love.Ben Kerckx

Image via pixabay/Ben Kerckx

Love? Priceless

I have to confess, since watching a couple of these videos, I haven’t dived into any dumpsters. Yet, this woman still has me thinking. There are ways to provide for ourselves and our families outside of what might be considered the norm. Should there be shame in that? I’ve been trying to shift my family’s lifestyle into a homesteading one–keeping chickens, growing our own herbs and vegetables, making soaps and other personal care items. I began it to help us live a healthier lifestyle, but I love the self-sufficiency of it just as much. Dumpster diving doesn’t completely jibe with my view, since I’m trying to streamline our lifestyle, minimalizing things we have around the house and don’t need, but then again, what if a dumpster somewhere contains a nice, clean, unbroken version of something we DO need? If you never seek, how can you find? Reduce,reuse, recycle, dive? Maybe that ought to be the new-and-improved way to provide for your family, while *bonus* helping to protect the environment?

Brooklyn Morgan

Image via pixabay/Brooklyn Morgan

Reduce, reuse, recycle, DIVE?

All I can say, is after watching that mom doing the best she could to make her family’s life better, working within what was available to her, I didn’t feel the least bit judgy. I felt ashamed, in fact, of the way I’d reacted when I first saw the headline to her video. Eww, dumpsters had changed to something else. This woman had shared a glimpse of her life and, afterward, I wanted to shake her gloved hand, maybe even peek with her into the next dumpster she visited.

So, I did something–took a very, very small step. I clicked “Subscribe.” Like I said, it’s not much. Maybe, though, it’s a move toward something bigger, a change in perspective. I just can’t help thinking there might be some important lessons to be learned from a woman who is noble enough do dive into dumpsters for the sake of her loved ones.

 

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6 Comments

  • a. on July 25, 2016

    Well, I think I’m with you, going from aghast at the idea to abashed at my own reaction. What wouldn’t I do for my family? I might never have considered dumpster diving, but it’s something to think about now, and I’ll never look at it the same way again.

    • Author
      H. A. O'Connor on July 25, 2016

      Thanks, A! That’s exactly how I felt. We’d both do whatever we could for our families, just as this mom is doing–it’s hard to find fault with that. I appreciate your comment!

  • Margaret O,Connor Boltersdorf on July 25, 2016

    I loved your piece on dumpster diving.

    • Author
      H. A. O'Connor on July 25, 2016

      Thank you so much, Margaret! I’m really glad you enjoyed it and I also appreciate your comment!

  • Marlene on July 25, 2016

    There’s no shame in her game! As a matter of fact, I’m kind of ashamed of our throw away society. I hope your blog enlightens everyone, as it did me, to focus on what’s really important….family. I also hope this woman comes across your blog and smiles at the changed perspectives from people who don’t always struggle, but have a less judge mental attitude towards someone who is smart, and just doing the best for her family! As the saying goes, “One mans trash is another mans treasure”. Thank you for sharing!

    • Author
      H. A. O'Connor on July 25, 2016

      I couldn’t agree more! I kept wondering about these stores–craft stores, dollar stores, etc.–throwing away perfectly good items. I’m glad this woman and her kids were able to use them, but it just doesn’t make sense! Like you said, though, family was what was most important to this woman and it made me rethink what it means to care for those you love. Thanks so much for your comment!

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