Trash Wars

Posted on August 8, 2016



Life in the Boomer Lane knows about married people arguing over whether or not to have children. Then, after they do, they argue about what to do with them. She knows they argue about money, infidelity, in-laws and sex (among themselves, not with in-laws).  She is aware of any number of books, workshops, therapists, couples’ retreats, and TV shows that help people deal with such relationship-threatening topics.  To date, she is not aware of any resource that enables people to overcome the growing animosity that results from a difference between partners on their vision of dealing with trash in one’s home.

LBL grew up in a family that had little money and few amenities in life.  They may have lacked a car and the ability to take vacations. But they did have a kitchen trash bin.   Not only that, but her family could afford to buy the same kind of metal trash bin as other more financially successful families had. Best of all, they prided themselves on being able to produce every bit as much trash as the next guy did. Trash, it seemed, was the great equalizer.

LBL would never have believed that trash would become a bone of contention between herself and Now Husband. For years, the trash bin sat under the butcher block table, in the middle of the kitchen. A plastic trash bag was placed in the bin, and a swing top sat over it. Somewhere along the line, the swing top broke, and LBL and Now Husband discovered that it was easier to simply dump trash into the bin without the top.  So the bin was never replaced.

About a year ago, LBL noticed that suddenly, instead of the trash bags that were usually in the bin (top quality, with pull ties), little plastic grocery bags were hanging from the side of the bin. LBL assumed that Now Husband was too lazy to walk down the basement stairs to get the big bags. But then she, herself, put a big bag into the bin one day and was shocked to discover that a little bag still appeared, hanging from the big bag. This was quite disturbing to LBL. Now it was time to have a serious trash sitdown with Now Husband.

Now Husband explained that the two of them simply didn’t produce enough trash each day to fill a big bag, and he didn’t like the idea of “organic material” sitting around. The little bags were perfect for the amount of trash they created each day. LBL listened carefully to his defense of little trash bags, and explained that when she threw trash into the bin, she often missed the little bag and the trash ended up falling to the floor of the bin. She suggested that they replace the big bin with a little bin, suitable for little bags. Now Husband thought this was a bad idea for any number of reasons.

What ensued was a realization that, for the first time in their now ten-year marriage, they were completely unable to come up with any path to compromise. The trash conundrum had done them in. LBL was so demoralized by this that she spent a lot of time on Pinterest, searching for clever ways people dealt with their trash. It took a long time, as she had to also make frequent detours to check cute shoes and Suzanne Sullivan ceramics.

After awhile, she found a system she could live with, similar to the pull-out trash drawers people have in their newer homes. She planned to call a contractor to build such a system under the butcher block table. She was, in effect, about to spend about $500 to do exactly the same thing as the $29.99 Rubbermaid trash bin had been doing quite well.

Before she even got around to calling the contractor, she pulled out the bin one day to discover that there were now two little trash bags hanging from the sides of the bin. Now Husband, pleased as punch with himself for creating what he considered an efficient system for trash, decided to add one for recycling. And, because the county no longer accepted grocery bags for recycling, the recycled items had to be put into a paper bag. Worse, the items were all mixed up within the bags.

LBL  was so demoralized about this latest turn of events that she had to take an entire day off to do nothing but read articles about the presidential race, in order to wipe out any semblance of rational thought in her head.

LBL doesn’t know what to do in order to save her marriage. She asked Now Husband if he had a problem using the big trash bags in the bin when Only Daughter and her family were visiting next week. He said he had no problem with that, since they produced a huge amount of trash and the big bag would be easily filled each day.

LBL knows this is only a temporary fix, since eventually, Only Daughter and her family will return to Brooklyn. LBL would consider asking Only Daughter and her family to move in permanently, but she suspects that, after a while, Now Husband would figure out a way to hang four little bags from the top of the trash bin.

LBL invites marriage therapists to look into this issue, while she goes back on Pinterest.