Joanne Palmer: The trash man cometh |

Joanne Palmer: The trash man cometh

Joanne Palmer

In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at or

I live on a quiet street. My sleep rarely is interrupted. Most mornings I awaken to the sound of birds, occasionally a barking dog or my alarm clock. All is peaceful in the ‘hood except for Friday. As I lay in bed trying my best to become one with my flannel sheets, I hear a rumbling that can only mean one thing.

Trash day!

And so begins the frantic rush through the house. You know and I know that all it takes is one tiny pinhole for the coffee grounds to end up all over the kitchen floor instead of safely inside the trashcan. Of course, I meant to clean out the refrigerator, but now there is no time. Or is there? How long does it take mold to biodegrade, anyway? How long have those leftover noodles been in there? What happened to the casserole I planned to make? The milk is well on its way to becoming cottage cheese.

Suddenly, everything in the house is circumspect. Why am I wearing socks with a hole in them?


Who left the ice cream on the kitchen counter instead of putting it back in the freezer?

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Why am I saving this mile-long strip of coupons thinking I actually want 13 bags of cherry-flavored coffee?


And then comes the guilt.

Why do I have so much trash? Shouldn’t I start a compost heap or something eco-friendly? Why am I using plastic bags for my trash? Shouldn’t I be doing something greener? Do I have the right container? Have I piled too much in it? Do I need two containers so I don’t have a tower of trash growing out of the top of the can?

The guilt is overwhelming and keeps growing, like a snowball rolling downhill. Condo dwellers do not have this problem. They can throw things into a Dumpster any ol’ time they want to. I, however, have only one chance per week, and if I forget, then what? Is it possible to stuff two weeks worth of trash into one can? What if they changed the route without telling me and I have missed the driver?

My mind spirals out of control until I find myself frozen in the garage wondering: What. Is. The. Meaning. Of. Life?

Fortunately, a sobering thought snaps me back into reality:

Is it recycling day?

Yes! A quick survey of the neighbors reveals cardboard boxes (non-glossy, unwaxed) broken down and stacked neatly alongside the totes with magazines and catalogs artfully arranged into their containers.

Another tour through the house. There’s an alarming number of catalogs with dog-eared pages piled by the bathtub. Next to the couch, a free form stack of magazines and newspapers all containing articles I’ve been meaning to cut and save for later review. Where is my election cheat sheet and mail-in ballot? What about these bottles and jars? Good glass or bad glass? Have I rinsed the good, thrown away the bad and disposed of the caps and lids? Aluminum cans are fine; aluminum foil is not. Number 1 and 2 plastic containers are acceptable, but plastic bags are not.

Animals love trash day; humans do not. Dogs pee on the cans, bears rummage and rip though containers, and magpies, well, there’s a reason they’re called rats with wings. They are not to blame. We are. As one Web site I scanned noted, “Today’s purchases become tomorrow’s trash. Buy in bulk or in recyclable containers. The less packaging you buy, the less you throw away or have to recycle.”

And the more time you’ll have to sleep.