Up Sh*t Creek Without a Paddle — A Trashy Tale

by Katy on November 28, 2011 · 31 comments

Portland, Oregon just switched over to every-other-week garbage service in order to accommodate the extra expense of a new curbside composting program. Because my family shares garbage service with our next door neighbors, we were a little concerned with whether the seven of us could make it work. But so far, we’ve had no problems. (Although that can does get mightily full!)

However, my sister’s neighbors are having a having a problem with the every-other-week service, as they are diapering newborn twins. (And yes, they are using disposable diapers — this is not a post about the evils of disposables.) However, this particular couple has always put out a ton of garbage, which always baffled my sister.

“There’s just two of them, how are they making so much garbage?!”

And because they never made the efforts to decrease the packaging-laden stuff that entered their home or composted, (this I know because they gave their composter away as they didn’t like the look of it) they are now up sh*t creek without a paddle. Literally.

Of course, I would never broach the subject with them, as no one welcomes unsolicited advice from people they hardly know. Especially people with newborn twins!

This situation got me thinking about how when people make non-consumer changes in their lives during good times, the inevitable bad times aren’t such a big deal. This lesson applies to:

  • Keeping your house un-crammed with Stuff means it’s possible to take advantage of a sudden opportunity to host a foreign exchange student or welcome a house guest.
  • Living below your means allows you to weather decreases in income without defaulting on your mortgage.
  • Allowing yourself to be less than perfect, (hair, makeup, clothing, housekeeping, cooking, etc.) means you can enjoy social occasions without feeling you have to meet an impossibly high standard.
  • And yes, producing less garbage means that the addition of two little poop machines should not overflow your bin.
I’m just happy I could learn these lessons without having twins. One kid at a time worked just fine for me.
Katy Wolk-Stanley
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land November 28, 2011 at 9:49 am

Go, Katy! Ain’t that the truth?

On a trash-related note, we finally had a full garbage can, after several months. We don’t have trash service, but our city has bags and tags that cost something like $2 each and include garbage pickup in the price.

Hubby was just telling me we needed a city trash bag or tag, and wondered how we were going to get one since I hadn’t trash-picked anything with a tag in a while (which is our usual source of tags). I proposed we stick our trash in the rafters of the garage since we compost and don’t have “ick” trash, to save it for neighborhood Dumpster day in the spring. He was none too happy about it.

Then, we were out and about and I found a city trash bag with two garden hoses in it. We stopped the car, nabbed the bag of hoses (one which we will use, and one which we will give away by the side of the road), and will use that trash bag for our trash. All evening, my son with autism could not stop talking about how we backed up the car to get the hoses.

And, to boot, I found brussels sprouts plants pulled up from my neighbor’s garden in their curbside compost bin last night, and harvested enough for a meal. Score!


Megan November 28, 2011 at 9:59 am

Since you mentioned cloth diapering- does anyone have any advice for me? I’ve made the decision, but my head is spinning about the best way to go about it.


Jenn November 28, 2011 at 10:34 am

Megan, I cloth diapered both of my kids, who are now 10 and 12.

There are a lot of ways to go; once you make a decision about HOW to do it, don’t listen to anyone who gives you grief. Your main options are:

1. Buy the diapers and launder them yourself. In the long run, this is the most economical to you, but you will need to wash them in HOT water, and, trust me, you will want to do diaper only loads. Don’t stick your T-shirts in there by accident. 🙂

2. Use a diaper service. Although this is more costly, it is so much easier on you in the first tumultous weeks of being home with a baby. The dirty diapers magically dissapear on your designated day of the week, replaced by new, clean dry and white diapers. The industrial laundry facilities use less energy than doing it yourself at home does (although that environmental savings is somewhat canceled out by the delivery truck’s fuel consumption). Just try your best not to accidentally drop your car keys into the diaper bag just before you set it out for the week. Trust me.

The first few months, you will be chaning diapers every two hours or so (especially if you’re breastfeeding). However, when your baby gets a little older (around the time they start eating “real” food), and you feel like sleeping a bit longer at a time, you may want to use an insert or a disposable at night. (Your baby will be wet in a cloth diaper, as opposed to not noticing in a disposable, and therefore not waking up).

Using cloth was against the mainstream, but it paid off for us in a million ways. My eldest potty trained herself at 23 months; my youngest at 26 months. Due to wearing cloth diapers, and feeling wet, they knew the cause and effect of elimination, and were much easier to potty train than my niece who wore disposables (and was not as in touch with her own body).

Sorry for the long post. I just always like to give encouragement to new moms! 🙂


Megan November 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Thanks for the encouragement. I like success stories and tips! I will remember the key one— although between absentminded me and my 3 year old… well…..



Lisa Under the Redwoods November 29, 2011 at 5:14 am

If you get the word out, a six or eight week certificate for a diaper service makes a great group baby gift.


Rebecca B. A. R. November 28, 2011 at 11:35 am

Go to The Frugal Girl’s blog website and search for cloth diapers. She had a guess person post an article on cloth diapers and it is the best one I have ever read. It should help you a lot.


Elinor November 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm

That Frugal Girl guest article is a good read, for sure. I would also recommend checking out websites that sell cloth diapers, as often the reviews will have good info about all the different brands.

The website that I love and have purchased from is http://www.clothdiapersinc.com. I have no affiliation with them, but I can highly recommend them as a customer. They offer 10% store credit on all purchases, so when you go back to buy more diapers you have a lovely store credit that you’ve likely forgotten about in your sleep-deprived state. Plus, if you “like” their page on Facebook their wall is a source of TONS of information. They allow people to submit questions on all sorts of issues. I’ve found it to be an excellent resource.

FYI, I use Fuzzi Bunz and love them. I haven’t found the laundry to be much of an issue. Prefolds and covers are going to be your cheapest option, but I love the ease of pockets, personally. Good luck!


Shari November 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I happily diapered two boys using MotherEase one size diapers. We purchased enough diapers so we could make it three days but we did a diaper load every other day. With a small hand sprayer attached to your toilet, it’s easy to manage the waste and smell. We purchased a new HE washer with a sanitary cycle right before the birth of the second child and it made a significant difference as I no longer needed to use bleach on occasion.

Potty training was a breeze. Three days after their 2nd birthday and that was that.

You won’t be disappointed with a decision to cloth diaper!


PigPennies November 29, 2011 at 7:54 am

Check out amalah.com who is cloth diapering a newborn baby (her third) right now and posted a three-parter on cloth diapers about a month ago. Very detailed on what to expect from every kind of cloth diaper imaginable!


cathleen November 29, 2011 at 9:01 am

Prefolds and covers during the day, pockets for nap/bedtime(when baby sleeps longer periods). You may want a couple all in ones(aios) for trips out of the house, they go on just like a disposable. I also recommend buying used, you can try a variety at a cheaper price as some diapers fit differently than others and you may prefer say velcro closure over a snap closure after using them. Craigslist, mothering.com are a couple places to start.


Alison November 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

I am always amazed by the amount of trash that the people in my neighborhood put out on trash day! Our can is never even half full, and our recycle bin is only about 3/4 full each week. Other trash cans are overflowing with boxes filled with additional trash on the side. Although we do not share trash service right now, we have in the past . It is a great way to be thrifty AND environmently freindly. Thanks for all of your tips for being a non-consumer!


Carolyn November 28, 2011 at 11:04 am

Oh yes, trash! My neighbors have way more trash than I can ever imagine. It was much worse before our neighborhood got curbside recycling. I think we were the only family to drive the mile or two to the recycling center. Less stuff in, means less stuff going out.


Maureen November 28, 2011 at 11:49 am

My husband used to bring our trash to his work and put it in the dumpster — he’s the boss, so he had the option. Then we got rid of his truck (not fuel efficient) and he got a little car that we did not want to put stinky trash in. So we ordered trash pick up. In our area, we pay a monthly fee for weekly trash and recycling pick up. We have 1 can for garbage and 1 can for recycling. We never used to recycle when hubby brought the trash to work. Now we recycle and we have more in the recycle can than actual trash in the trash can. And when I called for the service, the woman said that 2 people would use the larger trash can. Not in this house!


Chris November 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Another way to look at it is, everything that goes out (in that trash bin) you paid for when it came in! Less packaging (we buy lots in bulk) means less expense right off. Think pizza boxes, individual apple sauce cups, versus one jar that you recycle, etc!


Elaine November 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm

We don’t have curbside recycling in my city, so people’s bins are always overflowing. Most people drive right past the recycling lot, but can’t seem to be bothered stopping in.

I take my recycling to a nearby city that has an AARP-run recycling center. They plow most of the money right back into the community, which I like (no, LOVE).


Megg November 28, 2011 at 1:13 pm

That really disturbs me!
I have no idea how much we pay for trash/recycling/yard waste, but I do know that the recycling and yard waste bins are HUGE in comparison to our trash bucket which just makes me laugh. There are only 2 of us and we recycle a lot (but often it still takes us a month to completely fill the recycling bin because we just don’t bring a lot of stuff into the house I guess) so we only produce on average a bag of trash a week. I’m quite proud of that, too!
Those neighbors are crazy! It takes effort, but not that much more effort to sort and recycle. I’m not sure about Portland, but here you don’t even have to sort into glass, paper, etc. so it’s really easy to recycle.


Van November 28, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Love this post. When I get back home I need to get to work downsizing. And making a compost been. And… 🙂 I love being a frugal bastard.


Shelley November 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm

We started a compost bin several years ago to help with our gardening. That takes a large part of our kitchen waste. Recycling here in the North of England is serious business. The council gives us a waste bin just for that purpose – and picks it up every two weeks; it has a separate compartment for glass, where as we are asked to put paper, textiles, plastics and cardboard in the large portion below. We tend to cook from scratch, buying fruit and veg at the green markets. They either load up our cloth bags we bring or supply plastic bags, which get used to line our trash bins around the house. Our trash is collected once a week, but we could manage just fine with once a month. Unfortunately, combining collections with our neighbours is not an option, else we certainly would go for the savings!


Indigo November 28, 2011 at 2:19 pm

It would take me months to fill up the huge trash bin. The recycling bin which is much smaller does not take as long right now because I’ve been finding little plastic pots all over the yard from the previous owner and I tend to pick up a bag of bottles and cans while walking with the dogs everyday.


Dogs or Dollars November 28, 2011 at 3:43 pm

I love how appropriate the title of this post is, which makes me realize … ewwwwwww.

We rock a tiny 10 gallon garbage “tote” that I am endlessly proud of, and mention at every available opportunity. Like now.


maddie November 29, 2011 at 9:57 am

Yay on your 10 gallon garbage tote! I have a 12 gallon bin which is plenty big. Unfortunately I also have this behemouth recycling cart but the city does not supply a smaller size. I put my recycling cart out about every 2-3 months.


maddie November 29, 2011 at 10:04 am

oops I pushed the submit button too soon…As Carolyn and Katie said, sell stuff coming in=less garbage going out=saved money


Karen November 28, 2011 at 11:58 pm

I see that every Wednesday! In front of houses with two people. Our family of four puts out a garbage bin every three or four weeks even though it is rarely more than half full, just smelly. The recycling bin goes out about once a month, when it is full, and I don’t bother to flatten things like gallon milk jugs. If milk was available in refillable containers or bags, the bin would go out about once every two months. Glass isn’t allowed and has to be taken to the recycling depot by the individual. Textiles aren’t recycled here, except as rags at thrift shops. We refused to accept the yard waste bin because last pickup for the year is before leaves finish falling, we compost, and prunings over 1″ in diameter are not allowed in the bin, so we haul it to the community composting site ourselves once each spring and fall along with the glass recyclables.

I wish we could have alternate week pick-up, or share with a neighbour, but our community insists on full participation and full payment. We have to pay for the bins that remain the property of the waste management department. That’s $300. ( I have to pay for the yard waste bin and it’s pick-up even though I don’t have one. My parents have weekly garbage about half the volume of a breadbag, take their own recycleables to the depot and refused any of the bins but still have to pay for them.) It costs $70 each quarter for pick-up, whether you use it or not. And the two person households who fill all their bins to overflowing Every. Single. Week. Don’t pay a penny more.

Now they’re doing a study about picking up kitchen waste. Unfortunately, I’m afraid it will just be another big ugly plastic waste container to pay for because apparently the majority of people here buy stuff just so they can throw it away. But they did recycle for “free” thousands of perfectly functional $10 garbage cans that were not designed for the fleet of new diesel trucks they bought to implement the system.

The expert at waste management informed me that I was very much mistaken when I said that I remember when everyone put out one can with a capacity of one black garbage bag a week and that it contained everything they were getting rid of. He considered that unreasonably minimalist and beyond living memory. I began to value his opinions very highly after that…..


Practical Parsimony November 29, 2011 at 1:08 am

My garbage fee includes the garbage truck, recycling truck, leaf truck, street sweeping truck, and the tree limb truck. Yes, we have 5 trucks, all getting different jobs done on the streets. If you have your electric and water turned on, you are charged for all this. Everything comes on one bill. There is no way to opt out or cut down on the costs by putting out less garbage or putting it out less often. There is no sharing of cans or costs.

I am just one person, but I can put out the garbage can once a month or less in the winter when nothing will stink. About once a month, I transport all the metal–cans, junk from basement to the Salvage yard only a mile or less of my paths for chores and have been getting about $30/month for my troubles. I can throw plastic and metal in the recycle bin. I prefer the little cash from metal recycling. Plus, things are disappearing from my basement!

Hens and the compost piles take care of kitchen scraps.


Jo@simplybeingmum November 29, 2011 at 1:27 am

Wanted to chime in on the ‘less than perfect’ – I attended a fancy dress party recently. Previously I would have scoured the internet looking for the perfect costume that meant something to me, demonstrated an interest or personality trait. Etc…etc… this time (I’m well into simple living 3 years plus on) I borrowed a few items from family, put a pair of jeans on and went as a cowboy. No purchases, no hire cost and no complicated getting ready situation. It was so stress-free! and I felt very comfy in my outfit!


Linda November 29, 2011 at 4:32 am

We have weekly service without an extra fee in my town. This past Saturday, my husband slept late and missed the garbage truck. That is the problem with being first on the route. However, because we don’t have much trash, we never have to worry about missing a week.


Kariann November 29, 2011 at 6:32 am

Hi Katy!

Allowing yourself to be less than perfect, (hair, makeup, clothing, housekeeping, cooking, etc.) means you can enjoy social occasions without feeling you have to meet an impossibly high standard.

If you have time could you elaborate on this point? With the holidays coming I feel pressure. It is interesting how being a non-consumer touches so many areas.




Melissa November 29, 2011 at 10:14 am

As a family of four, we’re still not filling up our garbage can every two weeks, but I have to admit that with the every-other-week pick-up, I am definitely thinking A LOT more about what goes into my garbage can. Now if I could just figure out what to do with my yard waste/food compost can that has become a stinky, moldy abomination. The thought of hosing it out in the cold rain just does not appeal to me (because then what do I do with the yuck and mold that comes out? Scoop it up and put it back in?) This chore is going right up there with the pooper scooper chore.


Karen November 29, 2011 at 8:19 pm

This is something I’m looking for too, because I can’t hose anything out when there’s a foot of snow and its 5 degrees out. There used to be something called a Green Cone, made by Rubbermaid that worked sort of like a composter. And there is another type of composting (Japanese?) that uses a bran that is innoculated with something. It all goes into a bucket with a tight lid and can be done inside the house. I will have to find the name of it, or maybe someone else knows what it is. I understand that it takes meat and dairy that shouldn’t go into the outdoor bin, and does not smell.


Claudia November 29, 2011 at 10:17 am

Thank you very much for going easy on those of us with twins. Speaking from experience, the extra work is exponential! That said, I agree with your post entirely. We all need to leave some wiggle room in our lives and in our finances, for the sake of our own sanity and well-being!


JustAddCloth November 30, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Our trash is picked up weekly and the bin is huge. There is no way we could fill it even if we had a month. But then recycling is only picked up every other week and it drives me nuts because we get a tiny little bix to put it in. I cannot fathom having that much trash and that little recycling.
We cloth diaper and it is fairly easy. You can purchase trial packages or buy used. We have another on the way, so I will be cloth diapering multiple children. It might be a lot of laundry, but I hate buying things purely to use for an hour and throw out.


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