Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Parent Trap

How does a girl persuade her mum to stop trying to make her throw stuff away?

Since moving out of my shared house with Bron, I've been having a bit of purge. While this is a good thing (I hope) for the charity shops, and for me, it's been an equally bad thing for the state of landfill. The amazing Mrs. Green over on the My Zero Waste blog would surely have a heart attack if she saw the things I've been recklessly throwing "away" of late. For the most part I'm talking small things, out of date medicines I found in the back of the cupboard, an ancient video tape or two, stuff like that, and stuff that I can't even remember now that I sit here trying to remember.

The worst stuff, though, the worst stuff are those things that you need when you have a house of your own, but when you move into another household, as Bron and I have both just done, he to share with a bachelor friend and myself to the alma mater. This is the stuff that neither of you wants right now, but are left with the question: what to do with it in the meantime? Stuff like two plastic waste bins, one from the kitchen, one from the bathroom. Two old tires that came off my car that I'd saved because I had this cunning idea that they could be used as garden planters. A microwave that's going rusty on the inside; ditto with a toaster. A bag full of plastic bags that - even when you don't accept plastic bags from shops - somehow worm their way into your home.

Mix this with:
(a) a set of parents who have unconsciously embraced the modern lifestyle of 'out with the old and in with the new', and
(b) a girl who really doesn't want to deal with the reality of dismantling her home,
...and you get a big trip to the local dump.

I watched those two perfectly good dustbins ("a charity shop doesn't want stuff like like that" and, "I'll buy you a new one", instructed my mum) go sailing over the rails and into the skip - there to sit for all eternity alongside all the other household items the local Cornish folk had gotten bored of this week. It felt so horribly wrong. But (yes, here it is, that 'but') they needed to be out of the house that day, there was/is no space left in my storage rental, and no more space at the parental home for them either. Although it felt wrong, I also felt like I had no other option at that particular moment in time. A word to the wise: never try to clear house from 40 miles away; this is what happens. And where was Bron? Well he, of course, had moved out all the stuff he wanted and left me, in typical Bron-stylee, to deal with the rest of it.

But back to my opening question. Despite the episode with the bins, I managed to save the draining racks from the kitchen sink. Or so I thought...

"I just can't get this clean," my mum tells me while I'm drinking my morning cup of tea. She's trying to clean off the natural accumulation of gunk that any draining rack gets after several years of use (honestly, I have cleaned it since I bought it, just clearly not to my mother's standards).

"That's ok," I said, "You don't have to clean it."

"But its unhygienic. It'll grow bacteria if you put it away like this."

"It's fine, it'll be fine."

"Let's just get rid of it. I'll buy you a new one." Ah, bless her. She absolutely means well. And yes, a new one would be nice. But that's not the point: there's nothing wrong with the old one. It's perfectly usable. And there really isn't that much gunk.

The final word? In this instance, mine. "It hasn't given me food poisoning yet," I commented. To which she, reluctantly, conceded.

The irony in all this is the fact that both of my parents grew up in a time when 'make do and mend' was the daily mantra. My mum comes from a low income background where nothing was wasted. In many ways she's still very much a proponent of this attitude, but - as far as I can tell - only so far as hygiene is not involved. Bacteria be damned if my mum is in the room.

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