My Recycling Bin

ronoaldo-Blue-Trash-Can-800px“Have you checked the mailbox?”

It may seem a simple question – but it is not.

It is not even a question, rather it is an imperative.

This is my wife’s way of telling me to brave the weather so that she does not have to.

“Yes,” I tell her, “I did.”

“Was there anything in it?”

Here is where things get dicey. If I say no, I am on shaky ground. If I say not really, I am being somewhat honest – because the truth is the box only contained junk mail addressed to her, so I threw all away.

“Not really,” I say.

“Uh huh,” she says.

Minutes pass…

“Would you check the mail again?”

“There wasn’t any,” I insist.

More minutes pass…

“I watched you toss my mail into the recycling bin,” she says.


Our recycling bin is a large square box that is coincidentally colored a deep postal blue. In the front, near the top is an inviting slot through which I deposit all the mail destined for the big direct marking firm in the sky.

Using the box is perhaps my greatest daily delight. It is where I dispatch everything from insurance offers (cleverly disguised as official looking documents) to the breathless prose of extended warranty come-ons – but the bulk of what I so gleefully skim into the trash is the endless streams of credit card solicitations.

My wife is the exact opposite. What I throw away, she stockpiles.

She not only reads through every flier and shopper that lands in our mailbox – but holds onto them, building walls of newsprint that transform our sofa into a fortress.

It frustrates me because I make sure I never get junk mail. I have been known to snarl and lunge at hapless clerks who are foolish enough to ask for my email or house address.

“Why don’t you throw that stuff away,” I ask.

“I need to sort through it,” she says.

And she does.

She spends entire afternoons meticulously sifting through catalogs from home furnishing stores or cruise lines, lingering for hours in every room and visiting every port.

In a small way, I envy her that. She is more adventurous than I am. While I am content to remain anonymous, confined to my ten acres of heaven and the gravel roads where I walk my dog, she explores the world – if only through the pages of glossy catalogs.

So I give her a tender opening to tell me about what she sees in this wonderful world of advertisement.

“What have you found that is so interesting?” I ask.

“This,” she says, as she reaches into the fold of a coupon flier and retrieves our cell phone bill.


Author: Almost Iowa

64 thoughts on “My Recycling Bin”

  1. Your wife and I would likely be great friends given the chance. Love how you turned it around.

  2. We’re just the opposite: my husband saves everything (including the receipt for the tube socks he bought three years ago), while I see my chief role in our household as the the person who keeps too much stuff from coming in. So obviously, I hate junk mail. The good thing is, the mail comes while he’s still at work, so I get first crack at it.

    1. As I read through the comments here, I have to chuckle. It seems as if every household contains both a hoarder and a tosser (not in the British sense of the word 🙂 ). You got to hand it to both Ying and Yang. 🙂

  3. I always mark any junk mail “not known at this address – return to sender” and mail it back to them (when there’s a return address on the envelope). It seem to do the trick and my mail box can stay on it’s diet of junk mail free.

    1. It is a great system for those who care… but most direct marketing firms don’t care because they get paid by the piece mailed out, not the piece received. They have their own recycling bin. 🙂

  4. You made me laugh.

    I do what you do: Straight from mailbox to recycle bin. But I do what your wife does, too–Peruse catalogs, imagining. Sometimes, marking what I want. Then, into the “I want” pile. A brief stay there, wants unpurchased, before: The recycle bin.

  5. Isn’t there a commandment that says, “If a bill makes it through, thou shalt pay it.” Which means if I don’t see it, I don’t pay it. That used to be a very good tactic. Then God made email. So even if the bill doesn’t get through, I get an email reminder. Of course, the Big Guy forget that greatest of all Satan’s strategies: the spam folder.

    1. ““If a bill makes it through, thou shalt pay it.” “

      Around here it goes like this: if a bill makes it through, thou shalt momentarily consider paying it – then go back to watching Law & Order reruns.

  6. It was amazing how little junk mail we received once we moved from an affluent suburb to the middle of nowhere. I’m convinced junk mail has more to do with zip code than income or anything else!

    1. You are onto something there, Carol. Marketers are savy enough to realize that when you move past where the pavement ends – that your tastes change.

  7. I never get the mail. I want to stay true to my inner Howard Hughes. I get a piece of mail once and a while.and pitch it as soon as I can verify it is junk (which it always is) “Hey darlin’ have you seen the W2?”

    1. I never worried about pitching my W2 because I got it online at work. Which made filtering the mail easier. It is amazing how many letters arrive in January disguised as a “pull-apart” official document.

  8. My husband is the pack rat here. If I throw it out, he is right in there making sure it’s nothing that can be used in some way, shape, or form in the distant future. He has a garbage bag he puts junk mail in. It sits by the back door for months before he finally tosses it. Drives me nuts.

  9. That’s my husband. Piles. In fact, I just went though one stack of my stuff (all trashed- no shredding necessary) and I’m currently looking at his stack on top of our microwave. Ugh.

    This dude, likes to save movie stubs too. (Do we really need a stub from Independence Day several years ago?) I try to toss things, and it’s been known to see my hubby (and our daughter now) retrieve crap. I have to be sneaky.

    I go to clean up the kids room, and there’s that damn carnival stuffed animal that has no sentimental value whatsoever. I could have sworn I put that in our Good Will box. Not one of us won it…it wasn’t give to us by someone that has since died. It’s just some damn snake thing. And an old teddy bear (she has 5 others! That do have sentimental value.) You got that from someone’s bday party years ago…time to pass it on to the next little girl.

    1. Consider yourself lucky. You could be like me and own a shed about the size of an aircraft hanger. In fact I been told there are aircraft in there – but who knows for sure.

          1. I knew the movie ACRACNOPHOBIA was a true story! Whatever you do, don’t twang the long web thread like the scientist did. It didn’t bode well for him. I saw the movie a few times, and no matter how much I yelled at him NOT to do it, he did…and the result was the same.

  10. Interesting. I’d assumed checking out all the junk mail was a guy thing. I get the mail and sort it, but the guy in the house has to recheck before anything is thrown away. Of course he doesn’t actually throw anything. He just gives it back to me with comments about which things I really ought to read.

    1. I am pretty sure I live in an alternate universe.

      A couple of years ago, someone asked, “What is the color of the sky in your world?”

      “Gray,” I said in all honesty.

      1. Which reminds me of my earliest French lessons in elementary school. The teacher kept saying “Quel temps fait-il?” to which the correct response was always “Le ciel est gris,” except for the one time when I was asked to reply. How was I to know we were talking about the weather?

      1. Well that was worth a swift read…fascinating well thought out stuff and very true indeed. Thinking about it the Viagra/penis enlargement junk mail is off the radar over here these days yet it seems my email account is fair game for just about everything else. Moreover, when I joined Facebook a couple of years back (why on earth did I do that) I gave my date of birth as 1st Jan 1905 (purely because I don’t give my dob out to anyone)and said I lived in the Scottish Highlands. Within the hour (this is true) there were ads coming up on my FB page for/from glamorous Scottish Grannies!

        1. Funny! Though I would counsel against using January 1st as a birthdate. It is common for people in the tribal areas of Somalia, South Sudan, Pakistan etc to not know their date of birth, so January 1st is assigned to them and direct marketers go nuts spamming anyone with New Year’s birthdate with scripts written in every conceivable language.

          1. Cheers for that…also scum bags making up false identities when they try to do a runner often elect the 1st Jan as a birthday…quite often use any middle name they might have as a forename also (well the thick ones do).

  11. I abhor junk mail as well. I have been known to snarl at clerks who insist on taking my phone number at checkout (because that is how they get your address to send you crap). There are some clerks who even try to tell me that can’t finish my transaction without my phone number. I reply ” Oh that is perfectly fine, I just won’t finish my transaction then.” It is amazing how quickly they find a loophole in the system.

    1. In the glory days of Radio Shack, I used to buy a lot of odds and ends there – and they always insisted upon my phone number before beginning a transaction. I got tired of arguing with them, so I made up a name and an address and gave them a phone number. The number belonged to the Radio Shack across town. They never caught on.

  12. I call it triaging the mail. I pull it from the box, stand at the trash bin that’s right there, handy, and start sorting. Grocery store circulars, politicians pleading for money, extended warranty offers for my car — all of it — goes straight to the trash and never even makes it home.

    The only thing I have to be careful about are the customers who use automatic payment systems. But I’ve learned that those envelopes are remarkable for not being remarkable. They’re always plain white, with only a return address. Ironically, the ones that say “payment enclosed” usually are fake checks to be used to purchase this or that. But, I stop to take a look, so I guess they’ve done their job.

    On the other hand, after my mother’s death, I learned my lesson early. Every magazine, every book, every pile of paper — everything — had to be gone through with your wife’s thoroughness. Mom always was tucking things here and there for safe-keeping, and then forgetting it. By the time I was done, I’d found several hundred dollars. If the cruise lines and catalogs would start throwing in a fiver here and there, I might pay more attention to them, too.

    1. “If the cruise lines and catalogs would start throwing in a fiver here and there, I might pay more attention to them, too.”

      Back when I worked for the City of Minneapolis, I was required to produce documentation by the pound (I always weighed it, least I be accused of taking short cuts). One system came in at 35 lbs. On that particular system, I paper-clipped a $20 bill to the table of contents page along with a note promising another $20 bill to the person who found it. In twenty years (yes they are still using the system), no one has collected.

      1. That’s funny and sad. But mostly funny, in a “suspicions confirmed” sort of way. It’s the best use of a stray $20 I’ve heard of. Maybe ever.

  13. Hilarious! I’m the exact same way with our mail, except we have the recycling pick-up bin outside next to the mailbox, so I dump everything in there before making it inside.

    I’m not saying I planned it that way. I’m just saying I’m a genius!

    Also, completely unrelated, we haven’t gotten our insurance cards yet.

    1. Here is an idea! One way the postal service could stem the flow of its financial losses would be to offer a recycling service. For a small monthly fee, the mail carrier would recycle the junk for you.

  14. We’re lucky recipients of our son’s junk mail. He hasn’t lived with us for more than 8 years, including college. But he is now using this as his “official” address. He’s in the military. He needs to know someone will get his mail. But The Economist magazine has been trying for almost that whole 8 years to get him to subscribe. Will they not learn? That doesn’t seem very economical. Credit card offers? At least weekly. And we do need to discern real stuff from not real stuff. Hey, all those mailings about your car insurance? Turns out your auto-pay wasn’t on correctly…

    1. “That doesn’t seem very economical.”

      At 21% interest, they can afford to mail a lot of junk.

      I still get my son’s mail too. He gets more than I do and he has not lived at our past two addresses.

    1. We like to shred the sensitive stuff first; like the stupid checks that credit card companies insist upon sending. The flame leap higher that way.

  15. The sheer volume of junk mail drives me crazy. I refuse all solicitation of email and address inquiries at the register as well and rarely participate in any reward or other programs. Yet, the constant stream of junk mail continues.

    1. After I launched the Minneapolis Police records management system, the first report I had to write was for a sleazy company that marketed home alarm systems. They wanted a monthly list of everyone who had been burglarized. Because of data practice laws, we had to provide it to them.

  16. I’m sure a few good things have been tossed or shredded in the name of “removing the junk” but I’ll accept that as a cost of doing business.

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