May 28, 2011

Zipcar errands, block styrofoam and household hazardous waste

Yesterday was quite a day. It was one of the few days Mr. Trashmaster and I have off work together that doesn't involve one of us taking a sick day (he’s got a wacky work week that doesn’t much match up with my work week). We keep talking about how "there's so much we could get done if we just had a day off together once in a while!" Today was that day.

We both got to sleep in. An awesome start right there. We also *didn't* get distracted by having a long involved breakfast - we got right to doing errands. Go, us!

We rented a Zipcar truck for errands. We have only occasional need for a truck, and Mr. Trashmaster figured out that even if we found a $500 truck, we’d still likely have to put $1000 on it in maintenance before the year as out, plus we’d have to insure it and feed it gas. Going through Zipcar costs us about $85 to join and not quite $8/hour or $71 per day. Not bad when we really only need a truck a handful of times a year and for about 3-4 hours each time.
While he picked up the truck, I finished putting bunches of cardboard down on the garden paths – I posted about this just recently. I started some laundry too.

We took household hazardous waste out to the Metro South material transfer station (as it was closer to everything we were doing than Metro Central).  That was mostly old paint, old cleaning fluids we don't use anymore, old lawn fertilizer, and some bottles missing labels - stuff you don't want going down the drain into the water table!

We took a bunch of block styrofoam to the Recology facility on Foster Road. We also took bunch of stuff to Goodwill including stuff for e-cycling. We were going to take the computer parts to Free Geek, but it was all sitting uncovered in the back of the pickup, and the rain was moving in fast. Goodwill can sell the usable computer parts and e-cycle the rest.

Holy smokes, we took care of our errands all in one go! Last, off to dim sum, followed by hard-earned naps with a side order of cats!

May 24, 2011

What to do with Cardboard Boxes?

So I’m all moved in and mostly unpacked. What to do with all those cardboard boxes?

If you really just want them gone, flatten them and put them out curbside on your regular pickup day (check with your local hauler for any size restrictions)

But that's no fun!

*Let your kids at them! Boxes make great rocket ships, trains, race cars, buses, and forts. Make a puppet theater! Make a lemonade stand!

*Use them to haul all your extra stuff to your favorite charity resale shop!

*Make furniture

*Use the boxes to haul your non-curbside recyclables and household hazardous waste to an appropriate facility, such as Metro’s garbage and recycling transfer stations.

*U-Haul has a “Customer Connect” program to help connect people looking to sell, buy or giveaway cardboard boxes. Some locations have a “leave a box, take a box” area. I haven’t had much luck with this in the past, but it’s worth checking into. U-Haul will also buy back any unused boxes purchased from their stores. Just take them back along with your receipt. I had to do this because I bought a pack of the wrong size boxes. The guys at the store were fabulous.

*Make a cardboard box oven

* Make a cardboard guitar!

I used almost all of mine in the garden. We’ve been working on building raised beds in the front yard, reducing the grassy area and increasing the fruit & vegetable garden. One way to kill the grass under the raised beds is to put layers of newspaper or cardboard down before piling the dirt inside. If we’d been working on the raised beds in fall or winter, I’d put the cardboard down, dump the dirt on top, and just leave it be. But we’re working on this in late spring/early summer and we want to plant soon, and because we can only work on the garden about one or two days a week, we put cardboard under the boxes only until we can get the truckloads of dirt transported to the house and we know we’re going to fill all the boxes. At that point, we’ve been taking the cardboard back out and lining the boxes with newspaper instead. Yes, it sounds like a lot of double-work, but even two or three weeks has been helping to smother the grass until we can get the dirt into the boxes. We’re also laying down hazelnut shells for pathways between the boxes. Again, we’re putting down cardboard first, only we’re leaving that underneath the shells, as we’re not planting anything there. The cardboard will eventually decompose, and hopefully by then the grass will mostly have been killed off. Yes, it will come back, but more slowly, and we’ll have a chance to keep up with pulling it out.

Front yard

GET RID OF IT part 2

“Trashmaster”, you say, “thank you for all the great ideas for helping me get rid of my extra stuff around the house.”

You’re welcome!

“But Trashmaster,” you say, “I have stuff to get rid of that doesn’t really go any of the places you wrote about.”

Not to worry. I’m not quite finished yet.


When established households combine, as in the case of myself and Mr. Trashmaster, there is often furniture that needs re-homing. I sent my couch, coffee table, microwave oven, a small cabinet on wheels, and my TV to Community Warehouse. These fine folks collect and distribute furniture and other household items to low-income families. Community Warehouse works with the families’ caseworkers, so they know just what kind of items to give to each family. Because I had large items, and I was willing to work with their schedule, I was able to arrange to have my stuff picked up. They ask for a $10 donation to help pay for the truck. Totally worth it so Mr. Trashmaster and I didn’t have to figure out how to get all that stuff in the back of our car (and I didn’t have to carry the coffee table across town on the bus!).

Here in Portland, we sometimes get flyers in the mail or on the doorstep reminding us that Volunteers of America will be by on a certain date to pick up materials. If you choose to donate to them, just set out your items on the curb or let them know it’s on your doorstep. In the case of larger items you’d rather not leave on the curb or if the weather won’t let you put your stuff out safely, call to arrange a time so you can meet the driver at the door.

Do you have leftovers from a remodeling project or from building a shed or deck, maybe? Donate to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore or The ReBuilding Center. Got a spare tool box full of tools, or even some extra screwdrivers? Find your local tool library, like the Southeast Portland Tool Library. Don’t forget to recycle that leftover paint!

I’ve also posted about what to do with electronics here.

And as always, in the Portland/Metro region, if you’re not sure what to do with it but you just know it shouldn’t go in the garbage, call Metro’s Recycling Hotline at 503-234-3000.


Not only was I sick for close to three weeks, but I’m also still unpacking from a recent move – Mr Trashmaster and I recently combined households.

First things first. The best way to move all your stuff is to have less stuff to move. Want to “live more simply”? Don’t take all that crap with you! Mind you, I’d been living in a 560 square foot house for the last few years, but I still found plenty of stuff to get rid of.

“This sounds good”, you say. “I’m interested in having less crap and more space in my home and my life. But I also don’t want to chuck it all in a landfill.”

Heavens no, I say. You should know me better than that by now. If your stuff is in good shape, it’s entirely possible to a bit of money through yard sales or Craigslist. I don’t usually have much luck with this, but that’s me. I know of people who are, essentially, professional yard-sale hosts and Craisglisters. Me, I’d rather throw it in the back of the car, take it somewhere I know it will do someone some good, drop it off and be done with it.

If you’re moving house, or if you’re just spring (er, summer cleaning), here are some places to take – or send – your stuff.

-Goodwill      Tried and true, and probably the easiest for most of us, as there’s a Goodwill less than 10 miles away in almost every city of reasonable size. We all know Goodwill as the place we take all our crap when we spring clean and where we go when we need quick, cheap Halloween costumes. But do you know what Goodwill does with your stuff and your money? Goodwill “offers customized job training, employment placement and other services to people who have disabilities, lack education or job experience, or face employment challenges.” They help their clients (veterans, immigrants, seniors, people with disabilities, youth, etc) learn English, earn their GEDs, learn to manage their money, and much more. They also coordinate programs to mentor at-risk youth to help them stay in school, stay out of gangs, and generally make a positive difference with their lives.

Of course, there are many other charities you can donate household items to. If you have a favorite cause, and your stuff matches their requests, go for it. I mention Goodwill because it’s super-easy to find one near you, they take a wide variety of items, and because while everybody I know has heard of them, almost no one I know is familiar with the work Goodwill does outside of running the shops.

-Donate to a local school or children’s program      Schools love children’s clothing of almost all sizes, especially for children 6th grade and younger. You would be amazed at how fast the office goes through spare clothing for lunch-time mishaps, “accidents”, paint spills, all sorts of things. T-shirts and button-up shirts are great for art smocks. After school programs can also use clothing. Have a bunch of office supplies? Especially in these lean economic times, teachers will often spend their own money to make sure their students have enough pencils, crayons, notebooks, rulers and glue for the year. Got an extra backpack or two? Students need a way to cart all their stuff to and from school, and not every family can afford to replace them as they wear out. Got sports equipment you aren’t using anymore? See if an after-school program can use it – maybe the Boys & Girls Club or YMCA.

-As long as we’re on the subject of sports equipment      Have you heard of Play It Again Sports? They are a national retail chain that buys and resells used sports stuff along with new stuff. (Remember them when you’re looking to start up that New Year’s Resolution too). Or Sports Gift? They are a nonprofit that redistributes gear to more than 40,000 underprivileged children worldwide each year.

-Craft materials      If you’ve got yarn or paint or paper or wood or bubble wrap or door knobs or just about anything that could POSSIBLY be used in an art project, or resources on how to do various kinds of crafts, try donating it to a school or a program like SCRAP. This organization “inspires creative reuse and environmentally sustainable behavior by providing educational programs and affordable materials to the community”.

-Freecycle      If you’ve got it, there’s probably someone out there looking for it.

May 22, 2011

hang in there...

Ugh. The Plague of Death has finally passed, and now I'm getting caught up on all other aspects of the household. Thanks for being patient and for sticking around. The Trashmaster will return soon.

May 8, 2011


Pardon this extended pause in blogging while I have a massive head cold. I hope to return shortly.