Fear of Waste

I have an issue with waste. To rephrase, I have a problem with being too hesitant to throw things away — ranging from actually understandable and useful items like instruction manuals and reusable packaging to… arguably worthless objects like dried-out pens, scratched CDs, and small sheets of scrap paper, among other things. In my room, I have a box filled with just the most random parts and trinkets — looking through briefly I can see colorful business cards, random lost screws, a plastic L-shape broken off of something, part of a keychain I got years ago… the list goes on and on.

As an artist and builder, I guess a part of me always feels like I can repurpose these objects for later use— for example, last semester I only used stuff I already had or found around my dorm room for multiple art school projects (and subsequently felt proud for not having to buy new materials). Is it that feeling of being extra resourceful that’s so appealing? Or maybe it's the slight glimpse of that environmentalist ideal circular resource economy that drives me to save every last bit of even “marginally useful” trash.

This propensity to never discard anything, though, creates new problems as well. It’s almost impossible to fully and neatly organize your things when there’s simply so much of it, or it’s made up of such random items. It also feels a bit frustrating to have a lot of space taken up by things you can’t immediately use — it feels almost like a persistent stain that just won’t go away. However, everytime I feel frustrated and resolve to actually throw this junk away, I immediately stop myself again, feeling guilty.

As someone who cares deeply about the environment and has quite a bit of climate anxiety as well, part of me just can’t help but worry about the effect of our waste on the planet. Throwing away physical objects just feels bad, and constantly brings up mental images of massive landfills and the incredible wastage of modern-day consumerism. Of course, the issue is much more complex than that, and it also feels like I’m just prolonging the inevitable — ultimately even the artwork I make, the objects I store away, will end up in the trash. Though, I also think, if things are indeed destined for the trash heap, what’s the harm in trying to make the most use possible out of it until then? If anything, that should be some kind of goal to strive for with everything we own.

So, I guess I’ll continue to save little trinkets and objects in the hopes that I’ll someday be able to find a good use for them. While the feelings I have regarding the stuff I keep are complex and sometimes turbulent, ultimately it helps keep me aware of the amount of waste I produce, and hopefully helps me make better, more environmentally-friendly decisions in the future.

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