By Anna Sorokina, arts & entertainment columnist

Moving is the perfect time to reevaluate one’s possessions. “Declutter your life and reduce stress,” trendy magazines say. Sadly, people forget to ask themselves if the abandoned remnants of their materialism are now cluttering the world.

August 31 was the last day of leases for most off-campus students, which became obvious pretty quickly when my roommate and I were driving through Boston that afternoon. “Careless” was the first word that came to my mind. Mountains of furniture, home appliances, kitchen supplies and clothes were sitting on the curb in front of hundreds of houses in Allston, Cambridge and Mission Hill. Some of these items were on top of trash cans, some piled up on the side, often mixed with broken glass and leftover perishable food items. We kept driving up and down numerous streets out of curiosity just to see the extent of this capitalist disaster.

It’s not breaking news that we are a nation of people quick to buy the new and toss the unwanted. Yet, there is so much bitter irony in the fact that the privileged ones – those who should care about conserving resources, managing waste responsibly and helping the less fortunate in the community – don’t give a damn. At least it was a joyous and busy day for the voracious trash compactors that got to have a balanced meal of wooden chairs, IKEA mirrors, microwaves and unused cleaning supplies. Oh, and the landfill! I bet the landfill was excited for its new inhabitants.

Are there alternatives to leaving ruins on the streets and pretending like it’s a normal thing to do? Clothes could be sold to consignment stores or donated through Freecycle or Craigslist. Electronics could be safely disposed of, scrap metal – recycled, kitchen appliances and dishes – donated to organizations that help low-income families. As for bulky stuff, many second-hand furniture stores like Boomerangs will literally pick up your bed, desk and drawer for free – all you have to do is sign up on their website.

So what are our excuses? It’s simple: All of the above probably sounds like too much of a hassle. Caring takes certain time and energy – more than we’re willing to devote. Because lack of responsibility is normalized, no one feels like an outcast while turning sidewalks into trash cans and therefore pissing off the nearby non-collegiate community. (Whoops, there is none – we already gentrified the neighborhoods.)

Hooked on instant gratification, we care less and less about what we leave behind – both literally and figuratively. So in addition to reevaluating our possessions while packing suitcases, we should do the same about our attitude toward resources and waste – not because dumping things on the curb is the end of the world, but because in the bigger picture, personal responsibility can shape our planet’s future.

 

Photo courtesy Jeff Egnaczyk, Creative Commons