Some couples look forward to vacations in Hawaii. Others, romantic dinners in candlelit restaurants. Mark and I are looking forward to getting a dumpster.

Every five years or so our house gets taken over by stuff. Our stuff, our kids’ stuff, even our dogs and cats’ stuff — and all stuff no self-respecting resale shop would want.

I truly don’t know why we have such an exponential growth of things. Part of the problem is we like to shop. A lot, often in multiples.

Another part of the problem is neither of us can pass up a bargain. But it works out in the end because what we like to do most of all is eventually throw out the things we’ve bought on sale, making us ideal consumers with borderline packrat tendencies.

In addition to all the goods we purchase, I’m convinced cardboard boxes, cables and broken pieces of unidentifiable electronics get together like amorous rabbits and give birth to little cardboard boxes, cables, etc. the moment the basement door closes. When we reach the point where we can’t walk across any room in a straight line, the time has come for some major tossing, and to accomplish that, we need a dumpster.

“Now, what size should we get?” Mark asks in the happy tone he always uses when we’re about to do something really fun.

“The biggest,” I instantly reply, knowing that is the answer he wants and also knowing we’ll easily be able to fill it up.

“Exactly what I was thinking.”

Mark and I have always had a lot in common and an affinity for dumpsters is one of them. Not diving into them — although I won’t deny my other half has done that a least a few times over the years — but renting one and enjoying the idea of having it parked in the driveway for a week or so, enabling us to walk 20 feet from the kitchen door with anything, drop it into the dumpster, and voila! We’ve gotten rid of another unneeded, unwanted and no longer loved item. Heaven on earth.

My sister is the complete opposite. She saves everything, and I mean everything, including twist ties from the plastic sleeves bread comes in of which she currently has about 3,000. Whenever I visit her, all I can think about is how much good a dumpster would do parked in the driveway. Make that four dumpsters, parked cheek to cheek and ready for filling.

I envision tossing items like her many themes from junior high (50 years ago), the numerous sets of outdated encyclopedias filling the bookshelves, the dead potted plants rimming the patio that are, she claims, on the verge of “coming back.”

But I keep my mouth shut, as much as it practically kills me. Sis and I have a deal that if she predeceases me, I can order the biggest dumpster(s) available and toss to my heart’s delight since, as she puts it, “You’re better at getting rid of things than I am.” True dat.

It all balances out because she’s much better at saving other things, like money, than I will ever be. If I predecease her, she gets all my stuff to add to her stuff. Not a pretty picture, although hopefully by that point I’ll be down to maybe a small U-Haul-size truck of belongings.

Back to our dumpster. We’re having it delivered the week Mark’s taking vacation, and what a good time he’ll have. I’ve already arranged to take a few days off as well so I can join in the toss-fest.

When we’re done and the dumpster is full, as we brush off cobwebs and rehearse the stories we’ll tell our offspring should either of them question us about what really happened to their collection of heavy metal T-shirts that haven’t fit since high school or the Lego sets missing half their pieces, I know we’ll both share the glow of accomplishment that only clearing out a household can bring.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to visit Hawaii or have that candlelit dinner complete with white tablecloths and fine wine. That is usually when Mark takes my hand, looks deeply into my eyes, and asks, “Want to take a ride to the dump with me and get rid of that old recliner?” and I remember what true romance is really all about.

Nell Musolf is a freelance writer living in Mankato with her husband and two dogs. She can be reached at

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