Recycling made hard

by Mémé

We have been in our townhouse for 8 ½ years, and this winter’s task has been to declutter and divest of old furniture, financial records, and inherited junk. In the course of that I have come across many items that have to be discarded, some under hazardous waste or special recycling protocols. Since this is a northern climate, for many things the monthly drop off Saturdays are only scheduled from April through November. So I have quite a pile in the corner of the utility room.

My complaint is that the sorting and disposal process is extremely complex. It is not helped by the fact that we don’t have a municipal culture of putting stuff out and having it scavenged within hours, and the additional hassle of living in a condo development without public street frontage.

The items awaiting disposal. (Paper, glass and recyclable plastic are taken on trash day.)

  1. Old but functioning oil filled space heater. Technically a “white good.” Requires a special call to hauling company, payment of fee, scheduled pickup. Not clear where we are supposed to leave it – on condo property or on the street in front of someone else’s house. Winter pickups unreliable. I am going to make my son take it to his town dump. I’ll pay the white goods fee.
  2. Lots of old pills. Police station lobby in town.
  3. Paint thinner and similar waste. Special drop off Saturdays in warm weather to the county disposal site in the next town. Our town has a designated week, other open Saturdays are not permitted and I have to bring a property tax bill with me. (Our town will get charged).
  4. Electronic waste, small appliances and computer stuff. Progress made here. Town DPW will take any of this during weekday business hours (open one night till 7) and one Sat a month in warm weather. For weekday you have to go into the office up the stairs to bring some stuff, register and pay the lap top or tv fee. You have to be able to remove the stuff yourself from your car without town help.
  5. A mercury thermostat. Some batteries (rechargeable, button, lithium) are in category 4, as is all mercury.
  6. Backup battery from FIOS box. This is in category 3, not 4.
  7. Fluorescent bulbs. One of the hardware stores in town.
  8. Hard plastic and Styrofoam – not required to be recycled, but if I want to do it I have to bring it to the town DPW on the designated warm weather Saturdays.
  9. Old latex paint . Can go in regular trash if I leave cans open to dry out or use the powder to quick dry them. Need to carry them up to the attic to let them dry out– no private outdoor open space and basement is finished.
  10. Large trashy furniture items. Cannot go in condo dumpster. If we had street frontage we could put them out. Will give to son and pay his local fee as with white good.

I am just too cranky about all this? I want to follow the rules, especially with respect to hazardous waste, but how does someone who doesn’t have a car manage all this? Four different sites for various types of waste and limited hours? What is your experience with gov’t mandates (trash or otherwise) that are not user friendly?

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212 thoughts on “Recycling made hard

  1. I think the long-term solution is better design for recyclability, and better choices about the risks of low level contaminants (I’m thinking of heavy metals from batteries in landfills) compared to natural geographic levels of heavy metals.

    VOC risks are overrated, IMHO. I was looking into the risks from formaldehyde (a simple, natural chemical that we’re never going to get rid of) and they are correlational rather than causal at best. The type of lymphoma that formaldehyde was supposedly associated with in some study is most caused by some virus (Epstein-Barr) that is common in certain areas/populations, and the correlation was weak.

    And in the Department of Government Difficulty, I just acknowledged “This is an export restricted product. I confirm that I am not in an export restricted or embargoed country (i.e. Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria), on the list of Denied Persons, Unverified Parties, or affiliated with a Restricted Entitiy[pdf]. I will not re-export this product to any restricted countries, individuals, or entities” for an applications licensing agreement. I did not read the associated .pdf file.

    So shoot me for accepting software license agreements without thorough review and Everybody’s gonna die o’ somethin’.

  2. Meme, does your town still have public trash pickup or a private hauler?

    Our private trash hauler and a few local services will pick all of this stuff up for us and deal with it, but I rarely have enough to make that worthwhile and instead take it to the town hazardous waste collection and shred days. The kids really enjoy the hazardous waste collection because all the workers are dressed in protective suits that make them look like astronauts.

  3. I would just throw most of that stuff out with the trash and not worry about it.

  4. Oh that all sounds like a huge PITA.

    This makes me realize how nice it is that we do have a scavenging culture. If we put something in the alley, it is gone within an hour. This is our usual MO for a lot of the larger items that aren’t worth selling on Craigslist.

    Batteries – we have a recycling program at work where I can drop them off.

    Electronics – we try to trade them in or sell them for just a little $$ through Craigslist or one of the online electronics buyers.

    I don’t think we’ve had much old medication – I can’t think of anytime we’ve had to dispose of anything. Not much in the house beyond Advil (kids and adult).

    We throw out #6 plastic and other stuff that we can’t recycle via the city pickup. Take my totebag card on that one!

  5. I think living in a flyover state helps. The coasts seem to have become obsessed with this stuff, and Mémé, the situation you describe is ridiculous.

    For our rechargeable batteries, there is some number that you’re allowed to just toss in the trash. I found that out when I went to Batteries Plus to try to recycle them. Denver periodically does a big electronics recycling event, and I will take in the five or six laptops that I have inexplicably accumulated over the previous 12 months. Our Goodwill takes cell phones. You can have my mercury thermometer when you pry it from my feverish dead hands. The regular garbage pickup guys have at least one “hazardous waste” pickup per quarter and a “large item pickup” per quarter.

  6. We have quite an easy system here for disposing off large household items including furniture and appliances. We just call the city or go online to to schedule a pickup and put the items on the curb the morning of the day. So, far all the items I have put out have been picked up. The list of items covers most things people get rid off. Yard waste is picked up on the garbage collection day. The system works well. Very rarely do we have something we can’t get rid of easily. DH was adamant about donating our old TV. None of the charities wanted it, in the end our neighbor took it but trying to donate was a hassle.

  7. “What is your experience with gov’t mandates (trash or otherwise) that are not user friendly?”

    My experience is that if it fits in the trash can, it goes in the trash can.

    Electronics go to the school on designated recycling days. Old paints/etc. get dried and tossed or added to a dump run; big stuff goes on a dump run. But batteries? Fluorescent bulbs? You’re gonna take away my incandescent bulbs, and replace it with something that costs more, gives me crappy light, and then when it finally dies requires a special hazardous waste disposal whatever? Fuggedaboudit. I have neither a safe storage space to store stuff like that (how do you even store a fluorescent bulb for disposal without breaking it?), nor the unlimited time and headspace to figure out where it needs to go.

    The fluorescent bulb thing I have resolved by going with LEDs, but I agree that the issues seem to multiply in number and complexity. I think manufacturer “takebacks” are the wave of the immediate future — at least they make it somewhat simple for the consumer to know what to do with something, although implementation is still a nightmare.

  8. Now that we have a teenager, I made a point of dropping off vicodin/oxycotin/prescription painkillers that were left over from various root canals etc. I wish this was available more than once a year. Also, I don’t think my teen is likely to abuse this stuff – but I’d hate to be wrong and realize I had the stuff sitting around in our house.

    Seattle has curbside pick up for food waste, recycling and garbage. It is sometimes a little confusing over what’s food waste vs recycling vs garbage – e.g. wax lined milk carton. I’m someone who tries to follow the rules and generally cares about this stuff – but I definitely have my moments of “the hell with it” – and just toss into the nearest container.

    ATM – that toxic moss is in Portland, not Seattle. Thank goodness as our front lawn is pretty much entirely moss now (through neglect, not design).

  9. I’m planning to do some raised bed vegetable gardens this year in the hope of getting DS2 to touch a vegetable (it would be a miracle if he eats one, touching is step one).

    Our swing set area is full of decomposed mulch, which I could use in the gardens and replace with fresh mulch – except it was bought by the prior homeowner and I have no idea what it was made out of.

    Is there any risk of metal contamination from using composted mulch as garden soil?

  10. I don’t have a car, but I save old batteries for my monthly trip to Target with DD. Otherwise, everything goes in the trash. Furniture and appliances find new owners within an hour of being set at the curb of my townhouse rental complex.

  11. I recycle what is permitted, leave things out near the curb with a free sign on them (always disappear within a day) and trash the rest. We used Got Junk when we were moving and they came within 3 hours of our call and were cheap. We do have some old laptops and iPads that I haven’t dealt with yet. Some have moved houses with us 2x.

  12. I still have a few paint cans in the garage and the basement utility room left over from the previous owners. I’m probably not going to be touching up with that, not at this point.

    I’ve taken stuff to the “dump,” which I’m sure has a more fitting name, but they’ve got the huge dumpsters for various categories (large metal, wood, etc.). If someone doesn’t have a car? God, who knows? They have bigger problems than where they’re going to take their batteries, that’s for sure. (Where I live, I mean ;) )

    This might be evidence of the fact that those who are car-less, whether due to financial limitations, age or infirmity, or lifestyle choice are not in a position to live fully independent lives.

  13. “Is there any risk of metal contamination from using composted mulch as garden soil?”

    Yes.

    Do you have any idea how it was treated to avoid decay?

  14. “I don’t think we’ve had much old medication – I can’t think of anytime we’ve had to dispose of anything.”

    Oh, yeah, that. My solution for old medicines is to keep them in my drawers for time immemorial. I figure when I die they become someone else’s problem.

  15. Root canal – the first time I received prescription Valium. What a feeling of euphoria! I can see why people get hooked.

  16. Cat, for the old iPads you might want to call local charities that help people with special needs – my housekeeper has an autistic son and she was looking for an iPad to use for assisted communication for months. Since he has a lot of seizures and can throw things when he gets frustrated, they really didn’t want to pay full price.

  17. Cordelia, it would have been sold as playground mulch, which around here is usually shredded trees from the latest storm.

    I don’t know if it was treated but I assume it was.

  18. Sky,

    Without knowing how it was treated, is it really worth it to use for food you are going to eat?

  19. Batteries get tossed into the bin at the Library. Old paint goes back to the paint store (no charge, State law I think). Light bulbs get tossed in the trash. Old medicines get dropped off at the police station. Furniture and bulk items go to the curb, and I put a message on the Nextdoor app. If it isn’t gone, the private trash hauler takes it and I get charged a fee (maybe $5 or so). Any kid toy or part of toys that i’m tired of seeing around get tossed in the trash in the dark of night. I don’t care about recycling it or selling it, I just want it gone without my kids seeing it go!

  20. Best Buy will take electronics you want to recycle (old tvs with the big tubes, i.e. pre-flatscreen era) at no charge. None of the charities like goodwill want them.

    +1 to the cat litter for drying small amounts of paint in cans; then you can toss in the trash.

    I don’t worry too much about letter-of-the-law compliance with recycling; many things we could recycle or still have fair economic value but would require a special trip at some future time to properly dispose of, as in “I have just cleared a bunch of crap from the basement/garage and I just want it out of here NOW!” get put out for the trash pickers (scavengers) and what they don’t take gets put in the trash bins later that same week.

    I will make an effort to locate unwanted electronics and take them to the recycling day at work which is usually just once a year around May.

  21. One good thing locally is that Goodwill also receives funding to be the local electronics recycler. I just dropped off a CRT TV with remote and told them they could sell it or recycle, their choice.

    Except for people with strong animosity to Goodwill (because their CEO is overpaid, other charities are less likely to receive sellable electronics, etc.), I think all of us are pretty happy with the system.

  22. Thanks for the cat litter tip for drying out latex, but I bet my corn husk stuff won’t work. I recall a problem with waste near Los Alamos when they switched to bio litter in disposal bins.
    My son and I demolished the old fiberboard desk and threw it in the dumpster. He took the oil filled heater and probably just stuck in his ample basement against an emergency. They decided to take and make use of two large file cabinets, but the (it’s solid wood!) dining table was rejected. I disposed of all of the electronics, but came across two more ancient cell phones recently. And our non-winter means that the first local drop off Saturday (not the county wide) is pushed up to March. Got junk and its equivalents are not reasonable around here – minimum charge of 175 dollars. In the summer I know a place in town where I can dump decent stuff and put a free sign without causing trouble for some poor homeowner. Salvation Army was my best bet for quality discarded furniture – they took 5 big pieces.

    The town uses a private hauling company, but multi unit complexes have some sort of special contractual relationship because we use a dumpster not cans. It is not all that straightforward to arrange a pickup, mostly because we don’t have street frontage or open land around the dumpster at the complex for large items, and the contact is not the unit owner but the management company.

    I keep my husband’s extra painkillers – grandkids are small – it is the other medicines I have to get rid of. I never considered that it was for contraband control, not ground pollution. I’ll just toss them all out – thanks WCE.

  23. Over the past few years our “eligible” for recycling list has gone up, but depending on your city certain types of plastics may or may not be. The main thing in that realm that has to be separated is thin plastic, but this is less and less as our city no longer allows single use plastic bags. We have single stream recycling, so almost no sorting except for cardboard. Leaves and yard clippings have their own bags (big brown paper) and are picked up separately.

    Medication is the biggest PITA as it is only collected one day per year and there is rarely much notice and the drop off location is not very close to us.

    Bulky pick up is 4 times a year – twice for things like furniture and twice for large quantities/larger sized of brush/trees. Or you can take it to the dump and pay the fee. When it is bulk time, the scavengers come, so by the actual pick up day there isn’t much that is “usable” left by the curb.

    Paint/chemicals is odd drop off times and not close to us. However, last go around, we had a contractor working on the house who told us he was going to be late one day because he had to haul a bunch of his stuff to the drop off. We paid him some gas money for him to add our stuff into his. Right now we have a fairly large batch to go and I am pressuring my partner to take care of it as it is on the front porch and it looks trashy.

    In our area, we get one HUGE single stream recycling bin, as many yard waste bags as you have, but only one trash bin. The trash bin you pay for by size. We have the smallest one. If you overfill it (lid can’t close) or you have extra bags, they won’t take it unless you have the extra payment stickers on it. This means that when there is a big event at one person’s house, they are usually looking in the neighbors’ bins for room on the next trash day. On our street no one minds as long as they don’t cause your bin to be overloaded. About half the people have the smallest and the other half the largest. Almost no one seems to have the middle size!

  24. I just toss old medicine. I am a ruthless purger and hate having stuff I might not use.

    Sky – that is a good idea re: the IPads/computers.

  25. Furniture and appliances find new owners within an hour of being set at the curb of my townhouse rental complex.

    For those who can’t leave things at the curb for scavengers, you can get rid of anything by posting it on the free stuff section on craigslist. I was amazed at how many people wanted a TV that didn’t work.

  26. Cordelia, when you put it that way, no :)

    Now I need to figure out what to order – the old garden got bulldozed away during construction.

  27. We have people do yard sales in our neighborhood in spring and fall. It is the same people and honestly I don’t think they get rid of very many items. I don’t think they get much money either. It just seems like way more work than just donating or recycling.
    We also have for profit companies with bins in shopping centers. So that’s an option if you just want to get rid of shoes, clothes and books.

  28. but the (it’s solid wood!) dining table was rejected. I

    Again, Craigslist free stuff. It will be gone within an hour.

  29. We just had a guy come out to look at some of the furniture I’d like to get refinished. (It’s solid maple! And some of it’s solid mahogany!). He was kind of the classic type of guy you find for this stuff — in his 60s, winding down, not in any hurry, friendly and chatty. After those guys die off I’m not sure who’s going to take their place.

  30. We have a couple of those Earthboxes and they’re really great. They’re stupidly expensive but they work well and even in Denver’s dry climate they keep the moisture it. We got a ton of tomatoes and peppers out of just two boxes last fall.

  31. “He was kind of the classic type of guy you find for this stuff — in his 60s, winding down, not in any hurry, friendly and chatty.”

    When I helped my in-laws do a yard sale, they were the ones who showed in their Prii bright and early Saturday morning to look through old records and 40-year-old back issues of Mother Earth News.

  32. Our recycling stream has gotten better over the years! More stuff is now accepted and for bulbs, paints etc we can now drop it off at your local fire station.
    For the light bulbs, I have purposes a large plastic bin and store all spent batteries and bulbs in it till I am ready to take it to recycling. Does not take much space at all and keeps them from breaking.

    We have people coming looking through recycling bins curbside for scavenging, so we leave out stuff and it is usually gone within hours. There is always Feeecycle.

    On Facebook there should be several garage sale groups for your area. There is usually someone who is willing to come and take old electronic stuff off your hands for free.

  33. Our town has a dropbox (like a post office box) for medications in the lobby of the police station so it’s available 7-24. I think it’s a far better solution than flushing unused medications down the sewer system.

    I think the effect of pharmaceuticals in our lakes and rivers on both aquatic life and people downstream is poorly understood. Sewage treatment standards don’t consider pharmaceuticals. None of the discussions about statin use consider what happens to them after they exit the body.

    Of course, this is my usual argument that many people make decisions about what to focus on based on identity politics (I am the sort of person who cares about Our Children and The Environment) and not data about what, technically, is likely a problem, at what level and how much cost/hassle it is to change the way things are now.

    Yet another WCE argument for cost-risk-benefit analysis

  34. WCE – This is a legit question…how much difference does it make if I take a narcotic and use the toilet regularly over the next few days vs. not taking it and flushing it directly?

  35. Milo, I don’t know, and I suspect the persistence of narcotics in aquatic systems is different from the persistence of hormonal medications like birth control pills and tamoxifen. Also, most drugs aren’t completely metabolized and how much they are metabolized and when in the digestive system depends on coating, etc. (That’s why I took fish oil from a packet and not a capsule or gummy when I was pregnant/nursing twins. The absorption data for the relevant fatty acids looked better.)

    I think about this mostly in response to paranoid Facebook posts from my SAHM friends about the dangers of soy, due to its estrogen-like compounds. I think (but do not post), “Have you ever thought about all the pharmaceutical residues in your drinking water?”

  36. Milo,
    I am not a chemist, engineer, or md, but I’d imagine the answer depends on the specific medical compound. I’d guess some gets absorbed into the body, some matches up with other atoms/molecules in you and turns into something harmless for the environment, and some passes thru you unchanged. But by going thru you when it comes out there’s less of the (potentially) harmful stuff released into the environment and in the near term, a lower concentration in one locality. again, my uneducated guess.

  37. WCE,

    I think the effect of pharmaceuticals in our lakes and rivers on both aquatic life and people downstream is poorly understood.

    Finally, hazard posed by pharmaceuticals in both surface and effluent wastewaters was assessed toward different aquatic organisms, (algae, daphnids and fish). The overall relative order of susceptibility was estimated to be algae > daphnia > fish. Results indicate that no significant risks could be associated to the presence of pharmaceuticals in those matrices, indicating that reduction of compound concentration after wastewater treatment as well as dilution factor once pharmaceuticals are discharged in receiving river water efficiently mitigate possible environmental hazards.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016041200900186X

  38. Rhett, that doesn’t convince me that there is no effect after dilution, just that we can’t measure the effect. We can’t measure the effect of formaldehyde in trailers after Katrina or human development effects of lead at low levels. People also differ in their definition of “significant risk”. There are many things (pesticides, milk with added BHT) that some people here worry about that are below my worry threshold.

    “Lack of significant risk” doesn’t convince me that sticking your unused medication in a box to be incinerated isn’t better than flushing it down the toilet.

    Like everything else, I could be wrong.

  39. Denver Dad – I know lots of people do Craigslist and other come to my house things, but I find the prospect creepy. Besides which, the unwanted stuff is in the attic, not the basement or garage, and I am not willing to carry the heavy stuff downstairs and have to carry it back upstairs if rejected. The access to the attic is through the room with my collectibles, so no strangers are going upstairs.

    Okay WCE, I’ll go to the police station with the meds. If you think it is a reasonable governmental intrusion, then it must be so.

  40. Mémé, depending on the volume of meds, I consider it a reasonable personal choice to drop them off at the police station, especially if I don’t have to get my 4 children out of the car to walk into the lobby for 15 seconds. :)

    I think flushing pharmaceuticals down the toilet should still be legal, and I would oppose analysis of the metabolites in your sewage as it entered a public sewage main as a search disallowed under the constitution.

    I want to emphasize that Rhett may be right. As I sit here waiting for today’s environmental compliance meeting, I’m thinking, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

  41. Meme – if you are ever at Mass General, they have a drop-off box for meds right in the lobby. I tried our local police station and they wouldn’t take it – sent me to the next town. Also, if you post on craigslist or freecycle, you can include pictures – that way no one takes it who doesn’t want it. I usually leave things outside the house to be taken.

    We have single stream and 2 recycling bins. We also periodically get dumpsters and everything else goes in there.

  42. Meme, free stuff is never rejected. Bring it down and leave it right outside the front door if you don’t want anyone coming inside. And if by some fluke the first person who comes won’t take it, the next person will. Giving away free stuff is totally different than selling it. People will take anything for free.

  43. He was kind of the classic type of guy you find for this stuff — in his 60s, winding down, not in any hurry, friendly and chatty. After those guys die off I’m not sure who’s going to take their place.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that will be Milo.

  44. In my limited experience, giving away free stuff on Craigslist is relatively easy. I post a few pictures, and then I leave the stuff in my driveway for the first person who responded to cart it away.

  45. I guess free stuff is only rejected if it was YOUR grandmother’s, not a strange grandmother’s.

  46. I take my burnt out CFL bulbs to Home Depot for recycling. I don’t know if they accept fluorescent tubes.

    Home Depot also accepts some rechargeable batteries for recycling

    ““The Home Depot Power Tool Rechargeable Battery Recycling Program” will recycle all used portable rechargeable batteries – those batteries commonly found in cordless power tools: Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) and Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH). The program will also recycle Lithium Ion (Li-ion) and Small Sealed Lead* (Pb) batteries found in other portable electronics products. (* weighing less than 2 lbs./1kg.).f”

    http://www.call2recycle.org/the-home-depot-joins-program-to-recycle-rechargeable-batteries/

    I’ve been trying to more a lot of our battery usage from throwaway batteries to Eneloop rechargeables. That was mainly to minimize the losses due to electrolyte leakage to which alkaline batteries seem to be prone, but a side benefit of that is that the rechargeables are easily recycled at HD.

  47. My earthboxes have been great! I have been very successful with tomatoes and peppers in them. They are kind of pricey, but I’ve used them for 6 years and they are in perfect condition. You don’t really need to buy the kit every year either- just the covers. And then you can get the fertilized and dolomite at the garden store. One year I didn’t even bother & just used potting soil from Costco, and my plants still thrived just fine. I think the key is that the boxes really prevent over or under watering. Now if they could just keep the squirrels away…

    When I went to a presentation on container gardening at the Botanical Garden, some reitred gardening volunteer ladies were demonstrating how you can make your own Earth Box style container with materials from the hardware store. But as they say – ain’t nobody got time for that!

  48. DD, thanks for the Craigslist suggestion. I will need to try that.

    I used to use Freecycle, with good results. E.g., when cleaning up the IL’s house, I listed a bunch of their old furniture, and it was gone in a day, and I’m pretty sure the people who took those pieces wanted them and were going to put them to good use.

    However, for reasons I don’t understand, Freecycle ended here, and I’ve not found a good replacement. Craigslist might do the trick.

  49. Mémé, I’d think the larger market size makes a difference. If you’re shopping family hand-me-downs around a half dozen grandchildren you’re less likely to find a willing taker than if you’re offering them to everyone reading the local Craigslist. And if you’re a would-be taker of free furniture but your specific need is for a desk and you prefer light wood, you’re more likely to find something suitable by perusing the Craigslist free section than by waiting for elderly relatives’ furnishings to be offered up.

  50. “I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that will be Milo.”

    Ehh, I just don’t have much use for acquiring a lot of old junk.

  51. “Our town has a dropbox (like a post office box) for medications in the lobby of the police station so it’s available 7-24. I think it’s a far better solution than flushing unused medications down the sewer system.”

    I wonder what happens to the medication that gets dropped at the dropbox. I would not be surprised if it gets flushed.

    I’ve read about a study that tested the efficacy of old medications, and found that even very old medication they tested was still quite efficacious. Based on that, I’m thinking that the best way to deal with unused medication (other than the obvious of minimizing the overbuying) is to hang onto it, and use it when needed.

    So I do not buy Ibuprofen from Costco, since our usage is low. I buy small bottles, and use it even when it’s past the printed date. E.g., the bottle I have at my desk has about half the original 24 tablets, with a printed expiration in 2012, but I’ll take one of them if needed.

    Donating used meds would be good if there was a cost-effective way to make sure what’s in the container matched the label of the container, but the risk of mismatch is too high.

  52. “I made a point of dropping off vicodin/oxycotin/prescription painkillers that were left over from various root canals etc. I wish this was available more than once a year. Also, I don’t think my teen is likely to abuse this stuff – but I’d hate to be wrong and realize I had the stuff sitting around in our house.”

    Medications don’t take much space, so perhaps a safe would be a good place to keep them out of reach of young kids.

  53. When we were newlyweds with a house to furnish we regularly attended the local estate auction (multiple estates combined, sold out of the auction house). Most of the other attendees were at the empty nest stage. So when we saw a piece of furniture that looked good, we could generally get it for the opening bid or close too it (except for tea carts, those things were apparently on the wish list of half the women-of-a-certain-age in town). And we got a full set of china inexpensively — our wedding stuff is actually majolica so we got a more traditional bone china set too. But small objets d’art, tea sets, that sort of thing would get bid to the sky.

  54. “It is sometimes a little confusing over what’s food waste vs recycling vs garbage”

    Revisiting a previous discussion: One way to think of garbage is what you would put down a garbage disposal.

    To my way of thinking, food waste includes garbage, but might also include stuff that’s not garbage, like a half-filled can of beans.

  55. “We just had a guy come out to look at some of the furniture I’d like to get refinished. (It’s solid maple! And some of it’s solid mahogany!). He was kind of the classic type of guy you find for this stuff — in his 60s, winding down, not in any hurry, friendly and chatty. After those guys die off I’m not sure who’s going to take their place.”

    Do you watch HGTV? There are a bunch of shows there featuring designers, many of whom appear to be well below 60, who look for this stuff to refinish or repurpose.

    E.g., Joanna Gaines, of Fixer Upper, does that all the time.

  56. who are these people with extra pain meds to dispose of? my MD only gave me a rx for 15 pills, I really could have used more after the surgery, but I toughed it out when they were gone

  57. Our kids’ school collects a lot of usable stuff, much of which gets sold at a white elephant sale at their annual carnival. I’ve see lot of the stuff HM mentioned there, like full sets of china, often brand new and still in the box.

    DW and I went to some estate sales when we first moved back, and had a largely empty house to furnish. There was a lot of nice stuff, but we never got there early enough to get the good stuff/good deals.

    The first house we bought together was partially furnished by a cousin of DW’s mom, whose wife had been wanting to get a new set of kitchen furniture (she’d identified it at Ethan Allen years before) but didn’t buy it until they’d found a home for their existing set.

  58. I get rid of all medication except epi-pens as soon as they expire or we are done with the prescription, since with young kids in the house I want to minimize the risk of them finding anything.

    I put it in with the cat litter and toss it. Our trash is incinerated and I don’t think that even the most desperate addict would go near the cat litter.

    As they get older, I expect I will continue to do so. A lot of teens get medications from unlocked cabinets in their friends’ houses, so even if my kids are not touching it I couldn’t ever be sure about the other kids who visit.

  59. Finn – I tossed a bottle of Chloraseptic throat spray from 2007 just this morning. Found a 10 year old bottle of Head and Shoulders a few years back. Still have the alcohol wipes (100 per box) from when I was going through IVF – so 9 years old? Some stuff just lasts.

    Benadryl on the other hand . . .

  60. “Do you watch HGTV? There are a bunch of shows there featuring designers, many of whom appear to be well below 60, who look for this stuff to refinish or repurpose. ”

    Helping that trend is the fact that painted furniture is fairly popular. OTOH, getting someone to do a really good-quality job painting a dining room set may end up being a lot more expensive than just buying the look at a discount furniture store. So you need a buyer who really values the old solid wood thing.

  61. “‘DH was adamant about donating our old TV. None of the charities wanted it, in the end our neighbor took it but trying to donate was a hassle.

    Did he try Craigslist or Freecycle?

    It took some looking, but I found a thrift shop on a local Navy base, next to a barracks, that accepted old CRT TVs. When I dropped them off, I was told that the sailors in the barracks were the typical buyers of those TVs, which they sold for around $5 to $10. Then when those sailors moved out of the barracks, they’d donate the TVs back to the thrift shop to be resold.

  62. “It is sometimes a little confusing over what’s food waste vs recycling vs garbage”

    Yup. I leave the details for my H to remember, and I’ll ask him if I don’t know what to do with “stuff”.

    I suspect many folks are not scrupulously disposing of various stuff, like batteries, meds, or light bulbs, for example.

  63. Winemama – when we moved, I tossed a few different bottles of Percocet and Vicodin left over from my c-sections. I thought ibuprofen worked better, so I didn’t use much of them and the nurses just gave them to me at discharge after each kid even though I had been declining them in the hospital.

  64. “So you need a buyer who really values the old solid wood thing.”

    Or someone who values functionality above a certain look. A single male engineer comes to mind.

    BTW, Freecycle used to be especially active near the local flagship around May and August. I would think in a college town, such as where Mémé lives, there’d be a lot of takers for furniture around the end of summer, or perhaps also the beginning of summer as new grads try to furnish new digs cheaply.

  65. “and the nurses just gave them to me at discharge ”

    The hospital we used definitely did not do this. I took 1 Percocet right before discharge and DH went to fill the prescription for the rest later that night. No extras given.

  66. when we say “light bulbs,” we’re just talking about the rare fluorescent bulb, right?

  67. I think I may have gotten one of those scam calls. They said I owed $100 to Sprint from 2005 and at 22% interest it was now up to $900. Now, I did switch from Sprint to AT&T about then so I guess it’s possible. Then again, I don’t recall hearing from them. And in any case, the statute of limitations in MA is 6 years.

    Curious.

  68. I know Fred mentioned that he got one of those IRS scam calls. Has anyone else dealt with these kinds of things?

  69. Ehh, I just don’t have much use for acquiring a lot of old junk.

    Milo, I read the post that it was someone who is going to refinish the furniture for her, not buy it from her. And it was the part of “not in any hurry, friendly and chatty” that sounded like you, from what you’ve posted in the past.

  70. I’ve gotten a couple calls that I owe money to the IRS. Once there was a Caller Id #, and a Google search brought me to an FBI website where you could enter the number.

  71. I’ve received many of those IRS scam calls, warning that I could be arrested if I failed to respond. I just ignored them. That’s what I get for keeping my landline. Did you get the the Sprint call on your mobile phone?

  72. “I know Fred mentioned that he got one of those IRS scam calls. Has anyone else dealt with these kinds of things?”

    Yeah, I got some of the fake IRS calls a couple years ago.

  73. Unrelated to anything, we are having our “student-led conferences” this afternoon. Along with the regular parent-teacher conferences that we requested. Even though the school has been promoting the p-t availability (and sent another email two days ago that slots were still open if people wanted them), we got a bit of push back when we requested them. So we are meeting with 6 different teachers plus the two student-led ones. Should be a fun afternoon.

  74. Yeah, it was the refinisher guy who was getting on in years and complaining about his knees and stuff. I don’t know if there are enough Joanna Gaines clones to replace those guys.

  75. Rhett, I get the fake IRS calls frequently, and the “you’ve won a Caribbean vacation!” And “there’s a problem with your Windows computer,” and “call us about your credit card.”

    The joy of being at home during the day.

  76. ATM – I think they just filled them at the hospital pharmacy. I bet I authorized that at some point, although I don’t recall. My kids were all born at a huge baby factory hospital and though it could be impersonal, they were very efficient.

  77. Oh, those Windows computer people. I’ve pointed out to my husband that their English is probably based on a script and not good enough to follow his lecture on how they’re a scam and so forth. We’ve eventually got our responses down to where we just hang up, with an optional “fuck you” if the call comes after we’re in bed.

  78. I kept a Windows person on the phone for about 20 minutes once, playing dumb.

    “THERE’S A PROBLEM WITH MY COMPUTER?? HOW DO YOU KNOW? IS IT BROKEN? CAN YOU SEND A NEW ONE?”

  79. Did you get the the Sprint call on your mobile phone?

    I did. And they gave me my current address and an address I’ve never lived at. It sounded very scammy yet had a patina of plausibility. It would make a great scam though. If you could get a list of everyone who switched carriers X years ago and then call them and say they never made their last payment. I bet you’d get a healthy % who would just pay.

  80. “I think the long-term solution is better design for recyclability, and better choices about the risks of low level contaminants (I’m thinking of heavy metals from batteries in landfills) compared to natural geographic levels of heavy metals.”

    And one way to encourage such design is to require the companies who brand those products to accept them for disposal, and to hold them accountable for proper disposal.

  81. Cat – I remember asking if I take another Percocet with me for later that evening and the nurse said it was against hospital policy. We’d have to go to the pharmacy to get the prescription filled.

    Not even one measly pill! This was in 2007 at a large NYC hospital. I remember thinking how crazy it was that they’d let me take care of two newborns in my condition (c-section) but wouldn’t give me one pill.

  82. The scam calls all go to my “landline”. That is a major reason I keep it as part of the FIOS bundle. I never get calls on my mobile. The current IRS scam seems to be run out of Egypt, but caller ID comes up something plausible.

    Joanne Gaines doesn’t do heavy duty show the mahogany type refinishing. Most of the older furniture in that part of the country was made of quick growing wood and does best with chalk paint other fairly easy DIY techniques. One of the clients (a transplant to Waco with a high budget) walked into the routine visit to the farm for design consultation and turned visibly green at all that distressed wood and homey charm.

  83. ATM – that is terrible! New mothers are not treated very well, IMO. With my second, they wouldn’t let me send him to the nursery for more than a couple hours. Awesome! Someone who has been up for 40+ hours and just had surgery should definitely be in charge of caring for a baby on her own. With my third, I got a lot bitchier and the baby went to the nursery a lot more. A much more pleasant experience! My friends who delivered at other hospitals have told me that their hospitals didn’t even have nurseries. Terrible!

  84. I hope my stance is pretty consistently, “Try to do the right thing, as long as it isn’t a huge hassle. And don’t pass more laws. We have enough laws already.”

    I think about this when I buy picked berries vs. U-pick. I’m know the berry pickers probably include at least some children and undocumented workers, so I’m supporting that system when I buy picked berries instead of picking them myself. But given everything else in my life, sometimes I buy the picked berries anyway.

    I also wonder why it’s so bad for Walmart to employ seasonal workers for low wages and no benefits but not CSA’s.

  85. Our local hospital also got rid of the nursery. I assumed it was a cost cutting move necessary because of the nursing cutbacks associated with the Affordable Care Act. It was really annoying to be in labor with Baby WCE one night and then to have her be awake and need to care for her all night the next night. I think the hospital assumes people will have relatives to care for their newborns, but Mr WCE was home with the boys.

  86. Indeed, Joanna Gaines never dips entire chairs into stripping solution or kills herself on hand-sanding every little curve and flourish. I don’t care for that distressed wood that she uses so much of.

  87. I once got a great call from a scammer who claimed to be from an alarm monitoring service. He said they could take over monitoring for us for a much cheaper price than we were currently paying. And conveniently, they had a tech in the area who could come right over and check out my alarm system. I asked him at least five times for a number where I could call him back, because I couldn’t possibly make a decision like that without talking to my wife first. He basically said “aren’t you man enough to make your own decisions?” or something like that.

  88. Cat – I was really out of it after my delivery, so much so that mine were in the nursery for quite a while. Only many hours later, after I asked, did the nurses bring my babies to me. It was weird that I had to ask to see them. From that point on they wanted to discharge me asap. I ended up staying one night more than most, but it was still shocking to me that they sent us home so quickly.

  89. “aren’t you man enough to make your own decisions”

    I often play the “oh I couldn’t possibly decide that without taking to my husband first” card. I think you all know me well enough to know how ridiculous that is.

  90. I hope my stance is pretty consistent

    It is. You’re a contrarian :-) If there is evidence that it’s a problem you think it’s not a problem. If there is evidence it’s not a problem you think it is a problem.

  91. WCE – I think a big driver is that many hospitals want the designation of being “baby friendly.” Also why some push breastfeeding so hard. I practically had to lose itnon them in order to get some formula last time. I finally yelled at a nurse that it was my third kid, I knew I needed to supplement early on in order to eventually be able to nurse and if she didn’t get me the formula, I was going to send someone out to buy some.

  92. ATM – terrible! I would never ever do it, but I do understand a little more why some low risk women opt for out of hospital births with midwives and doulas.

  93. No nursery for my babies, and my youngest was born when the 2004 campaign was still underway so I really don’t think it was an ACA effect. Hospitals liked to cut costs even before Obama was elected, you know.

    In the case of the the disappearing baby nurseries, my understanding was that it originated from attachment parenting / pro-breastfeeding pushback against the practice of whisking newborns away automatically and putting the burden on new mothers to request a visit. Hospitals happily took that as an excuse to do away with baby nurseries as a standard thing (cheaper!) in favor of having the newly-delivered mother get up six times during the night right after labor and delivery.

  94. HM – Yes! They wanted me to get up and start walking ASAP and were mean about it. Can’t a girl who just had major surgery, including blood transfusions, just rest?!?

    I understand why they wanted me to move – my legs were crazy swollen – but wow, was that brutal.

  95. HM, good to know that it’s probably correlation and not causation. My dataset was before/after the Affordable Care Act.

  96. Our hospitals had nurseries, but the nurses kept bringing the da*n kids back. My third was born around 10 pm, and I had been up almost the entire previous night with some work traveling, and I stayed up this night until about 2 am in the NICU, which was unnecessary, anyway, but after that I was just plain done. Apparently they tried to come in around 4:30 am for feeding, and they could not rouse either of us, so they gave up.

  97. NY state has VERY strict laws about dispensing drugs like Percocet. It is not a thing about new mothers. It has to do with the abuse of the medication and similar medicines, so they have made the process almost impossible when you really need the medicine. The pharmacist explained this to me reentry when my mother broke her leg because I had to go in person and drop off an old fashioned paper prescription. I couldn’t get anything filled in the hospital, and it couldn’t be called in by the ER.

    I asked what would happen if my mom or any patient didn’t have a family member or friend because he wasn’t even allowed to deliver the medicine. This doesn’t apply to most other prescription medicines in NY state. just certain narcotics.

  98. “I’m thinking that the best way to deal with unused medication (other than the obvious of minimizing the overbuying) is to hang onto it, and use it when needed.”

    That’s us. We have old vicodin/generic from various injuries. When my hip pain gets bad enough, about once every 3 months, I’ll take one of the lowest dose pills. Perhaps placebo effect, but probably not. I definitely feel better.

  99. Fred, my Dad had similar hip pain observations and he says his surgery recovery pain is minimal/moderate compared to his ongoing arthritis pain. FYI

  100. Lauren – put vicodin/generic on that list. Even thought NY went to electronic prescriptions on 1/1/15 IIRC the oral surgeon could not call in my kid’s prescription for post wisdom teeth removal pain. We had to take the paper scrip to the pharmacy.

  101. WCE, my hip pain is chronic, but not constant. The biggest day-to-day pain I feel is putting on one sock (the other side is pain free, and seems to have all the originally supplied cartilidge.) I have thought quite a bit about getting the surgery.

  102. My understanding is that all of the narcotics and pain meds of a certain class need to be on paper prescriptions (with special seals and holograms and the like to prevent counterfeiters) and presented with ID. My husband went once to get a pain med prescription for me and had to return with my ID (even though I could not be present because I was not well enough to ride in the car) before they would let him pick up the medication. We have the same police station lobby drop box for old meds, and we use it to avoid having kids (or kids’ friends) run into it. That, and I haven’t had a use for any of those meds outside of some acute injury that would otherwise require medical attention, and so it hasn’t seemed worth the effort to put them in a safe, etc.

    It *is* annoying to deal with the various places though. We can send batteries out with recycling. Paint has to go to the various pain manufacturers for recycling, or our city has a door to door pick up program for CFLs, paint, and other “household hazardous waste.” But you need to call and they give you a day 2-3 weeks out when they’ll come pick it up. We get bulk trash pick up 2x a year, which has been useful for things like baby mattresses and a chair the cat completely scratched up, which no one wanted, even for free.

  103. When my first kid was born, the post delivery experience was restful because kid was in the nursery and slept quite a bit between feelings. It was a shocker after because as soon as we took kid home, he kept us wake all that first night and we wondered what magic the hospital had performed. The hospital was a small surburban one.
    With my next kid which is now almost ten years ago – the hospital had her in the nursery but brought her to me because they said she was crying. This was a well known Boston hospital. I was really annoyed because I felt they were lying and this would be the only rest I would get for a long time.

  104. Since it’s after the cutoff time, could you guys talk me down from the walls?

    We’re about to enter a bid for yet another house in Santa Cruz. It went on the market today and already has one offer over asking price. We’re going to bid about 7% over asking. DH has finally reached the conclusion that we’re probably not ever going to pay off this new house. We’re going to carry the mortgage for 10 or 20 years and hope to God that California hasn’t fallen into the sea (or, more likely, dried up and blown away) at the time we need to sell it and go into Sunset Manor.

    This isn’t entirely insane, right? It’s just an investment. Some go up, some go down. You have to be okay with that. This is really super near the campus, and I do not anticipate the University of California going out of business in the next 5 to 10 years. Gah! I wish one of us were a little risk-averse.

  105. RMS,

    What percentage of your monthly gross income is the PITI on the vacation home?

  106. Locally,there’s a place that re-uses building materials that will accept a lot of used building materials.

    “Paint has to go to the various pain manufacturers for recycling”

    Pain manufacturers???

    I suggest Craigslist or Freecycle for paint, and paint thinner.

  107. Rocky, if it’s causing you so much anguish, why bother? Is the upside worth the anguish, worry, and risk?

    Do you and your DH have the means to live comfortably from here on if you don’t buy the house?

  108. Awesome typo. Pain manufacturers. I’m thinking more the various paint stores. Anywhere I buy paint will take my old paint back. Much simpler for me than dealing with Craigslist.

    Rocky– I’m not useful on decisions like that absent a whole lot of financial information. It sounds like you WANT to do it, but the big issues are what is your absolute exposure on the negative end. I’m inclined to think that in that area you can always sell a second home if it isn’t what you wanted, and the carrying time for that to make sense is probably not a great number of years. But I’d run a few “what if” scenarios through the calculator to see if I could stomach the risk.

  109. What percentage of your monthly gross income is the PITI on the vacation home?

    Um…looks like 12%. But that’s only if DH continues to work forever.

  110. Do you and your DH have the means to live comfortably from here on if you don’t buy the house?

    Yes. And many would say that we do even if we do buy the house.

  111. Finn, we’re so risk-averse that we never wind up doing anything fun. And we feed on each other’s doomsday scenarios. I’m not convinced that’s the best way to live.

  112. I wasn’t around a TV or computer all day so I just watched a portion of Romney’s remarks. This election year is giving me agita, and I can’t wait to escape to the new season of Frank Underwood’s government.

  113. “Much simpler for me than dealing with Craigslist.”

    I haven’t tried Craigslist for the free stuff, but back when we had Freecycle, a lot of folks would just announce it on Freecycle, then put it at the curb, first come, first served.

  114. RMS, are you buying rental property for fun?

    I guess your idea of fun is not the same as mine.

  115. I’d say go for it. However, with CA being a non-recourse state make sure you make the minimum downpayment possible. If President Trump’s plan to Smoot-Hawley our way to prosperity someone goes wrong, you can always just mail the bank the keys.

  116. I have a number of low umc (not wealthy and some not even well-to-do) friends with second homes. They fall into various camps. None of them carry two mortgages.

    Snowbird seasonal residences, usually 50-50 or 60-40 for tax reasons. Loan on no more than one of the homes, usually the lower priced residence. Very likely that the winter residence will become the major residence, possibly with a townhouse or rental back in the home or grandchild vicinity for escape in torrid months.

    Lake or beach house suitable for year round use and quick transit – possibly driving distance from home. Similar to above, might have been inherited but is now nicely fixed up, but not usually in a tax haven destination.

    Investment properties for rent and occasional personal use. Can be anywhere the owner likes to go from time to time. often a college funding vehicle. Usually highly leveraged. May, and I stress, may, become retirement residence, but usually both properties are sold and another retirement property purchased. Starting on this road at age 60 is not common.

    Family shack or white elephant somewhere, may become highly renovated for all seasons by some wealthy family scion, usually ownership doesn’t permit construction mortgage for renovation. Can never be sold.

    If you expect to sell the main house in 5-7 years (will your DH ever agree to retire) and then move and roll the cash to pay off the sizable mortgage, I would go for it. If he plans to keep working a long time, I would investigate some other more modest real estate area for investment purposes, or buy a small vacation condo for your own purposes in your desired area.

    My two cents.

  117. Rhett and Finn, apparently DH thinks that if we’re going to spend that much money, we should use it for a vacation house for ourselves rather than rent it out. Right, I don’t understand that logic either.

  118. Following Lauren’s drift back into the world of politics–

    Does anyone else think that Trump is doing so well is, in no small measure, a reflection on the viability of Cruz, Rubio, Jeb?, et al, as perceived by the electorate?

    If the Rs want to keep Hillary out, assuming nothing blows up in her face before the election, this suggests that getting behind someone like Cruz or Rubio is not a good strategy. They’re more likely to keep Hillary out by riding Trump.

  119. I should say that the young investors have leverage on everything. The “none” refers to people RMS and my age. Some older people like a mortgage on the primary residence “for the tax benefits”. But they could cut the check tomorrow to pay it off.

  120. RMS,

    My concern with your husbands theory is vacation homes markets are incredibly cyclical in terms of both rent and sale. In a recession where he looses his job, the price of the home will fall dramatically, as will the VRBO demand. I’d say rent it out (when you’re not there) and bank the money to ride out any recession/period of unemployment.

  121. RMS,

    Is your husband thinking “rent” in terms of a 12 month lease vs. VRBO?

  122. RMS – you are one of my favorites on here.

    I obviously don’t know you or your financial situation but I’m guessing you are living a Totebag lifestyle.

    I say go for it. The house most likely isn’t going to go to zero. And if you realize that it isn’t working, then you can cut your losses. Why work so hard and save some much if you aren’t able to enjoy it? There will always be a reason to not do something. And financial analysis doesn’t always (hardly ever) incorporate happiness.

    To put it bluntly – eat the whole cookie. Hell, have two cookies.

  123. RMS, I think I see his point.

    I’m thinking that if you’re in a good place financially, why do you need to take on the risk and anguish of a rental? Either buy it as a vacation home for yourselves, or don’t buy it, and just rent vacation homes as it suits your whims and financial circumstances.

    I’ve considered the vacation home thing for when I retire, and I can’t see buying it somewhere as expensive as SC. While my current preference is to just rent, giving us the freedom to go somewhere different every trip, I can see perhaps buying something in a low-cost area where we might spend a lot of time, e.g., some of those places in ID that WCE has mentioned, that are within reasonable driving distance of ski areas.

  124. RMS: You’ve been talking about a house in CA for a very long time. Go for it.

  125. RMS,

    Doing the math, your maximum losses, in a worst case scenario, amount to $120k. That’s 1/3 of your gross income. It’s a risk you can afford to take.

  126. Um, your math is slightly off. If you want to email me, you can.

  127. Sorry, RMS! I was thinking of UC Santa Barbara!

    In any case, no matter the numbers, with it being 12% of gross the losses are limited to 1/3 of gross. Which seems an acceptable risk.

  128. RMS, I think you should get a condo (so you don’t have to deal with maintenance as you get older). And tell DH you could rent it to friends, even virtual ones :)

  129. Finn, the immunity news about Pagliano today is not good for HRC. (This is the IT guy from the campaign who set up the server.)

    The FBI doesn’t grant immunity by itself. A prosecutor can give a proffer – the “queen for a day” letter – but that wouldn’t be news. If he got statutory immunity, though, a court approved that agreement and a grand jury investigation is underway.

    It’s not clear in the reports I have seen which type of immunity he received.

    The other words in today’s leaks she did not want to hear: “theft of honest services,” a staple of public corruption investigations.

  130. Rhett, I’ve jogged around that track at East Field House on UCSC. The view is staggeringly beautiful.

  131. RMS – your DH should be able to retire by 65, latest by 67. I would say there should be at least ten to fifteen years when both of you are healthy enough to lead an active retired lifestyle. You also want to be able to enjoy the company of friends before anything happens. My observations from looking at my parents and inlaws.

  132. RMS,

    Do any of the dorms have that view? Or faculty offices? Some must I assume.

  133. Rhett, Stevenson College is the closest to that view. I’m not sure if any of the dorms have a clear view of the Bay.

  134. No bay view that I recall from the dorms, but definitely from the ultimate frisbee field. Most of the students move into town in sophomore or junior year. It is great weather and the town has gentrified a lot since 2000 when my banana slug was a freshman. He left for a bit in 2006 – too many 40 something burnouts fishing on the pier, but after a short while returned after trying out Los Gatos. Nice life if you can get it.

  135. The student-led conferences were pretty much as we expected. The kids just read off their sheets going class by class giving their strengths and areas for improvements. The advisors, who were supposed to be silent, did a lot of talking to fill in gaps. The main issue is there was no depth. For example, DS has been struggling in science. His comments, which were approved by the science teacher, didn’t provide much info as to what the actual issues are. When we had the conference with the science teacher later, he showed us one of DS’ tests and how it shows he is basically understanding the material but not providing the extra depth the teacher is looking for.

    I think having the kids go through the process of writing out the sheets and talking to their teachers is worthwhile, but the conferences themselves were a waste of time. The conferences we had with the teachers were much more useful. And this was the first time we had the kids at the conferences, and I am sold on the benefits of that.

  136. Rhett, I’m a bit of a contrarian, but I think I’m more of an analog thinker or follower of the 80/20 rule. Banning CFC’s from hairspray cans didn’t bother me a bit, but banning CFC’s from nebulizers for asthmatics was a poorly thought out regulation, in my opinion. As a society, we’ve recognized lead is harmful and removed it from the easiest 80% of things to remove it from. Removing it from the last 20% will be really hard and expensive, and there will always be lead in the environment.

    If we recognize something may be harmful (say, formaldehyde) let’s think about how we can get 80% of the benefit of banning it at 20% of the cost.

    ATM, I wasn’t familiar with the DEQ director stepping down, but the blurb I saw is consistent with what I’ve said about small companies (in this case, glass) and their ability to use industrial/hazardous chemicals and comply with all appropriate regulations, compared to the Dow/DuPont behemoths. (Ability to comply with complex regulatory obstacles is a natural, appropriate barrier to competition in the chemical industry.)

  137. Oh my, WCE – so many agreements this week. Some days I spend half of my shift explaining to asthmatics that their inhaler won’t work without a spacer. People who have been asthmatic for decades are reluctant to accept that placing in mouth and squeezing in highly ineffective. No CFCs in inhalers has made them ineffective and expensive.

  138. I had to throw away a mattress last year. It was old and looked it. The only way to dispose of it was to put in on the curb, pay the city $30 and they would pick it up withing 10 business days. I really did not enjoy having my stained mattress in front of my house for a full two weeks, but we had no way to transport it to the dump.

    For the current home remodel/moving extravaganza, I have a long term loan of my dad’s truck. It really makes my life so much easier – fill it with cardboard to take to the recycler, bags and bags of stuff to goodwill, 1000 lbs of flooring. Some of these things I could solve other ways (have my GC pick up flooring), but there is a lot of convenience and some cost savings to doing things myself. I think we pay $20 for curbside pickup of an extra black trash bag. It is really ridiculous.

    Replaced a dishwasher a few weeks ago and was able to pay only $5 to give it to a appliance shop to junk it. She told me that the junk all dishwashers – too hard to repair, too much liability if they do it wrong and flood a kitchen.

  139. Here is my big idea: a UPC/QR code on everything. When you are done with the item, you put it on the curb and scan the UPC. Someone else comes to pick it up. This could be the trash guy or someone who wants it to use it. You could check the free website for what you might need.This could be scaled in to give you 5 scans a month or whatever for larger items and then extended to smaller items.

    We have picked up curbside: a small fridge, wood furniture for the basement, and outside play equipment. Neighbors here often install their outdated cabinets from the kitchen or bathroom in the garage for storage. This looks to be handy.

  140. “Neighbors here often install their outdated cabinets from the kitchen or bathroom in the garage for storage. ”

    We’ve done that.

  141. RMS – you should go for the house. Just IMO. :)

    We have an offer on our house…now let’s see if we can offer on the country house and make it work!

  142. Awesome, L! Now you can stop cleaning it obsessively every day.

  143. @ RMS, I think that you should also remind yourself that buying a second house is not a permanent decision. If you guys get it, and then find after a year or two that the costs of ownership are too much of a drag in proportion to the pleasure you get out of it, or that you’re just not able to get to it like you thought you could, then you can pivot and either rent it or even sell it. Yes, you might take a little bit of a hit financially if you decide to sell after just a year or two, but a car loses value the minute you drive it off the lot, and that doesn’t stop any of us from buying cars!

    Think of the house through slightly more short-term lens. Does it suit your needs right now? Is it the right place for you for the next 1-3 years? This isn’t an impulse buy for you – you’ve been thinking about it for a long time. You’re in a life stage where you have the flexibility, both time wise and financially, to pull the trigger. And if it turns out it wasn’t the perfect decision, it can be unwound. Good luck and keep us posted.

  144. Rocky,
    As I posted recently, I expect to carry a mortgage on what will be our retirement home (assuming we buy) simply because I don’t want to tie up my cash in an illiquid asset. You’re of the same mindset on maintaining liquidity.

    You guys would not have gotten this far into the process if this were just some crazy idea. This is something you want, thought about, decided you can swing financially even if some/many of the specifics still need to be worked out.

    If you like a house for yourselves to live in, and it fits your financial parameters, go for it. As others have said even if you change your mind and decide to get out of it at precisely whatever the next market bottom is, your balance-of-life financial situation will remain strong.

    If DW and I were this far down the path, we’d make the offer unless there was some new news about either the property or e.g. local the drinking water supply.

  145. Rocky – I’m guessing that your current house is worth maybe a little over half of what this new house costs? So when I consider what your total costs for owner-occupied, non-rental real estate will be, I think that’s a number I would be perfectly comfortable spending in your position.

  146. Having a Meme moment here — our dryer has started acting up (will turn on but barrel won’t rotate until you give it a shove), so I assumed it needed a belt. Then last night we smelled something awful on the way up to bed, to the point we thought we had an arc flash or electrical fire smoldering in the walls somewhere. It seemed to trace back to the dryer, so now I assume my motor has gone. Just called the repair guy, found out it’s a @$350 repair (which doesn’t seem jacked up, as the web advertises the parts alone for @$175), which is probably about half of what we paid for the damn thing 5+ years ago (Whirlpool Cabrio). So do we repair, or do we go buy a new dryer this weekend?

    I am leaning toward repair, because it has worked fine otherwise and I *really* don’t feel like the hassle of buying a new one now — we have a crazy weekend and next week coming, and I’d of course feel compelled to do the research on which version has the biggest capacity, which is more highly-rated now that they all come from the same one or two factories, etc. But I wonder if I’m being stupid given the useful life of these things.

  147. Milo, that second house is awesome — I would move there in a heartbeat.

  148. LfB – I’d be tempted to repair, especially if it’s a fancier one with automatic “dryness” monitoring.

    From the pictures of those two houses, I like the first house on the second lot. I swear that whole lake is a little bit of Heaven on Earth to me.

  149. RMS – I’m with the people who say to eat the whole cookie. :) This will not ruin you even if you ultimately decide to sell.

    I understand not wanting to rent out, especially short-term VRBO type rentals. There are costs to that along with the revenue – wear & tear on your property, administrative costs, having to lock up your personal belongings and restock the fridge and pantry every time you visit. I have great interest in buying a second home in 10 years or so (snowbird condo), but NO interest in renting it out to strangers whether short or long-term.

    L – congrats on the offer on your house! I hope it was a reasonable one (or unreasonably large!)

  150. @Rhett — feel free to hop on down here and do that for me. Though I’m pretty sure I can’t afford your rates. :-)

  151. We had some whirlpool model without the agitator (I forget which model, it’s been 5 years now and the model came with the house, wasn’t one we had purchased). We called out a repair guy when it broke, and between the cost of the part and the labor estimate, it was going to be in the range of $800 to fix it. The repair guy said parts were particularly hard to come by for my model and if it had to be repaired again it would be equally high. He recommended replacing it. I hope that’s not the case for your model, but it’s something to check for.

  152. Also, LfB, check your incoming service voltage on the 240 volt dryer outlet. If it’s too low, and I remember anything from EE, it might be forcing it to draw too much current and prematurely destroying the motor.

  153. Congrats L!

    RMS – go for the house. If you can afford it without having to rent it out then you can afford it.

    This is making me look at Cape Cod real estate but that is a long way off.

  154. @Milo — it’s the friendly porch. I love the stained floorboards and the square posts that are shingled on the bottom. The whole thing just reminds me of my all-time favorite house: http://salaarc.com/michaela_mahady/maple-forest/

    And, yeah, this is the first “fancy” dryer I’ve had with the electronic sensors and all that. I do think the repair is a very standard analog one, since the electronics appear to be working fine.

  155. Oooh, thanks, Milo, I will have DH double-check that this weekend. Lord knows the electric service in this house remains wonky as hell, despite all our fixes.

  156. LfB – It takes no more time to stay home for the dryer repairman than to stay home for the dryer delivery swap out – and they take away the old dryer, usually (you often have to send in a receipt for a rebate). If you have a bare bones Whirlpool Cabrio, you can get a new one exactly the same for about 450 500, so repair is futile. If you want to upscale to the one with steam that matches a high efficiency washer, 750. If you are not fussy about your laundry equipment matching or doing tons of extra things, just drive over to Sears and pick one on the spot.

    My Kenmore (whirlpool) set of basic machines were purchased 10 or so years ago in that period where you could still get mechanical dials as opposed to electronic controls. With the light use in our household and good dryer venting that is professionally cleaned (condo regulation), I expect 25 trouble free years. The dishwasher clearly needs a new electronic part – might not be the water heat sensor but some other board – so I am going to have the guy come out, give me an estimate, and if I can’t stomach it, take the credit to the showroom. Since I know I’ll check out the Dacor induction range while I am there, too, it may be an expensive trip.

  157. having to lock up your personal belongings and restock the fridge and pantry every time you visit.

    In exchange for avoiding that hassle you’d forgo $10s of thousands in rental income? That seems very totebaggy to me – a patina of modesty while under the surface vast sums are being expended to avoid minor hassles.

  158. LfB,

    I love that house. You get the sense that the cost per square foot for construction was many multiples of the $125/ft^2 national average.

  159. @Meme — our current model is the $750 version. The issue isn’t the waiting at home, since I can work here (I’m working at home today, in fact, thanks to a giant allergy attack) — it’s all the other time in researching and shopping and just, ugh, I don’t wanna. Plus I am discovering that the new ones all have these touchscreen things, and I like my knobs. So I dunno, may pop by Lowe’s while kids are at Hebrew School just to see what’s there, but unless there is something easy and right on and cheap, I’ll probably go with the repair just to save the brain cells.

  160. @Rhett, I love that house so much that when we moved to CO and found a lot we wanted to build on, I whipped out the magazine and said to the builder, “I want this.” He said “ok, that will be $750-800K.” Our budget was literally half that. Sigh.

  161. LfB, I think I’ve said on here that when my dryer went after five years, the local appliances guy said that was about all I could expect given our heavy use.

    So if you’ve owned it more than four years or so, you might find buying less of a hassle.

    Also, do not ignore burning dryer smells and go to bed, because lint fires in the exhaust are fast and scary.

  162. LfB, it won’t hurt to measure the electricity at the dryer outlet, but I’ll be shocked if that is root cause. My appliance guy and I recently agreed that replacement was the right solution because the thermostat usually goes after the motor. Motors have to run hotter/faster to meet energy efficiency standards and that makes them wear out faster than when dryers had longer useful lives.

  163. “Motors have to run hotter/faster to meet energy efficiency standards and that makes them wear out faster than when dryers had longer useful lives.”

    Motors, or heaters? And would just running it on Delicate solve this? I use Cotton/Normal a lot, but I never bother to go all the way up to “Towels.”

  164. Hmm. I hate that all of these sane, rational people are telling me to suck it up and buy a new one. . . .

  165. I like Rhett’s option. All our pajamas, sweat pants and soccer uniforms would come out pristine. You can get a free multimeter adequate for troubleshooting at Harbor Freight with any purchase if that’s your thing. http://www.harborfreight.com/7-function-multimeter-98025.html

    Milo, I’m not too knowledgeable about dryers. I keep mine on delicate because it’s new and otherwise it runs too hot, but if it’s like my old one (which is what it’s supposed to be), I’ll run it on a higher setting to get the same temperature as it ages.

    I do enough laundry to qualify as a Federally Designated Laundromat for commercial washer purchasing purposes.

  166. LfB, we went through the exact same thing about 2 months ago. It needed a new motor, and they recommended replacing the belt as well because of the age. So they basically would have rebuilt the old dryer for about $550. We bought a new one.

    I spent about 30 minutes researching on line, about 15 minutes price comparing online, and ordered it from Best Buy online. Total time spent was about an hour. They delivered and installed it three days later and took away the old one. It was no hassle at all.

  167. WCE – I challenge your presumption that appliances are less reliable these days. I think they may just appear less reliable because economics now often favor replacement over repair. If Grandma’s dryer lasted for 30 years, how many times were the belt and motor and heating element replaced to get through those 30 years? And I presume that there were a lot more people, per capita, employed as repairmen than there are now.

    FTR, our LG set is probably 12 years old now, originally bought by my in-laws, and we took them over when we moved, so it’s been doing a lot of laundry.

  168. Milo, you’re certainly right about repair vs. replacement. I’m biased toward items that are repairable- you can replace a fan, or thermostat or heating element with a standard part and not have to replace the whole dryer. This is part of my view of “design for lifecycle.” Whether I’m right or not about the benefits of designing for the long-term, Consumer Reports doesn’t offer much information on longevity past 5 years, partly because models are constantly “changing”. The Department of Energy considers energy efficiency but not useful life in its evaluation of appliances, and manufacturing an appliance takes a lot of energy.

    Here’s an article from the UK I read a while back. And I agree with Denver Dad about the decision making process. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3130577/Washing-machines-cheaper-replace-fix-Manufacturers-accused-making-appliances-costly-complicated-repair.html

  169. “You can get a free multimeter adequate for troubleshooting at Harbor Freight with any purchase if that’s your thing.”

    @WCE: Umm, I *am* married to a EE — the question is more likely to be which one he elects to use for this particular job. :-)

    @DD — so help me freeload here; what did you buy?

  170. WCE,

    With modern manufacturing so incredibly efficient, why would you engineer a product to be repairable if the cost of that repair is almost never going to be cost effective to the consumer?

  171. With modern manufacturing so incredibly efficient,

    Meaning, depending the level of factory automation, the repairman driving to your house and doing the repair might involve more human labor that it took to manufacturer the entire appliance.

  172. “With modern manufacturing so incredibly efficient, why would you engineer a product to be repairable if the cost of that repair is almost never going to be cost effective to the consumer?”

    That logic would certainly impose a different variable to consider when the crunchy types talk about the environmental benefits of cloth-diapering.

  173. @DD — so help me freeload here; what did you buy?

    We got an LG, I don’t recall the specific model off-hand. One of the 7.5 cubic ft models without the steaming ability. It’s working well so far.

  174. “I think they may just appear less reliable because economics now often favor replacement over repair.”

    Perhaps they were simpler and easier, and thus less costly, to repair, without so many components that require replacement rather than being repairable.

  175. Rhett, it depends on how we count the cost of mining or recycling metal, including the environmental costs of mining and the cost of recycling/disposing of an appliance, if we want to become a less disposable society. As everyone already knows, what I don’t like is mandating energy efficient appliances without considering manufacturing and disposal as part of the energy efficiency decision.

    How do we unhide currently hidden costs of manufacturing and disposal?

    I was probably a teenager before I realized, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” wasn’t from the Bible, and I kind of see your point. I am emotionally biased toward making do. I also like getting unbiased advice during my $60 house call from Joe My Appliance Guy, who has no bias toward buying or not buying a replacement appliance the way the Sears Appliance Guy might. And Joe, with his 30 years of appliance repair experience and in-depth knowledge and interest, teaches me things and offers new information. It’s like having a discussion with an Appliance Physician, compared to having a discussion with Random Sears Appliance Guy with 9 months on the job.

    I like Joe the same way I like Homer, my fruit stand guy.

  176. what I don’t like is mandating energy efficient appliances without considering manufacturing and disposal as part of the energy efficiency decision.

    Do you know for a fact they didn’t?

  177. Yes, I did a bunch of research during my appliance replacement weekend. Basically, the DOE assumes because many appliances are discarded within the first few years even when they’re functional (because people move, or want their washer/dryer to match or whatever), that there is no need to consider longevity beyond 5-7 years.

  178. And that’s 5-7 years of use for an average household, something like 3000 washer loads, compared to 10,000 washer loads on the old standard.

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