I live closely enough to a business complex that I hear the trash being removed from its parking lot several mornings of the week. The reverse “signal” beeps steadily while the truck slowly aligns it self to the industrial bin for emptying. The truck makes lots of noise, and the clunking of material from the bin into the truck bed always has me wondering what they are dumping. The whole process takes around 5 minutes.

Hearing it today had me thinking about garbage day in general. Growing up the trash pick up was once weekly. Since I can remember as an adult, I think they have always come two days of the week. Quite often I skip the second pick up because I just don’t generate that much garbage in only a couple of days (at least not here.) I sometimes skip both days if there is not much to put out.

But I am always grateful for the clean, unscathed garbage bag that replaces the dirty one when I take it to the curb. It’s like an exhale of starting again, “Control-ALT-Delete” style. Even if I forgot which day to take it out, I hear that other trash truck around the corner, and am reminded..

The world doesn’t exactly stop if I miss a week, but eventually, it would if I NEVER took it out. It would start to pile up, smell, change the entire experience of being in what I consider to be my oasis of a home. Garbage would eventually take over if I didn’t take a few minutes every couple of days, to move it out.

So how about our minds? With all the trash that we allow into our consciousness, how diligently, how habitually do we set the toxins free, and replace them with a clean, dry receptacle so it doesn’t overflow? Do we take out the mental trash one or two days a week? One or two times a day? Ever?

And what does it look like when we do? Over the last several years, I have made greater efforts to block trash from getting in my head to begin with. I don’t have a TV. I watch and listen to very little of anything that seems toxic. But then there are days when I invite Netflix in, or turn up the volume on an old classic rock or rap song has some raunchy lyrics and although I know better, I let it flood right in to my consciousness.

Nothing wrong with that, is my opinion, as long as I eventually take out the trash. Just like real garbage (and not this metaphor I am hoping you can follow) it doesn’t matter when, or how we do it, just that we don’t let it pile up, stink to high heaven and change the landscape of our mental, inner oasis.

Meditation is one way I take out the mental trash. Others are walking, creating, singing with Zachary or staring at a flower. Giving selflessly through service, monetary generosity, or even attention, is another powerful vehicle to clear my mind of debris. I do notice that doing so regularly, and in small loads, trumps saving it all up for a once a month trip to the dump.

Whatever “mental garbage day” looks like for you, as long as you are doing it, you are on the right track. Just know that it can take on a scary life of its own in our psyches, just as it does in kitchens, offices and bathrooms, if it piles up. You can validate your own schedule by asking yourself how you feel. If things are getting crowded, uncomfortable and starting to reek, you may want to add a couple extra days (or ways!) to make time to empty the mental garbage.

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