Over the last couple of weekends, people around the Brisbane area have been putting out bits and pieces of furniture out the front of their houses for the time-worn tradition of kerbside collection. For some, it is simply an easy way to be rid of the pile of junk that has built up in that grimy corner of the house. For others, it is a quick and easy way to procure and fix up a table, some chairs, or even a couch at the fraction of the cost of a new set of furniture. But for the less materially inclined, it is a brief glimpse into the lives of strangers.
It is a peculiarity of the human condition that we are so intrigued by the goings-on of people we don’t even know. This insatiable need to know what other people are up to can be, in some ways, beneficial, but in others, it’s just plain old creepy. It isn’t really possible to paint a complete image of a household by the items they want to throw out once a year, but sometimes it is easier than you think. Prams, cots, and mini trampolines are usually indicative of children who have outgrown their need for such restrictions. Printers and office chairs are discarded from home offices, either in favour of a cheaper alternative, or the latest fad. A cacophony of household items, unceremoniously dumped in front of units filled with university students.
Even though you know you should keep your eyes on the road, you really can’t help but sneak a glance or two at these compounding piles of junk. Perhaps it is because they are eyesores, especially when the rain attempts to eat away at wood and metal. Perhaps it is because you’re thinking of another DIY project you don’t really have the time to complete. Or perhaps it is because, at the heart of it all, these pieces of so-called rubbish tell stories of their own. That fading couch, with the rips and scuffs and tears, may have witnessed its fair share of cuddles and fights. It may have been passed down from someone’s parents, or it may have been the setting for a pair of fumbling eighteen year-olds, shaking with nerves and excitement and desire, all at the same time. That dusty old suitcase would have seen journeys that may now seem impossible, in times older than you or I.
In a world that is almost moving faster than we can understand, these piles of unwanted paraphernalia try to get us to slow down. To pause, to think about just how much we waste. To appreciate and to consider the value of what we have – whether it be that unwieldy armchair or the Wonder Woman pop vinyl in your bedside table. But then the kerbs are swept clean, wiped of plastic and wood and metal and memory.
We move on, as we always do. Until next year – because we will always have things to kick to the kerb.