Sage Advice: Courtesy Is Out with the Trash

By Amy Dickinson | September 18th, 2019

Is it worth confronting the neighbors over every issue?


Retired couple in townhouse condominium complex with garbage taken over by neighbors Image

Dear Amy: We are an older, retired couple living in a townhouse condominium complex.

As such we have individual garbage/recycling pick up.

We do not generate much garbage or recycling. Our cans rarely fill up more than 50 percent.

We have noticed that our garbage and recycling cans frequently get filled up with other residents’ garbage/recycling to the point where the lids are up, with garbage bags hanging out over the edge.

We do pay for our garbage, and like everyone else in the complex, we buy the smallest can available.

Is it old-fashioned to be upset by this?

It’s not so much the fact that folks are using our cans, although I would prefer the amount in the cans not exceed the ability to close the lid.

It’s the fact that no one bothers to come by and ask our permission.

It just seems rude to use our cans without our permission.

I’d be happy to help out, but is it just old-fashioned to want to be asked first?

– Peeved

Dear Peeved: Why are you so concerned by being perceived as “old-fashioned”? Have you been successfully conned into believing that your own honest reactions are not acceptable?

Snap out of it! Own your feelings!

You could raise this issue at your next condo board meeting or on the complex’s listserv (if it has one). You might find that other residents are experiencing the same annoyance, or you might smoke out a neighbor who is doing this.

Yes, this is annoying. Yes, you have every right to find it annoying, and to wish that people behaved differently.

You and your wife could approach this with a little humor and perhaps inspire people to be more respectful.

Tape a florescent sign onto the inside of the lid, so that someone opening it would see it:

“Hello, Fellow Humans.

Are you generating so much garbage that you need to use an extra can? That’s a pity. Haven’t you noticed that the planet is on fire?

We will accept your wasteful overflow, but please be courteous and put the lid securely down. (And leave a tin of home-baked still-warm brownies on top.)

Thank you,

Waste Not, Want Not.”


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2019 by Amy Dickinson

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