My Struggle; The Bin

While I was too muddled and busy with busywork to get anything visibly done yesterday afternoon, I listened to the new Anne Helen Petersen audio production on [redacted]. Queen of millennial burnout, Petersen is a marvel, a bright star, a treat of a journalist. Although her work on burnout partakes in the media trend of pretending that profound and disabling exhaustion from undignified labour is a condition unique to millennial life because for the first time young-ish people with Masters degrees and parents who love them are exposed to proletariat working conditions, I appreciate that she nudges her readers away from loathing themselves for the crap lives they lead and towards unionisation. I appreciate how attuned she is to what people are willing to listen to; what kind of arguments, backed by which kinds of evidence.

Listening, yesterday, to Petersen and her interesting speaking subjects made me believe, again, that burnout is what I have been dipping in and out of lately, rather than unadulterated and luxuriant brain-fog-laziness, or plain stupidity, or the loss of crucial organ function. It confirmed, again!, that I am a victim of capitalism, not a dull little slug queen (or not only a dull little slug queen), and that all my daily busyness which I loathe yet repeat, voluntarily, or so it seems to me—the cycle of lists, errands, chores, emails, meetings, proposals, corrections, applications—that is so unrelated to anything “creative”, or capital-producing, or anything resembling, even, real labour, is being drawn from me—willingly, allegedly—at a great cost to my person.

A compelling argument, if true.

I was muddled and busy this week because, aside from normal life administration and work administration, the time has come to hire an electrician to put new wires in the walls of our apartment, because the electricity keeps melting the power boards, and to hire a hydraulics person to change the pipes in the bathroom, because there is black slime coming out of the external plumbing, and the smell of sewage, sometimes. And we’re getting a big-enough bath-tub put in, too (!). And to organise and pay for such things in a country that is not one’s own is complicated, is time-consuming, is as difficult as all logistical processes in Greece are. It has demanded of me, and Dom, a flexibility and patience not native to my easily unsettled anglo-capitalist personality. And we are going away to America this afternoon, so we have been packing up our house into one bedroom and packing up our persons, and when we get back from our trip we stay in a friend’s spare room for as long as it takes, and again we are confused, voluntarily, as to why we are doing any of it. It’s true that I hate the black slime, but truer that fixing it is a lot of work, and destabilising, it seems again like making daily life complicated for myself is my most loyal friend in the world.

In the process of packing and shoving things out of the way, I had to contend with our filthy crap, or rather I should say, my filthy crap, which I have largely dug out of actual bins on the street, or bin-like piles at the markets that I insist that Dom accompanies me to. Things like: a plastic lobster, which really pops in the kitchen; a set of six ugly shot glasses which I never drink from but keep instead for putting individual flowers in when I feel like getting fancy; cheap, “temporary”, kitchen appliances that are too cheap to really function properly.

While I am certain that capitalism has persecuted me directly and indirectly, as it has you, and you, I have to take some responsibility for my own stink, too. If I am to maintain a simple life unburdened by things and needless, endless, reproductive labour, I will need to stop collecting garbage off the street.

Everyone has this kind of stuff, their own version of a plastic lobster in their kitchen, even if it is not gleaned from the actual garbage bin. I’m not a hoarder, as I’ve written to you before; I’m happy, always, to stitch and polish and clean old things to make them work, and just as happy to chuck them when they no longer spark ecstasy, and anyway most of my things are great and cool and some of them are useful, too. But many of them, I must admit, like much of the detritus of capitalist oversupply, are placeholder things for when I have the money or the lifestyle or whatever it is I might one day have to have the real things which will not demand of me the kind of labour I put into my bad, bin things.

For now, let me share with you my most recent, excellent, bin-found things:

This chair, which is a bit fucked up, a bit held together with string, but works.

This hat!

This mirror, which I most likely will never clean properly, nor mount.

This blazer, from inside the bin rather than next to it: 95% lambs’ wool! And a good, flattering fit.

This woven thing, too rough to be a blanket, too slippy to be a rug. Which had/has a good few drops of blood on it, but which I oxy-sprayed and washed twice, so the stains are no longer contaminated, I don’t think.

This cow-hide cushion, which can be placed to give height and old road charm to any seat.

Love to you, and bin luck, and time-management luck, and solidarity in bin-life burnout, dear friends and strangers.

xx Ellena

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