Coming Clean: My Son is Obsessed with Trash

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Well – it’s finally time for me to come clean on this blog.

This kid…

Is obsessed with trash.

It’s no minor thing. It’s huge. It’s been going on for nearly two years now.

At first, we humored him a little bit. We bought him a garbage truck. I would hide pieces of paper around the house, and he would pretend he was a garbage man and hunt for trash.

And then we started to get really annoyed by it. He wasn’t playing “appropriately” with any of his toys. Everything was “trash” and got thrown into the pretend landfill or recycling pile. I got really tired of having to sort toys out of a huge landfill every time Alice wanted to play with something.

We talked and talked with Miles. We tried to work with him on putting things away and keeping toys sorted. It felt like a never-ending battle.

Recently – we have reached a great compromise.

The living room is now his landfill. The pillows are his trash. The couch is his main dumping grounds.

This means that our living room often looks like this:

(The bike is Even Steven’s)

And on days when I’m feeling really generous – and have a lot of recycling to take out – our living room might look like this:


Once we set some ground rules and started accepting his obsession, Miles is as happy as ever. And I am too.

He knows that he has to pick up his landfill before nap and bedtime. He’s using his imagination constantly.

And Alice can find her toys – because they’re not kept in the living room landfill.

And – we found that there are other people like us (and Miles). A quick YouTube search for trash videos unearthed hundreds of videos of – garbage trucks. Just random people videotaping their local garbage person taking out the trash.

And now Miles likes to talk about frontloaders and sideloaders and says things like, “That’s a frontloader mom. It’s popular in Australia, but we don’t see them very often in Cincinnati.”

And, “Oh my gosh. You HAVE to see this, mom. They’re throwing away a basketball hoop!”

I see a trip to the local landfill in our future…

What are your kids obsessed with?

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  1. Margo

    November 28, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    How funny!

  2. Heather McD

    November 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Ok, it's about time I leave you a comment. I don't have any kids (yet) so there are no odd obsessions in my house (except my cat loving barbeque chips, but that's beside the point). I just have to say that, even though I'm not a mom, I love reading your blog! You are so refreshingly honest about life and the humor that you're able to find in the midst of it all is amazing. Reading your stories actually makes me look forward to being a mom so much more. Sometimes I feel intimidated looking at other blogs. I'm planning on being a stay at home mom (teaching music lessons) and I'm absolutely convinced that I could never be that crafty or tidy or just downright perfect! And then I see your spin on things and realize I don't have to be in order to have a great life and raise some awesome kids. So I just wanted to thank you, not only for what you do, but for how you do it. You make me laugh and you make me feel much less nervous about the future. So thanks, and keep it up!

  3. adventuresindinner

    November 28, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Glad to see other people's living rooms looking like a bomb hit too 🙂 My Gran (who raised 9 kids by herself) called this a 'clean mess', happy, playing kids.

    My little one is now obsessed with the moon. We hear about it a million times a day and everything that is a circle is renamed the moon.

  4. Susan

    November 28, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    LOL Love his "obsession" 🙂

    My son was crazy nuts about flags when he was about 3-he had a plastic place mat with flags of the world on it-and would match them up with what he saw on TV during the Olympics that year.

    I knew it was serious when we drove past a Catholic church near our house and he said, "See that flag mom? ( no, not the TX one….no , not the US one…that yellow one!) It's the flag of the Vatican City…"
    He was 5 at the time.

    Now, at 25, he has graduated from college with a degree in International Relations and is a political junkie as well. Grad school is now. He knows more about geography/countries/issues than anyone I have ever known 🙂

    Maybe you son will help solve the trash issue plaguing the Earth? Maybe he will grow up to be a really great city planner? The ideas swirling in his head are so worth talking about and writing down…enjoy his play, for it will probably be his vocation in some way when he is grown up! Glad you have found a way to make it cool for him to do his thing 🙂

  5. Shiloh

    November 28, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    It's crazy what kids will fall in love with. I love how you are working with him to make a solution that is agreeable to both of you, rather than just shutting him down. Keep enjoying it:)

  6. Kate (KnitsInClass)

    November 28, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    My five year old is obsessed with construction and building. The kid has hammered more nails into random pieces of wood than I can count. Our house always sounds like there is a major construction project taking place and his favorite show is This Old House.

    It is indeed crazy what they fall in love with – props to you for letting him explore his obsession. And that video is way cool. I'll be sharing it with my kids later – I had no idea a garbage truck could pick up a basketball hoop like that!

  7. Danee

    November 28, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    thank you for allowing your child to love what he loves. Too many parents today try to mold their kids into what either said parent loved as a child or what said parent "Thinks" said child should love. Letting our kids be who they are and supporting that is really what makes a good parent.

    Thanks for the hilarious duct tape story.. I laughed all weekend.

  8. Madison

    November 29, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Blimey! I've never seen a garbage truck like that before. That side arm thing looks lethal! If our garbage truck was like that, I too would be hanging out the window watching it.

    Maybe a trip to the local landfill will abate the obsession. A good whiff of some fermenting rubbish sounds like a fun day out.

  9. Lindsay

    November 29, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Cool obsession! When i was a cub scout leader we took them to the landfill for a free tour. It was AWESOME, and probably the boys' favorite outing. We all learned a lot! You should check out your county to see if they do tours too.

  10. Anonymous

    November 30, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    My seven year old son is still in love with trash trucks. Our living room has looked just like yours! We use "YouTube time" to reward him for completeing his chores and good behavior at school. His obsession started when he was just old enough to pull himself up to a standing position to look out of the window on trash day. Our trashman looks for him on trash day. If he's home for a school holiday he will honk, raise the dumpster and wave. Just before he started school our trash hauler brought him out a notebook and pencil with their logo on it to encourage him to learn to read. Now that is service!!!

  11. 'Becca

    November 30, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    It's great that you've found a way to honor his interest while keeping your sanity!

    My son, almost 7, is always "putting on a show" of some kind. He isn't always patient about the fact that an audience isn't constantly available. But he definitely is developing some sense of what does and doesn't make a good show. Yesterday he did a 10-minute speech, illustrated with drawings and Lego models and partly narrated by stuffed animals, about "why animals want more trees and less roads." 🙂

    When he was 3, he went through a phase of not wanting to throw away ANY small bits of trash but instead storing them IN HIS SHOES SO HE WAS WALKING ON THEM. He never complained on the walk home from preschool, but his socks wore out more rapidly than they should. Every night after he was in bed, I would empty his shoes of 80% of the paper scraps, dry beans, sequins, paper clips, etc.–but if I took all of them, next morning he'd have a "Where's all my stuff?!" tantrum. It went on for about 3 months, but it finally did pass, whew!!

  12. imklvr

    December 3, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    As usual, you bring a smile to my day! Good for you, going along with your son! He'll grow up and remember how you let him "play"…and he'll let your grandkids play, too! Great job, mom!

  13. Tiff

    December 13, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    My son has Aspergers and is obsessed with fans. He builds them from Legos, draws them incessantly, watches You Tube videos about them. He knows the name of every brand and model, He can tell you what stores carry what fans, and how to install them (and take them apart). He's 6. I'm just glad he's not tall enough to take our fans apart. He would if he could. So I feel for you.

    We too do not hinder his interest and let him use our kitchen utensils to make fans with. But he knows that at 4:30 he has to put them back so I can cook. LOL

  14. Ajuwon

    April 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    U r awesome… U’ve made me look up towards a brighter future. It’s amazing… Chuckles:-)

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  17. Erin

    October 7, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Oh my gosh! That is so our house too! Our son is 4 and this has been going on since he was a year and a half. We experience the exact same things! Our house, namely the couch is the landfill, and trash is stuffed animals. We did visit the landfill and he recieved tons of stuff so now he gets dressed up in his vest, hard hat, gloves and boots to make his rounds, lol! He also knows all the different types and will sit and watch you tube videos of garbage trucks all day. He’s got over 10 different garbage trucks and loves to put junky toys (mc donald’s toys, legos, pieces of paper, trashies etc.) in his trucks and pick up trash. We recently had a trash truck party for his birthday too! It’s insane, lol!

  18. Em

    December 13, 2012 at 7:19 am

    When my son was between 2-4 he was OBSESSED with the vacuum! He would vacuum all the time…it was great 🙂 he even did a really good job! He would even vacuum at other peoples houses if he would see one. But unfortunately for me he has grown out of his obsession.

  19. Matt

    January 10, 2013 at 7:34 am

    My son is obsessed with garbage trucks. My wife and I constantly fight about it. He is a boy. When he’s 10 he is going to love baseball, 14 girls, 21 money, 30 his family. I am glad my son has a passion, and creativity. But yes we do need to harbor his garbage truck obsession.

  20. Matt

    January 10, 2013 at 7:41 am

    I love your response.

  21. Amanda

    March 1, 2013 at 12:32 am

    This sounds like an aspergers / autism trait. My son has aspergers and has always done this with maps! Maps everywhere, subway maps, theme park maps, maps of the mall, as well as all the state maps and US maps. We got him a “key map” for his 6th bday lol!

  22. Romy

    April 16, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    My 3 year old “takes out the trash” as well. It comes from watching Toy Story. It started with having “yard sales.” A yard sale meant she would find a box, fill it with toys, declare “Yard Sale!” and then dump it all over the floor. This was after watching Toy Story 2. Then came Toy Story 3. My husband has a thing for black t-shirts with one pocket. He’s had them since the 90s. My daughter decided these shirts looked like trash bags and fills them with stuff. One day I was trying to get her dressed and her dresser drawer was empty. Completely. I could not find any clothes in her room. Luckily I am not good about putting ALL the laundry away so I scraped an outfit together for the day. That night I tripped on a black shirt filled with all of her clothes that were going out in the trash. This phase has waned a bit. Now she wraps presents for everyone in blankets. Never a dull moment.

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