Introduction: How to Pick Up Trash in Front of Your Home

This is a quick how-to guide to picking up trash in front of your home. It's really frustrating to walk out of your building and see trash. It makes you less happy to be living there, less inclined to go outside, and sends a message to your neighbors and people walking by that you don't care and neither should they.

People who make the small effort it takes to pick up trash often find that they've inspired their neighbors to do the same. And when a critical mass of people on your block keep the street clean, your block is lovelier and there's a sense of pride up and down the block. You're also more likely to get to know your friendlier neighbors because you'll be out on the street a bit more.

You may agree with all of that and still think, "but why in the world do I have to actually pick it up myself?" It sounds gross and like a total pain. But it's actually not if you follow my advice.

To do this Instructable, you need:
-A home
-A bag
-Napkins or tissue papers
-Access to trash and/or recycling cans

Picking up trash in front of your building is an item on the Neighbor's Checklist.

Step 1: Be Prepared

Most people don't like to handle trash with their hands. Like me. If you're one of them, I recommend carrying napkins or tissue in your purse or man bag. I always keep a supply, partly because I accumulate them without meaning to at various meals and partly because they come in really handy for all sorts of situations like when a bird craps on you, you fall and bleed, you get food on your clothes or when you visit a toilet-paperless bathroom.

Step 2: Find a Moment to Pause

There are some good souls who actually go out on the weekends or every morning and pick up trash. I have a friend who has done this in his neighborhood, going into neighbors' backyards with a trash bag and a sharp stick. And I used to see a lot of older people out with brooms sweeping their stoop and sidewalk in the mornings when I lived in Brooklyn.

Realistically, most of us aren't that motivated. It's much more likely that we have a very narrow window for picking up trash, when we're walking back into our buildings on the way home from work or a weekend errand. I find that the best time for me is on my way home from work; I usually don't have too many things in my hand, and I'm on my way to a place that definitely has a trash can. I've also occasionally found that it's easy to pick up less disgusting items when I'm on my way in or out from an errand on the weekend. I also often pick up paper trash, like door handle ads, on my way home from my daily run.

You should look for these occasions and remind yourself to stop for a second and pick up trash. I don't stop all the time; what usually gets me to pause is when I see street trash that just can't be ignored. Today I saw an unusually bad build up of various kinds of trash. So I stopped.

At a previous home, I would occasionally collect all of the paper ads on the stairs, porch and sidewalk of the house next to me after the elderly woman who lived there moved out and it went up for sale. It would often just be ridiculous looking, and it took less than a minute to collect all of the trash; I disposed of them in the trash can on the corner.

I also found that I had to do a lot of trash pick up last spring when there was a competitive election in my neighborhood. One of the candidates made it a habit to rip off all of the other candidate's door handle ads in the neighborhood and leave them scrunched up in odd places around my building. My recycling output increased a lot in the week leading up to the election.

Step 3: Pick It Up!

For the trash that you don't want to touch, whip out your napkins and use them to pick it up and carry to the nearest trash can.

For the trash that you are fine handling au natural, which is usually paper ads on the door handle or stoop, just pick it up.

Step 4: Dispose of It

If you picked up anything with a napkin, look for a trash can on your street or carry into your home and put it in the trash.

Since it's trash day today, I found a garbage can right next to my building and put the cup and lid right into the can. Some streets also have trash cans on the corner. If you put your trash into someone else's garbage can, make sure that you close it securely.

If you picked up dry paper trash, bring it into your home and put it into your recycling can with your normal paper recycling.

Step 5: Germaphobe Option: Wash Your Hands

Since I use a napkin and am careful what I pick up by hand, I don't usually feel the need to clean my hands after I pick up trash. However, I know that many people are mortally afraid of any germs. So now that you're at home, wash your hands.

Step 6: Enjoy Your Clean Sidewalk!

Be proud of what you've done. Take a moment on your way out of your building next time you leave to look around and enjoy your newly clean sidewalk!

And of course, don't litter!

Step 7: What Not to Pick Up

I'm adding an addendum on things I recommend that you not even try to pick up. For me this includes dog shit and things that are likely to permeate through a couple of napkins: soggy whatever. If I were a dog owner, I would definitely pick up my own dog's crap, but I refuse to pick up other people's dog crap even when it's wrapped up in a plastic bag.