Composting the Ministry

shredded paper for compost

It is January, and I am finally feeling the urge to clean up files and books in my basement office.  It took a while.  Many of these I had brought home after cleaning up my office at the church when I retired last summer, but even most of what was already here is from my work as a minister. Cleaning up the files is one way to make space as I discern who I am in this next chapter of my life.

I got a big boost in motivation when I learned that shredded white paper can be composted.  That’s right! I don’t even have to send it to recycling, I can add it to our composting right here. Composting works with a mixture of nitrogen sources (“green” for short) and carbon sources (“brown” for short.) Paper counts as a carbon source (brown), like the dead leaves or coffee chaff that we are already using.  Each time we bring out kitchen waste (green) to the outdoor compost bin, we also cover it with a pile of carbon sources (brown.)  (Usually, you want more volume of brown sources to green source, maybe about 3 to 1, but the exact ratio isn’t something to worry about.)

I don’t like the idea of throwing things “away,” which just clogs up landfills–since there really is no “away.”  So it makes a big difference that I can compost paper.  Somehow it seems so fitting to compost the remnants of my life as a minister into substances that can rejuvenate the earth. Not that I’ve stopped being a minister–but I will be a different sort of minister from the minister who led a congregation.

As it happens, on the same day I decided to start in on the basement, Netflix released a season of Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up show.  I like her guidance to hold each item, and if it “sparks joy” keep it, and if not, thank it and move it along.  What a beautiful idea, to thank the things that have served us in the past!  I think she also mentions asking, “Do you want to bring this into the future with you?”  (Please don’t quote me on the details–I haven’t read her book.)  Watching the shows provide another boost of motivation.  For me, the process of tidying up my files and books in the basement is about imagining what I will need for the future, what I want to “archive” from the past, and what I no longer need to keep.

(And if by any chance you are worried that I would compost the books–no, no, no–most likely, I will donate books I no longer need to the library, or to friends and colleagues that might want them.)

By tidying up and reorganizing my papers and books, I hope that a spaciousness will be created in which the future has room to be born.  May it be so.




4 thoughts on “Composting the Ministry

  1. Great article. I scan all my documents so I do not have paper files. Everything is digitized. We also want to start up composting for our garden. Just hesitant because of the smell and bugs it would attract and how to really build one that will last.

    • Hey Jim, we have found composting to be fairly easy–we have a compost container for food waste (that we put leaves on each time and that keeps any smell down) and we also have an open compost bin for yard waste. Hope you check it out!

  2. Oh Myke, I adore this particular post! What to do with all those old sermons and ritual services…this is perfect!

    Have you ever considered a worm “farm? (Really just worms in a tote box of soil and organic matter. It’s clean and doesn’t smell–they say.)

    Worms feast on paper as well as greens. I know someone who keeps them and shares their castings with friends–though she could (in theory) sell this material online for big $$. She gives her worms shredded paper as well as vegetable scraps.

    • Hey Deb, great to hear from you… years ago, I had a worm farm in a basement. They can’t be outside in the frozen north. Downside was fruit flies, which sort of turned me off to them. But I was young… probably made some errors.

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