The other day, I was walking my dog in the park and picking up litter, while wracking my brain for ways to make more money. For the last 7 years, I have not been able to pay my bills by gardening, since my Social Security survivor’s benefits from my late husband ended. My parents have been subsidizing me with loans, but that can’t go on forever.
The amount of money I can make as a private gardener is limited by the number of people I can serve, which is less than a dozen, and by the amount that each can afford to pay. I’m also 55, and the heavy work of gardening is starting to wear out my body.
I suddenly realized that I was already serving the whole city by picking up litter, and I should get paid for that. I had a vision of a bright green advertising tunic, telling people what I do and asking for donations.
I don’t pick up trash because I like to do so, any more than I garden because I like the hard work. I do it because I have developed a passion for order and cleanliness through my work; I like the look. Gardening is keeping order out of doors; picking up the litter is the first step. It is relatively easy work that desperately needs to be done, every day, somewhere.
Wearing the tunic, I have a different attitude toward litter now. Before, it just disgusted, especially when it was concentrated in one area, slowing me down. Now it’s an opportunity to wear the tunic and possibly make money. Plus, the mere act of picking it up while drawing attention to it with the tunic should get people to see litter and pick it up themselves.
But there is a tension in picking up litter for donations; one has to be seen doing the work, at least at first. For now, I must stick to the main roads where I can be seen, when people are out to see me. Once I start collecting enough donations from my website to pay my bills, I can work the alleys, side streets, parks and vagrant camping spots more. Disorderly vagrants mark their territories with litter; picking it up discourages camping and other disorderly conduct.
If you want this work to continue and expand, please go to GPgardener.com and donate. Right now, I’m working for customers 3 days a week and picking up litter for two. If I get enough donations, I will not replace my customers as they drop out by attrition, and will expand the days I do litter cleaning. If I don’t get enough money from this, I will have to find another job, and my customers and the city will lose the benefit of my private gardening and public litter cleaning.