People's Hobbies: To Keep a Notebook or to Dumpster Dive

Have you ever picked up a hobby or habit that others may find, peculiar? Everyone does something that would be seen as questionable to others. Most people like to try new things, no matter how peculiar they seem. In two texts, “On Keeping a Notebook” by Joan Didion and “On Dumpster Diving” by Lars Eighner, both authors describe habits they have. Didion explains that she keeps a notebook to help keep memories. Eighner explains that he dumpster dives in order to survive.

After reading both texts, one can decide which habit they are likely to pick up or try.

“On Keeping a Notebook” by Joan Didion

In “On Keeping a Notebook”, Joan Didion writes about memories she keeps in a notebook of hers. Didion explains why she keeps her notebook: “Why did I write it down? In order to remember, of course…the impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it…” (Didion 1, paragraph 3).

Joan Didion explains that writing down events is so she can remember them, and she acknowledges that her, writing can be strange to those who do not write like her, or understand why she writes at all. As Didion further describes her writing, she also says that those who keep notebooks usually are similar: “Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things…” (Didion 1, paragraph 3). Didion places all the keepers of notebooks in a category, and recognizes that they have many reasons to write.

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Keeping a notebook seems appealing if one would like to remember events as they grow old.

“On Dumpster Diving” by Lars Eighner

In “On Dumpster Diving”, Eighner talks about his journey to scavenging and how it changed him. Eighner does not like the use of the phrase “dumpster diving” to describe what he does: “Dumpster Diving seems to me to be a little too cute and, in my case, inaccurate” (Eighner 713, paragraph 3). To start, Eighner wants it to be known that he prefers the word scavenging to describe his hobby. Eighner mentions that he basically finds anything he would need out of a dumpster: “The necessities of daily life I began to extract from dumpsters… I acquired so many things from dumpsters” (Eighner 713, paragraph 5). Since scavenging has become a way of life for Eighner, he says that he has found lots of useful items in dumpsters. He depends on these things in order to survive, considering he is homeless. One may pick up scavenging if they want to acquire items they can use without buying them.

Which Hobby I Would Choose

If I had to choose one habit/ hobby to pick up, it would probably be to keep a notebook full of memories, as Joan Didion. To me, keeping a notebook full of memories will help me to recount, in detail, what happened on a specific day. Joan Didion sometimes adds exaggeration to the events in her notebook: “So the point of keeping a notebook has never been, nor is it now, to have an accurate factual record of what I have been doing or thinking…boredom has so overcome me that the results are mysterious at best” (Didion 2, paragraph 2). Didion understands that the memories in her notebook are not factual, but she writes things down in an effort to have something to do. She writes memories that possibly never happened, but says this is to make sure she does not lose her sense of wonder or her imagination. Didion writes, “… I tell myself, and then some morning when the world seems drained of wonder… I will simply open my notebook and there it will all be…” (Didion 3, paragraph 1). Keeping this notebook full of memories that are not factual keeps life interesting for her. Didion’s text may have been disorganized or vague, but I understood her point well. Reading it made sense to me and made me want to grab a notebook and get to writing. Writing can also be life changing for me because it may help discover characteristics about myself. I may even gain a sense of wonder.

I would not choose to dumpster dive, or scavenge, because this activity is not interesting to me at all. Digging through garbage to look for food and other items is not appealing to me. In order to scavenge for food, Eighner uses a system to help him figure out what is safe to eat: “Eating safely from the Dumpster involves three principles: using the senses and common sense to evaluate the condition of the found materials, knowing the Dumpsters of a given area and checking them regularly, and seeking always to answer the question ‘Why was this discarded?’”(Eighner 714, paragraph 1). For every food item that Eighner finds in the dumpster, he has to make sure he uses these principles, or he might get sick. In my opinion, this is a lot of work for one to do in order to eat. I would not want to be burdened by this activity. Eighner acknowledges that scavenging can be embarrassing to one who is doing it for the first time: “At first the new scavenger is filled with disgust and self-loathing. He is ashamed of being seen and may lurk around, trying to duck behind things, or he may try to dive at night”(Eighner 718, paragraph 4). If I were to scavenge, I would definitely be one of the embarrassed ones. This is why I’d rather skip this activity altogether because I would not want to be seen. Eighner’s essay is very organized, as he breaks the items he scavenges for in their own categories. He does not place them all over the place like Didion does, but I still would not choose to scavenge.

On the contrary, some may say that dumpster diving/ scavenging is better because the conditions may be more relatable. They feel that any day they can be placed in Eighner’s shoes and be able to relate to him. According to the background to “On Dumpster Diving”, “After leaving his job over a policy dispute in 1988 and falling behind his rent payments, Eighner became homeless” (Eighner 712, paragraph 1). It is true that at any moment one can be placed in Eighner’s shoes and may need to scavenge at a time like that. However, Didion acknowledges that her notebook is personalized for her, and stresses that one’s notebook should be just for them: “But our notebooks give us away, for however dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable ‘I’”(Didion 3, paragraph 4). This means that people can see an object or an item, and still all have their different views on what they see. Didion is stressing in this sentence that we all should personalize what we see and place it in a notebook.


In Summary, it is in one’s human nature to develop habits and hobbies. Some of these habits and hobbies may seem questionable and unusual. In the texts “On Keeping a Notebook” and “On Dumpster Diving”, the authors explain the hobbies they have that may seem peculiar to others. Joan Didion explains how keeping a notebook with memories has helped her keep her sense of imagination over the years. Lars Eighner explains that dumpster diving/ scavenging has provided him with the necessities he needs while being homeless. In my opinion, keeping a notebook is more appealing because keeping a notebook can help recount many memories. Going dumpster diving/ scavenging would be an embarrassing activity to me. One may say dumpster diving would be more relatable than keeping a notebook, but keeping a notebook tailors one’s memories to themselves. After reading both texts, I wonder how many other peculiar habits are out there.

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People's Hobbies: To Keep a Notebook or to Dumpster Dive. (2022, Mar 14). Retrieved from

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