9 Days of Nice: Clean Up a Public Space

I’m spending the next nine days being as nice as I, personally, am capable of being.  I’d love it if you played along!  You can check out our plans here, paste your photos on the Yes and Yes Facebook page or hashtag it out with #9daysofnice.


Does this seem small and not-a-big-deal-y?  Yes.  I mean, that’s what I thought. But then a runaway cart left $150 worth of scratches on my car and I thought “Gosh, but it would be nice if someone would have pushed their cart all the way back to the corral, instead of leaving it at the edge of the parking lot.”
And really?  Everybody should return their shopping cart, and make sure their paper towels actually land in the garbage can, and wipe out the office microwave when their Lean Cuisine bubbles over.  But we all get busy and distracted sometimes.

So yesterday when I went to Target, I spent way too much time looking at skin care products and cute underwear, but I also shepherded two carts back into the corral, picked a few paper towels off the bathroom floor, snatched up a plastic bag that was blowing around the parking lot.  It was totally, totally not a big deal but my-pissed-about-those-car-scratches self thanked me.Do you ever clean up public spaces?  (I’m also the person who occasionally ‘secret cleans’ my apartment building when I’m not satisfied with the manager’s vacuuming job.)

photo by schizoform, creative commons



I used to work in a supermarket and having to collect all the carts (trollies since it's the UK!) was always one of the worst jobs – especially since I can only take four at once! We'd have to do it whether it was snowing or pouring down with rain, so that particular act of niceness is one I now always do, especially since I know how much it is appreciated.

Shannon Henszel

i try to always return my cart too. Recently I've begun trying a little harder to go the extra step and pick up the rubbish at the bus stop, even when it's soggy and wet and gross. Also I like to occasionally pull canned groceries to the front of shelves at the shop and if I decide I don't want something, i put it back where i found it, rather than leaving it on a shelf next to where I'm standing.

Ginger Mandy

I always return my own cart and sometimes grab runaway carts as well because they drive me sooooo crazy. My grocery store has spaces for carts all throughout the parking lot, so it's not like you even have to bring it all the way back to the store. Way worth the tiny effort to keep from scratching up a car!

Kaitlin Marie

Back when I used to run middle school cross country, I would take time during our daily practices to snatch up random plastic bags and those plastic six-pack soda holders that are so dangerous for animals. The coaches used to call me the "trash brigade", which was kind of embarassing, but it never stopped me.

I'm still the oddball picking up trash that isn't mine from time to time. And I always cut up those plastic six pack holders before throwing them out. I don't want to be responsible for choking some poor animal.

So yay for public clean ups!


This is wonderful! It's the small things that add up to the "wow that was really generous, you went way out of your way to be nice" things. The other day I helped my (I'm guessing) 80-yr-old neighbor with her groceries. It seemed cliche, like the "nice" thing you always hear of others doing, but she smiled and was so grateful. It maybe took 7 extra minutes out of my day.

I also give what I'd like to receive. I don't give so I can receive, but you get the point. If I think "man I really wish someone would surprise me at work with a cup of coffee" then I surprise someone at work with a cup of coffee. It normally comes back around but if it doesn't —the giving is 95% of the time better anyway.


I'm always flabbergasted that people can't take two minutes to put the cart away. I'm frequently taking my cart and the cart left near my car back to the store. Oh, and I'm herding a two-year-old. Seriously, people?

Alicia Cumming

Wow, 150 dollars to fix a few scratches. I wouldn't have bothered, as something else would happen to my car later, I'm sure. But it's when you're known as the one responsible for scratches or dents of any kind (accidentally!) that people will especially want to get it fixed because you'll pay for it out of principle. My dad once had to pay someone over a thousand dollars to fix a small dent in someone's car he'd accidently caused. Over a thousand dollars. Recently a strong wind blew as I was opening my car door (not keeping a proper grip on it) and it hit a lady's car. The miniscule dent was at least 100 dollars-which I didn't have to pay, but yeesh. *Thank you, lady. *Hoping you won't care about your car having a tinytiny dent, buuut people do.

Mary W

My apartment is down hill from the main path and the trees, so all of the dead leaves collect in front of our door. I make it a point, every time I sweep, to be sure to sweep the doorstep of the elderly woman who lives across from us, even though I've never met her, and to sweep the bottom few stairs that I can reach, and all the way up to the main path. We're not too fond of our upstairs neighbors, but we'd rather kill them with kindness 😉


I used to work at a children's museum and besides the constant on the floor cleaning, the bathrooms were always a mess. Since working there, I have never had a problem spending an extra few moments to flush a toilet, pick up stray towels, tp, and the like, or even simply push the paper towels down. I also make it a priority to let someone know when something in the bathroom needs looking after, because otherwise people will ignore it until it becomes a huge, messy problem!


One time when it was pouring rain I saw someone leave their grocery cart in the middle of the parking lot, which was on a hill. The cart rolled away, picked up speed and put a big dent in the side of someone's car. I couldn't get their license plate or grab the cart, so I could only watch in horror. Now I always park at the top of the lot!

I've helped clean up places at times, but I'm challenged to do more. One time that I helped out with an Adopt-a-Highway cleanup day I was astounded at how much stuff was discarded along the road!

m e l i g r o s a

I find myself taking used coffee cups to its tray at local coffee shops. They are all like my extended living rooms, so I just pick them up, especially if someone is just there working alone. It could be that maybe it takes someone who has previously worked retail to know that sometimes you don't get paid enough to care, but there are many that have been there, and do care. I see this a lot in supermarkets.
I also always hang+carry clothes out the dressing room. Can never bring myself to just leave it there for someone to take it the same way I'm going (out!) anyways. oy.

Katie Lee

This has been something I've actually made a point to do for a long time. I'd like to say it's just to leave a space better than I found it, but honestly it makes me feel so good that I seek out ways to do it all the time. Imagine how awesome and clean our world would be if everyone took 10 seconds to clean the space around them before leaving? It's such a small task, but important to point out. Thanks!


i always put the carts away. I frequently pick up trash like when i take a walk, invariably I will find a loathsome plastic bag blowing around, so I will take that bag and pick up trash as I go. And when I eat in that kind of a restaurant, I clear the tables and push the chairs in around me – I've worked in that kind of place and have a lot of sympathy for those workers. A few years ago when I did a big purge of my stuff, I found I had acquired quite a few little toy things – like happy meal games or those travel games, a few warner bros character figurines that are bendy – a bunch of stuff that kids would like. All the big stuff went to the nearest thrift store, but I took that box of doodads to the local playground early in the morn – like 5 am – and hid all the toys all over the playground. I had such fun hiding those little toys thinking how delighted the kids would be to find 'em. It really does make one feel good doing those little nice things.


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