A week or so ago, I decided to clean out my linen/medicine/toiletry closet. Yes, closet! There are four shelves, each dedicated to a different category – and it was a task. In fact, I only finished two of the shelves: medicine and toiletries. In so doing, I started to realize just how much waste I create in my own life. It was humbling.
To start with, I worked on the medicines, etc. A thorough check of all medicines should be made annually, if not twice a year. Although I’m married to a doctor who views expiration dates as a suggestion, I still feel the need to really go through everything. “It’s not worth getting sick over a few dollars,” is my motto. The medicines part is easy. The decision is simply: “old” or “new.” It’s pretty black and white. Of course it doesn’t change the fact that throwing away a half-used bottle of Tylenol still gives me pangs of guilt. But, I get over it. It’s not worthwhile to anyone anymore, so it’s time to get rid of it.
Toiletries, however, are much much harder. Why is it that I have 7 (seven!) different bottles of shampoo, not including travel-size? Do I really have that much hair? (I like to think I do, or at least I used to!) Furthermore, why is every bottle except one open and partially used? Am I really (really) going to need all of the hotel soaps, travel bottles and miscellaneous lotions I’ve collected over the years? Or, rather, am I ever going to use them? And, finally, why do I own cotton balls when I can’t remember ever using them? But I can’t throw any of this away. Why? Because I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed by the results of years of excess, hoarding and consumption. Additionally, it simply feels wrong to clean out the closet and discard a half-used bottle of lotion, because I forgot I had it and bought a new one. Though everything in me wants a clean start, I can’t bring myself to create more waste. So what do I do? I put it all back, a little more organized, a little tidier – until the Fall, when I will go through it all over again.
How did this happen? Where in my life did I learn to buy, buy, buy? I suppose the advertisers love someone like me. But I’m not alone in my consumption. There are millions more with similar habits. Buying, discarding, replacing – every day. So, how do we stop it? Can we? I don’t actually have the answer to these questions for a global society. What I do know is that I can change. I can opt to not buy another bottle of shampoo until I am on my last bottle. I can choose to change my behaviors and actions and take the time to figure out what I already have that will work – instead of looking to buy something new. Does this mean I am no longer going to be a consumer? No. It means I’m going to be a Conscious Consumer. Buying what I need, and using what I have.
This ‘epiphany’ doesn’t eliminate the guilt I have for years of waste, but it does change my perspective. I’m much more humble and grateful about the many blessings in my life. I appreciate what I have and think creatively about what I need. Life isn’t about having more. It’s about living more. In order to live more, I need to make healthier decisions, for myself, my family, my community and my planet.
In Love and Light,