The Small Pleasures Inherent In Using Things Up

Lately I’ve been focused on trying to use things up.  It has been a very pleasant and rewarding process.

After the kids left for college, I slowly came to realize that we have lots of extra stuff around.  My first step was to inventory what we had.  What I found amazed me.  We had more than a dozen cans of shaving cream, about 30 unused disposable razors, 10 different kinds of shampoo, and a large box full of bars of soap — and that’s just in the personal hygiene category.  We also had countless pens and pencils, notebooks and pads of paper, iPod chargers and earbuds and extension cords.  So, I put them all together and, for some time now, have been slowly using these household goods — drop by drop, lather by lather, blade by blade, and pen by pen — until they are used up and can be discarded in good conscience.  I’ll probably never have to buy a can of shaving cream again.

This effort has been extremely satisfying, and not just because it scratches my cheapskate itch.  I’m one of those people who think the advertising-driven consumer culture makes Americans accumulate too much stuff.  We end up with all of these unnecessary possessions, and then we cart them around with us from place to place.  It becomes absurd, and suffocating, and embarrassing.  No human needs a dozen cans of shaving cream or a hundred perfectly good pens.  Using them makes me feel a bit more responsible, a bit more virtuous, and a bit less egregious in our contribution to waste and conspicuous consumption.  Every time I use one of these items it’s like I’ve won a small but meaningful battle against the overwhelming forces of consumerism — and that feels good.

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