What Goes Around

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I’m having a bit of a crises of conscience.

I can’t help but wonder if I am contributing to the whole stuff deal by having a small space in an antique store. Am I perpetuating the very thing I’m attempting to control or eliminate in my own life? The collection of stuff?

I’d like to think in this whole big drama we call The Stuff Show, that I am on the right side of things. I see myself as a mild and minor protagonist. I am not heroic for saving someone else’s trash and converting it into treasure, I’m simply a cog in the wheel of a much larger machine.

I know that hoarders shop antique stores. But I also know there are people like me who appreciate pieces of furniture and useful items like vintage mixing bowls or an old paint splattered ladder and will purchase items judiciously after careful consideration.

There is so much stuff and most of us are just moving it from here to there. Too much of it is getting moved from here to the dump. Or tossed because the newer better thing has just come on the market.

In my own way I like to feel like I am helping to preserve history. The older I get the simpler I want things and so many of these items I buy and sell have magnificent stories. For instance I love the scarred kitchen table that can go on and on about the peas that have been shelled and corn that has been shucked at its side. It explains that many of its scars are from the slip of a knife off the cutting board or a pot placed on its surface before it was cool. The chair with the sagging seat talks in hushed tones about the many visitors it has had whereas the silver plated hand mirror would never say a thing about the secrets of others.

I don’t for a minute believe I am setting a bad example by repurposing or reselling cast off items. I am not creating a new problem. And I don’t believe I’m adding to one.

Put simply, I find neglected and forgotten items, love them back to health and offer them back out to the world. I am feeding consumerism and that part feels a bit inelegant, but I am not creating a need that doesn’t exist. I cannot control the habits of others. I am suggesting that if you need an item, check an antique store first, or a thrift store, or your own closets and drawers.

In The Stuff Show, I am a minor foot soldier on the team of good intentions. The Generals are the minimalists and the ocean cleaners and the zero wasters. I’m hopeful that we can all work together to create a minimally furnished world of beautifully patinaed treasures.

Naked Soap

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Now that I’ve counted and culled the bathrooms and linen closet it’s time to consider what’s left.

If I am truly using this exercise to be more  conscious of my purchases and choices then I need to spend some time contemplating what I’ve discovered.

As far as the above mentioned spaces are concerned I’ve identified three categories:

  1. Items used, that get used up – toilet paper, make-up, shampoo, etc.
  2. Decorative items – art work, decorative containers, superfluous things
  3. Items used on a continuous basis – towels, rugs, robes

I want to take my time to think about all three of these, but it’s that first one that is the most worrisome. Are there better choices? For me, for the environment? The answer is almost always yes.

Let’s look at some of these things up close and personal:

Nail polish remover. I would not need nail polish remover if I did not paint my toenails. I would not need nail polish either. And really probably not cotton balls. The only other reason I use cotton balls is to apply witch hazel on bug bites.

Soap. I have been transitioning from body wash and pump-style hand soap to bar soap recently. I have so many handmade soaps that I’ve been using for decoration that it seems silly to be buying plastic that will likely not get recycled when I can use something that will disintegrate with use over time. On a side note, I can also purchase this bar soap without any packaging which reduces waste even more.

A note to those concerned with bacteria and using the same bar of soap as someone else to wash your hands: in the nicest way possible, get over it. It’s soap, the more you use it, the cleaner your hands will get. We have created over-sensitive immune systems with all our anti-bacterial craziness. It has its place, but the general home bathroom isn’t it. Be brave. Unless you’re a doctor, then please sterilize your hands. And warm them up too, please.

Toothpaste. I’m not ready to make my own toothpaste.

First Aid. I feel justified in keeping the hydrogen peroxide, alcohol and witch hazel on hand. They last a long time.

Waste I know I will produce:

  • Toothbrushes – would electric be better? Are there compostable types?
  • Make-up containers – to be fair I use three items plus lip balm, I’m pretty low maintenance
  • Toilet paper – sorry, not sorry, gonna keep using this
  • Shampoo bottles – surely there is another option, refillable somewhere?
  • Razors – Larry does have an old fashioned one, I however do not
  • Lotion bottles – as with the shampoo, there may be great alternatives to uncover
  • Deodorant containers – crystal? Cream? Investigating

I can keep it to that and investigate other options. I can do better. In the investigation, ingredients and business practices will be taken into consideration. I love buying products from people I know. I have a face cream, lip balm and soap from various friends. I know there are good companies out there with sustainable practices and I intend to find them. I’ll be sure to share.

Speaking of friends, I have one who is a Zero Waste advocate. A serious one. She has built a whole non-profit business around it. I so admire the work she is doing and has done and she continues to inspire the choices I make. She is a big part of the inspiration behind this year long project. She has tons of suggestions on her site if you’re working on minimizing your stuff.

The second group of items is easier to work with. I don’t need any of them, they are there by preference. Some will stay, some will go. I’ll use Marie Kondo’s method of holding each item and asking myself if I love it. In the bathrooms, there are maybe a dozen of these items tops and most of them were purchased at vintage shops or given to me as gifts.

The third item in the list could use a little attention. For some reason, I have quite a few hand towels. I think I will replace those with washcloths in each bathroom, that just seems more practical. The hand towels can go to Good Will or better yet, a veterinary clinic.

The towels and rugs I use I’ve had a long time and feel pretty good about those choices. All cotton, soft and durable, when they wear out they’ll go the way of the hand towels.

All in all I feel pretty good about my progress. More investigation is called for into those items that are in containers that I keep purchasing. There are some great mindful companies out there using innovative packaging with exceptional products inside. I intend to find them and share.

Keeping the nail polish for now…It’s Florida, by feet rarely hibernate inside shoes. And I’m on the hunt for a biodegradable toothbrush option. I’m sure there’s one out there.

[Photo was taken at Lucky’s Market, my new obsession. Naked soap, miles of bulk foods and affordable organic veggies.]