3 items you don’t really need

Ah, lists. Sometimes I have to repeat these little lists to myself like a mantra. It’s a process. Getting yourself to form new habits and break old ones is work. But sometimes it’s rewarding, and the outcome feels like the opposite of work. You might actually end up feeling happier and somehow…lighter. 🙂

Of course, your list(s) might look really different from mine. I’d say that as a rule, it’s good practice to address anything that feels to you like ‘clutter’; anything that feels like it’s a compulsion, a procrastination, or a distraction from boredom. It’s probably the anxiety or the boredom that’s the real problem of course.

I guess it’s not always about getting rid of another item or category of items. Yes, we consume too much stuff and yes the outcome is a disaster waiting to become a catastrophe. But sometimes, I think the best way to create a behavior change you can actually stick to is by re-prioritizing or re-introducing something else back into your life (something non-material, for example). I personally don’t want to measure my own worth in terms of what I can go without, or what I can abstain from. So I find it helpful sometimes to replace an item (or maybe even an activity – my guilty activity is watching TV re-runs even when I’m not really enjoying it…there’s only so much Twilight Zone you can absorb in one sitting) that feels like a compulsion, a distraction, or ‘clutter’, with something that feels meaningful and worthwhile to you. Something you feel good about. And not just non-guilty about, but actually positively good. I see a lot of ads that try to extract the guilt from spending and consuming (“all the ____ without the guilt!”); trying to address the negative issue of guilt in order to convince people to keep shopping. How about we spend some time dealing with the positive issue of meaningfulness? Instead of shopping online (especially if we don’t feel that good about it), we could write a story or play a game or listen to a concert or have a drink with a friend or…whatever floats your boat.

Just a thought.

Anyway, here’s a short list of things I’ve gotten hung up on at some point or other that nobody really needs:

1) A million body and beauty products

I know that’s cheating. A million things isn’t one item. I cheated.

But seriously. I challenge you to think of one that can’t be put into one of four categories: soap, oil, paint, or smelly stuff.

Body wash, scrub, cleanser, shampoo…all soap. I’ve used one type of vegetable-based non-perfumed soap on my body, face, and hair, with no ill-effects. And my husband has a sensitive nose, so if I were stinky, he’d tell me.

Lotion, cream, butter, conditioner, moisturizer…all oil. I’ve found much of it can be more cheaply and easily replaced with your vegetable/plant oil of choice.

Paint is all the makeup. (I guess some of it is powder, but whatever.) I’ve enjoyed putting on makeup in the past sometimes. I like to look ‘pretty’. I’ve also been addicted to lip balm, to the extent that I put it on compulsively, bought it compulsively, and my lips were completely destroyed…I’m assuming because I deprived them of their capacity to moisturize themselves without constant outside intervention.

And I guess wearing it is fine, within limits. But you do NOT need makeup, and if you start feeling like you cannot go outside without it, maybe you might want to slow down and think a bit. I’ve heard people say that women should wear makeup to look professional, to be powerful, to be attractive, and/or to express themselves. This idea is pretty pervasive. And I have to flat-out disagree: I can express myself without makeup just fine. And if people didn’t expect to see makeup on women, they wouldn’t regard women wearing no makeup as unattractive or ‘tired-looking’ or ‘sickly’ or somehow ‘less-than’. That is what women’s faces really look like! If we see these real faces as ‘less-than’, it simply must be our expectations that are out of whack. There is nothing in the world you can do with makeup that you inherently cannot do without it. Let’s not forget that most men get along fine without it, so any difference it makes to our quality of life is due to human expectations and interpretation.

2) New clothes

OK, I never actually was hung up on having new clothes. I like shopping at thrift stores much better than going to the mall. Mostly for practical reasons, like it costs me WAY less, I can find clothes that actually fit me because they were worn by real women and not just manikins, and the sales clerks are much less annoying and pushy. 😛

I get that somebody has to buy some clothes new so that folks like me can later buy them used. So universally prescribing that everyone buy only used clothing wouldn’t work for very long. I understand that completely. But for now, there are lots and lots and LOTS of somebodies buying LOTS of new clothes, and getting rid of them long before they even have a hole or a worn spot in them. And not all of these clothes even make it to a donation bin or garage sale; a lot of them still go into the trash! Plus, a bunch of excess clothing donations end up being shipped overseas just because they’re last season’s fashion or something – which might sound philanthropic, but they aren’t typically donated to people who can’t afford good clothes…sometimes they just become somebody else’s disposal problem, or more often they get sold for super-cheap and can undercut local clothing producers. So with all this excess, and all these good clothes being trashed, a significant chunk of us could comfortably get by without buying any new clothes at all, or at least buying a LOT less. I actually hope to see the thrift stores a little less overflowing in the future, because I think the over-abundance of used clothing is a sign that we are producing and buying WAY too many clothes to begin with. I wouldn’t want thrift stores to give people an excuse to buy even more new clothing…(for some people, I think thrift stores solve the guilt problem of shopping for new clothes. “When I’m tired of these clothes, I’ll donate them to charity!”)

In the meantime, we’re really going to have to figure out more ethical and less environmentally destructive ways to clothe ourselves. Or become nudists when the season allows. I’m good with either/both.

3)   Lots of new shoes

Same as above, except shoes are even more problematic when they’re made cheaply and wear out too fast. A couple pairs of really good comfy shoes are better than a million really fashionable ones that break in a couple months.

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