The "What if"

For a recent speaking engagement, I had to spend the night in a hotel. I had work to finish up and I thought about ordering room service for dinner, but the disposables that are now used (e.g., plastic wrap on the dish, individual condiments, glass cap, etc.) dissuaded me to eat in. I went down to the restaurant, computer in hand, and set myself up in a dining booth. I was planning on having  a productive dinner...

A few minutes later, a woman sat down three tables away, and in a shrill voice, shared her cell phone conversation with the rest of us: "Yeah, I suck at emails", "Just make sure you bring enough booze", "This is going to be so much fun". It was simply impossible to ignore her conversation. At the end of her meal, she called the waiter: "I would like to take that glass of wine to my room. Do you have a cap for it? I would not want to spill on my pants!". So much for not to ordering room service to save a cap, I thought to myself. But beyond my innate sarcastic thinking, her request struck me. On my way back to the room, I reflected on the need for that cap, along with the piles of paper napkins that get handed out at the fast food joints (in case we spill), the cone holder at the ice cream parlour (in case the bottom leaks out), the plastic sleeves at the dry cleaner's (in case we dirty our shirts on our way home), and the long list of unneeded service items enumerated in my book.

I asked myself:  Has our society become so fearful of the "What if" that it has to apprehend any eventuality "Just in case"?

If that lady could have transported her wine back - sans cap - to her room without spilling on her pants, wouldn't it mean that the cap that she ordered "just in case" is a waste? A waste of the natural resources required to make the cap?

Our fear of the "What if" extends beyond the service industry: Our society hoards countless items justified by the "Just in Case" at home too. We're so afraid of being in need that we hold onto items that we rarely use, and often never will. "What if" is the number one pretext that I hear on the job.

Here are some examples:
  • A common wardrobe carries clothing reminiscent of earlier days - What if ponchos come back in style?, slimmer days - What if I loose weight?, and hopes of being invited to a fancy affair - What if I am invited to a wedding?
  • A kitchen shelf, full of sleek martini glasses - What if I want to throw a soiree?
  • A medicine cabinet, a plethora of remedies for potential conditions - What if my rash comes back?
  • In the garage, we find a knee brace - What if I tear a ligament again? and golf clubs - What if I am invited to play golf? 
  • A woman's purse, hand sanitizer - What if I needed to wash my hands?
  • Under the bed, sometimes a gun - What if a burglar broke into my home? (in Europe, while it is uncommon for Europeans to own guns, it is not uncommon for them to want to keep things "just in case there is a war again")

People like to share with me that they recently started using something that they had kept for 20 years. "See, Bea, it was worth keeping all these years!" Was it? Overtime the bulk of such belongings required the purchase of a bigger house, a bigger closet, a bigger garage, a bigger attic; it had to be moved from house to house; it required storing and organizing... sometimes it even requires the rental of a storage unit! Storage facilities thrive on ours fears of letting go -and our forgetting the automatic monthly fee.

Of course, one has to practice common sense and  preparedness when living in a disaster prone region. We have an earthquake kit on hand, for example. But beyond that, the true need for everything that we own, down to measuring spoons has been questioned. I mention measuring spoons because they're the last items that I was holding on to "just in case", and I recently let go... My reason being: If my mom does not need them, why would I? Throughout my years of simple living, I have learned that none of the things I have given up are missed and I have come to trust that for each object that I let go, an alternative solution lies within the few necessities that I own (our existing flatware has replaced measuring spoons, for example).

Next time you're stuck on the "What if I need it?", allow yourself to question the other "What if":

"What if I did not need it?" Because, chances are, you won't! Free yourself of that fear, free yourself from the stuff that you do not truly need: The simple life is not scary, it's liberating. Trust that a minimum is enough, trust that you can transport a glass of wine back to your room without spilling on your pants ;)

Now is an ideal time to give back to the community, to boost the secondhand market by letting others have access to those resources, by making them available to holiday shoppers. Is any one out there ready to let go of black raingear, size 14 boys ;)?

What are you hanging onto by fear of needing it?


67 comments:

  1. What timing. This morning I realized my apartment and my bag for work are filled with items specifically kept for "what if?":

    Work Bag - contact solution (if my contacts freak out and I need something for it), makeup bag (in case I go out after work and don't have time to go home), my inhaler, a pen and little notebook, cell phone, a book to read, a scarf in case it's chilly in the office or wherever I go, tissues, wallet, ear buds for phone, phone charger. and more.

    Thinking I don't NEED every item in my work bag. Nor every item in my apartment.

    Need to donate many, many things this month.

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    1. One thing i noticed in my handbag this week was the loyalty cards. I don't shop much and they are there just in case I get photos developed or need some more hiking gear.

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  2. Hi Bea-

    Wonderful post! I have found this type of "worst-case scenario" thinking applies to areas other than "stuff" at drastically alarming rates. Similar to the thinking behind why someone may keep a gun around, we have given into the fear of worst-case thinking.

    What if my child runs into a stranger while outside?
    For example, I believe this type of thinking limits a child's learning, independence, personal responsibility and social skills. Is that really a reason for someone not to let their 9 year old play outside? Because they might talk to a stranger and that stranger has an extremely low chance of causing harm? We are constantly bombarded with *rare* stories of bad things happening on the news--only to forget if it's on the news, it's a rare occurrence.

    But back to the wine. I remember one oh-so-drastic (!) day of when I spilled my wine on myself on my Marc Jacobs dress. Red on light peach. It came out. I also drink quite a lot of wine :-) so what about all the times I didn't spill my wine? The spill is a very rare incident indeed--but nobody enjoys a story or a news blurb about something that a majority of the time doesn't happen.

    We have a tendency to believe the worst about everything (others + ourselves) if we don't stop to rationally think about things, and are constantly being bombarded with negative messaging. I've made it an effort to stop this type of thinking in my own life, and it's served me well on several fronts ;-)

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  3. My favorite "What If" is, what if we all decided to give up disposable things? I love the phrase "what if" but our society has definitely taken it to a place that makes me sad.

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  4. Bea, your post is spot-on! My Dad often says that... "You should keep it, you never know!" He is great at reusing and upcycling and loves tinkering/odd jobs, but this also means he has a shed full of stuff. He recently had a conversation with my brother and as a result purged his shed of a lot of things he realised he didn't really need. The conversation went like this:
    Dad: "Non mais garde-le, ça peut servir, on sait jamais..."
    Brother: "Si, on sait. Jamais!"
    :)

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    1. Ah ah excellent ! The generation born during and after the war generally has a harder time to part with things, the laters generations are on the opposite side of the spectrum. We need to meet somewhere somehow.

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    2. Love this comment. "On sait jamais" made me laugh. J'essaie de ne pas raisonner comme ça moi-même mais parfois, cela me prend...

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  5. I furnished my apartment with street finds and now that it is fully furnished, I still find treasures on the sidewalk, it is hard to leave just them there. "What if" I moved to a bigger apartment one day and need more chairs? "What if" I went in the business of refurbished antiques ? I finally got a grip on my gleaning of furniture habit ... but I have now turned to clothes. It is crazy how many brand names garments you can find politely folded into bags, 5 minutes away from the nearest Relay box in my area. I bring them home, make a selection for my cousin and I and if the harvest is good I bring the rest to the local church Vestiaire where it will be donated to families of the neighborhood. If it's not that good, I take it to the Relay box, where it will be sold to a textile recycler.

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  6. Anonymous12/09/2013

    Great post I just started looking at things in house to see what we really need, what we can give the second hand store, and some what if items.

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  7. This is a great post. I am slowly going through my whole life and peeling back all the layers of what I need. Generally I have always had less stuff as I have moved about many times.

    Right now it is a few clothing items that i have never worn but might in the future. I recently did a cull and think that now i could do a bigger one.

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  8. I was just discussing this with my husband about an hour ago. We were debating what to keep and what to donate of our daughter's old clothes. Some of it she's only worn once or simply grown out of. We have sentimental attachment to some pieces, like what we brought her home in and some other early outfits. I'm not ready to let go of those yet. But the challenge now is what to do with the things that we are willing to give up. We have been debating holding on to certain pieces for the next child. Instead of asking myself that and trying to find space to store all that clothing for the next three years, I could think of it a different way. What if it's not another girl? What if a little girl needs it now and it's in a tote in our closet? While we are storing, others are buying new and driving production of cheap products. In addition, instead of going to Goodwill, I've been looking at to support other second hand retailers and charities to spread the wealth. Thanks so much for the renewed inspiration!

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  9. Aw, man. I COMPLETELY agree with this. Ever since I was a kid my Mom has this problem. And while some items I understand (like the school supplies I would ask for in the middle of the night because I forgot or cold medicine cause I always get sick at the random-est of times) most of the junk in my parents house is my Mom's just on case or it looks nice clutter. Right now I'm trying to sort through it all to sell most of it in mind, but in the end that's just treating the result. The cause (my Mom's habit) is still in play. And unfortunately, I'm the youngest. No one ever listens to me. And until I'm able to move out, her mess is my mess. *sigh* I've always wished to have grown up in your kind of household.

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  10. Anonymous12/09/2013

    Its taken a lifetime for me to unlearn the "what if" mentality. My parents grew up during the Depression and the rationing of WWII, and spent the rest of their lives stockpiling *everything* "just in case". I was raised to accept a bulging pantry, boxes of pens, reams of paper, racks of shoes -with duplicates, two (!) refrigerators and freezers to be desirable and smart.
    It's an insidious way of thinking, and I constantly catch myself saying "better get two, better save for later, MAYBE I'll need this... just in case".
    Now, as parents of adult children, we finally are realizing that our stockpiles could outlive us and any perceived usefulness, becoming a burden on our children. We are rapidly letting go, [hopefully] not acquiring new, and living as simply and in the present as possible.

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  11. And it's not just items for the 'what if', it's also insurances - we keep spending money for potential accidents (many of which we can't avoid anyway).
    As far as I'm concerned, I keep way too many books, especially classics. I might read them again, that's what I tell myself, but the truth is that 1.) if I appreciate them so much I should make them available to other people as well and 2.) I already own more books I could re-read in years and 3.) I keep collecting more. So I decided to do a ranking of those books and I'll only keep the favourite fifty. Let's see how that turns out.

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    1. Anonymous12/10/2013

      Oh yes, books. We had walls full and are slowly getting rid of them all. It's such a relief.

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  12. Thank you Bea for this inspiring post... (I am French but since most people here read English, I'd rather write in English, especially since I ALWAYS read the comments on your blog because there are always interesting). I am wondering how to make this Christmas thing less commercial this year, but it is not easy to change habits and to make others accept it. The family has already bought toys for the children. At the moment, though, I am trying to buy used Lego on eBay for my daughters. Althought they are plastic toys, I like the idea of toys passing from one house to another, so I hope this works. My mom is beyond sick with "STUFF" at the moment, so I think I will get het a museum pass or some other experience. As for myself, I need running shoes but I'd rather get money from everyone so that we can get a vacation... Also considering (for 2 years now but had to de-clutter first...) renting our place like you do or swapping houses.
    Bea, thank you again for the inspiration!!!

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    1. Anonymous12/10/2013

      I also love ebay! Although I frequently shop and donate at our local thrift store, I love selling (and also buying) a few particular things on ebay with the thought that the person buying it really wants it and will use it. Like you, I have done this with toys for my young son, and as he gets older, I will pass them on to someone else.

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  13. At the moment, my parents are ageing and trying to declutter their house so as not to let too much clutter for us "in case" (how ironic is that :)??). My Mom told be she didn't buy anything this year and "les affaires me prennent la tête !".

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  14. Anonymous12/10/2013

    How funny, my measuring spoons have been on my maybe pile to donate. I don't use them, but my daughter is very interested in cooking at the moment, so I thought I should keep them until she gets an idea on how much a tsp or tbsp means without having to use them. I'm also using your voucher system this Xmas. One special event per month, plus some much needed underwear and drawing supplies.

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  15. Anonymous12/10/2013

    How funny, my measuring spoons have been on my maybe pile to donate. I don't use them, but my daughter is very interested in cooking at the moment, so I thought I should keep them until she gets an idea on how much a tsp or tbsp means without having to use them. I'm also using your voucher system this Xmas. One special event per month, plus some much needed underwear and drawing supplies.

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  16. Yesterday morning a young woman went to theStarbucks counter to get a "holder" for her hot coffee.....she proceeded to drop the holder....and had the nerve to put it in the trash and get another one!

    I agree with letting go of stuff. I am a "minimalist", but have found even the few things my husband and I cherish, we have not even used in over 4 years.

    We rented our house out so we could travel. The tenants let us keep our "cherished" things in 1/2 of the garage.....we have not had to go and retrieve one item in 4 years!

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  17. excellent post. occasionally I do pine for something that I long ago gave away...that's when I tell myself that some other of God's creatures has enjoyed and made use of it all that time between when I gave it to charity and when I finally wanted it again. makes me feel all right about the "loss" somehow.

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  18. Anonymous12/10/2013

    Thank you, so well expressed as ever. I did a huge overhaul on my household when I found your blog but I was looking at my cookie cutters and icing nozzles this morning and thinking, they have to go! I also cut my wardrobe by at least a third but it needs another go over, as does my household linen.

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  19. Anonymous12/10/2013

    A thought provoking post. I am intrigued by your mention of measuring spoons. Much of my cooking is done by taste instead of by measure, but there are many recipes that I would be reluctant to make without measuring spoons. Mostly those are baked goods such as muffins, breads (salt would be the problem as flour is a matter of feel), cookies, etc. How does one make the adjustment to no measuring spoons with recipes that need more precise ratios of ingredients?

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    1. I have the same curiosity. I wonder if Bea does not bake often. I do a lot of (zero waste, ingredients bought in bulk, cooked on sil-pat instead of parchment) baking, and I need my measuring spoons! Baking is a chemical operation and definitely needs precise measurements. I'm not sure I'd ever trust myself to just eyeball it.

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    2. Anonymous12/10/2013

      I bake cookies and cakes all the time. Eventually you should know how much is in a tbsp. I always guess and my cookies and cakes turn out all the time.

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    3. Anonymous12/10/2013

      I have switched my baking recipes to weight measures and use my scale to measure them directly into the bowl. Also saves on the amount of bowls cups etc... that need to be washed at the end. Not sure how much more zero waste this is, but it's an option for bakers. The results I get from my baking are also more consistent using this method.

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    4. Anonymous12/10/2013

      I always use a tablespoon for measuring a tbsp and a teaspoon for tsp - why not if it is called exactly that? ;-) For everything bigger than that, I have one measuring cup.

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    5. Anonymous12/20/2013

      Our every day table wear came with 2 spoons - medium and large. I filled my 1 tsp measuring spoon and poured it into the medium sized sppon and guess what? It's EXACLY 1 tsp. I did the same with 1 TBS and the large is EXACTLY 1 TBS. I now have put our measuring spoons in my "I want to reduce my stuff so let's see if we miss this cabinet". I also eliminated our measuring cups and now we only use our glass 1 cup measurer (we also ahv a 2 cup and 5 cup glass measurer (can't seem to commit on those yet!). I clean this cabinet about once a month and I have reduced about 1/2 of our kitchen 'things'. Thankfully DH is fully on board. :-) Thanks for continuing to better our lives Bea!!

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  20. Love it and agree completely.

    My mom is a big "what if"-er. Total hoarder and it's terrible. Things she also doesn't store right so they go to waste or she can't find them when she does need them.

    It's really common when people grow up poor and when they still don't make a lot of money at all.

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    1. Anonymous12/13/2013

      That's always the irony, isn't it? -That what has been stashed either is destroyed or lost well before the "what if" happens.
      Sadly, we're constantly exposed to that mindset as a marketing ploy; irresistible for those like your Mom. Can we "fix" it? I don't know...

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  21. I enjoyed reading your post of what if's. With that come a lot of questions I need to ask myself, mostly it's about giving up things and having less although I agree with the idea I find it hard to follow through on some items. But the more I think about it if a Tornado hit my house I think as long as we were all fine I would still be happy with the loss. I would miss the pictures, memories of the past, but if I do something about it today I maybe able to save those precious items in case of an emergency.

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  22. Bonjour Béa,
    Je viens de terminer votre livre en français, je suis ravie. Je refuse les sacs plastiques depuis des années, mais je n'achète pas encore en vrac. Je vais essayer de m'y mettre. Je trouve cette simplification de vie très intéressante même si je pense qu'il faut faire la transition avec intelligence pour la trouver positive et plaire à toute la famille. A très bientôt et Joyeux Noël Zéro Déchet !
    (Je voulais vous signaler le site commercial sans-bpa.com qui vend des articles en inox et aussi h2o-at-home.com qui vend des éponges lavables et des microfibres d'excellente qualité, afin de faire son ménage à l'eau !!!)

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    1. Anonymous12/27/2013

      Thank you for the links, Isabelle95!
      Merci pour ces liens.

      Delete
  23. Anonymous12/11/2013

    The internet has helped me let go of a number of cherished items from my childhood: old records, video games, board games, etc... but not in the way you would think. If I ever found in the future that I needed one of these items for something, just about every childhood toy I ever had can be purchased through Ebay. (to this date, I haven't 'needed' any of them.). It's liberating to think, though.

    I think of Goodwill, Ebay, Craigslist, etc, as my storage closet. I don't need to keep a pair of crutches in the house 'just in case'. When my husband hurt his foot last month, I just headed down to the thrift shop and bought a pair for $5. Now that he's better, I donated them back. Another pair will be available if needed again, and Goodwill received a donation from me for 'borrowing' them. win-win.

    I love the concept that if everyone is hoarding items in their house, then they aren't available for others who need them. I hadn't thought of that before... Send the items you don't use to secondhand shops so they can be shared!

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    1. Anonymous12/11/2013

      Brilliant!
      Laterally, we have a Lending Library for tools, so that *in reality* we need not have even a rake for the yard! Very hard to convince DH that he doesn't need every power tool ever invented "just in case"!
      Work in progress.
      I plan on "renting" a cake plate from GW today for a party; if it makes it back, I'll "return" ASAP.

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  24. Anonymous12/11/2013

    thank you for this post! I hosted thanksgiving this year and realized I have way more what if dishes than I could ever ever use. My New Years resolution is going to be donating all of the what ifs!

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  25. Anonymous12/12/2013

    for me the hardest what-ifs are the ones that are both what-if + a bit sentimental. in those cases, i am finding it easier to pass it on directly to someone that needs that item. somehow it eases the sentimental part when i know that it is going directly into the hands of someone who is going to use it (and maybe i'll still get to see it around occasionally too :)). our neighborhood has a very active online forum where people are often sharing stuff or looking for stuff and i'm finding more avenues than ever for moving things along.

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  26. I started reading your blog a couple of years ago and I feel like I've been slowly purging ever since. For me, it has really made me realize how much of a time-suck all the stuff is. All of the going-through, packing-up, donating. It sounds like even you, Bea, have purged over the course of a long period of time so maybe it is unavoidable. I wish I could just let go all at once!

    I do wonder sometimes if the items I donate will just end up in a land-fill. And that makes me hesitate some times. I know someone who works at a thrift store who told me that the store fills up a dumpster every day of things that just aren't sell-able. Is a stained tee shirt going to get tossed? Or a piece of furniture that needs a minor repair? These types of thoughts keep me holding onto things to get more use out of them or eventually fix them. I also have seen the Salvation Army trucks that pick up my donations just toss furniture onto giant piles of stuff and I think, "is that going to even make it to the store in one piece?"

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  27. books & music, hardware of any kind, cooking utensils, more books & music, unused christmas cards (i still have a ton from before we started simplifying). picture frames that were given to us but we've never had occasion to use. fabric - absolutely gorgeous linens & cottons - i've collected to "make" things, and even more books & music. everything is neatly organized/folded/stored, but it still gets dusty and weighs on my psyche.
    it's easy to say most of it should go. it's getting from "should" to "shall" that's the hard part.

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    1. Anonymous12/14/2013

      To Maggie and Emily: This Spring, if allowed in your area, organize a block wide Yard Sale. You'll know that your "stuff" will find a good home, it's therapeutic, AND builds community.

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  28. Anonymous12/14/2013

    It's amazing what America has invented. All the disposable gadgets that most of the world deems useless.
    I live in Prague. The dry cleaning in the city centre does not offer wire hangers nor plastic "sleeves". You have to bring your own. That's cool with me, less trash/recycling to deal with.
    Not to mention that in the shop you don't get plastic bags for free. You bring your own (BYO as americans so love to acronym) or you pay for a sturdy one. There's no flimsy bag at the cashier.
    Sometimes it hits me how lucky we are on this side of the world...

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    1. Anonymous12/31/2013

      Ironic comment since the vast majority of the US's disposable c***p is manufactured in other countries where there is little regard for working conditions and governments welcome foreign businesses/entrepreneurs with open arms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Poland

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  29. Anonymous12/14/2013

    --First time I experienced "bring your own bag" was in Germany over thirty years ago. What a pleasant surprise!

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  30. mounachonches12/15/2013

    je viens tout juste de finir votre livre ! nous refusons les sacs proposés par les commerçants, j'emporte mon thermos de café au boulot (exit les gobelets en plastiques de la machine à café), pas de produits en portions individuelles, un max de choses faites nous-mêmes et 1000 autres actions qui pourtant ne suffisent pas; le chemin est long.......................

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  31. Anonymous12/16/2013

    What if your sewer started to back up through your toilet? Wouldn't it be nice to hoard a plunger.. Extremes are extremes, and some hoarding, ie: the LDS food pantry is just good sense. Randy Dell

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    1. Anonymous12/19/2013

      Out of curiosity I just googled "How to plung a toilet without a plunger". There are many things that pop up, even youtube videos. I think that Bea is making a great point. We keep things for what ifs that may never happen. If something was to happen we could easily look for ways to solve that problem. I am not saying you should not be prepared, however you can not prepare for every little thing and it is good to be resourceful and solve problems creatively.

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    2. Anonymous12/30/2013

      Well said!

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  32. Anonymous12/19/2013

    Our stuff are like anchors: we see them as stabilizers, as establishing a home, a place, a sense of safety/preparedness. The problem is anchors can drag us down, and keep us stuck. I can't wait to be free of as many of my possessions as possible. to feel free to move on, to not feel weighed down. Flexibility, not stasis.
    Stability should be a state of mind, not some critical mass of things.

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  33. Anonymous12/19/2013

    just in case there is a war again...

    The problem is : you in the US never had a war in your country. You only know war from movies and TV. The fiction and propaganda version.

    In my country there are still people who lived during that time, right in the middle of it. My parents were kids during the World War II. They loosed everything including their homes and family. They knew hunger and missing even the simplest things.

    You never had that and you never have meet someone who really knows about war. You may know a lot about livestyle design. But that 'war-thing' you will never understand.

    And by the way. Rationing during WWII has nothing to do with the real war situation.

    Have you ever seen this 'preppers' tv show? You may think they are crazy. And you are right. They are americans and they also know absolutely nothing. Childish. A lot of guns to play with, like the war in the movies. Cowboys. Gives us always a good laugh.

    Lets hope you that you in the US will never have a (modern) war in your country. You have gone completely mad because of 9/11. What if...?

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    1. Anonymous12/20/2013

      Bea is French. As far as we know, France was involved in both world wars.

      And to express my opinion regarding the keeping stuffs mentality. It has nothing to do with precariousness. Normal people keep good quality things for their usefulness and some mementos. That's what my parents do, that's what my grandparents did.
      The problem is with the current society, when everyone can afford every crappy thing made for the dump. The problem is the habit to accumulate, "get the latest", "the must have of the season" etc
      It annoys me beyond reason to read or hear "my cup", my piece of crap - you get the idea: MY.
      Yes, I can afford to buy the whole shop. So what? Can I fit it in my home? Do I want to fit it in my home so I can call a pile of crap "MY things"?
      No thanks. I prefer to be picky and only spend my hard earned money on very good quality things that I need. That's called style. The rest is irrelevant. My mantra is ME, not MY!
      But I do realize americans have an issue with not having. Like a spoiled child that is refused some candy (for his own good)
      Salutes from Europe!

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    2. Anonymous12/20/2013

      Wow, some unwarranted assumptions from both of you.

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    3. Anonymous12/21/2013

      Unwarranted while America is the epithome of disposability?
      While America makes war elsewhere than home?
      What exactly is unwarranted in these statements?

      Delete
    4. Anonymous12/26/2013

      Unwarranted because you do not know how Canadians nor Mexicans nor Argentinians nor Chileans (other developed countries of the Americas) live. I was quite horrified when I realised how my own country foists their refuse onto other countries, including radioactive waste, because we have not bothered to develop recycling and reuse centres.

      Also you seem unaware that due to the little funding put into the Canadian services, our corporations are more involved in "making war" than perhaps we like to admit.

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    5. Anonymous1/03/2014

      wow, this is full of presumptions and anti-america arrogance. First, there might not have been a war on america's soil within the last hundred years but there have been occurrences of shortages/deprivation -- the great depression for one--- how many of my friend's grandparents lived through that and still save everything for "just in case"? It's not war, but doesn't mean it hasn't caused the same psychological sense of insecurity which leads to hoarding.
      Next is the presumption that every american has not lived though a war. Do you not realized that there are immigrants in America as well? My parents actually ran from their home country during a civil war and I myself was born in a refugee camp. We could only afford to live in the poorest neighborhood when we arrived in America with all our belongings in one luggage. It is hard to get my parents to throw out anything to this day. Certainly, my siblings who were born here are true citizens who have not experienced war, but my parents' experiences have affected them as well.
      Consider what you see on America tv as an exception, that is why they are on tv in the first place.

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  34. Anonymous12/20/2013

    We need a false sense of security. It's ridiculous propriety. It's like insurance: home insurance, car insurance, health insurance, pet insurance, fire insurance, flood insurance, earthquake insurance, debt insurance(?)... We're not stopping an earthquake by throwing money at it, why should we pretend to? The only thing that can prevent spilled wine is having coordination and awareness of your feet.
    We have to bald mother earth to make the paper wine caps for demanding tipsy air heads.

    Everything is disposable except for guns. They keep tyranny in it's place.
    Also emergency food supplies are like life support in a crisis.

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  35. When I feel the "what ifs" coming on in regards to keeping things I do not really need anymore, I have come up with the following self-dialog: "Did I use it last year? Will I use it next year?" and the most important, if the answers to those previous questions are both "no": "I give myself permission to buy it again"?...(*if* it turns I really needed it!)

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    1. Anonymous12/26/2013

      Good idea!

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  36. Thanks for this! My friends often marvel at the things I can do without, but really, I know that there are so many things I hang onto just in case. This has put me into a productive mindset for another round of cleaning!

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  37. Anonymous12/27/2013

    Great reminder of the what ifs (for me) as we move into the new year: evaluate all those seasonal tchotchkes-- did I use them, do I love them, do I really want to store these for another year??? What IF they weren't there???

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  38. Anonymous1/02/2014

    I'm from Scandinavia and never saw a wine glass cap in my life ;) but was just wondering, couldn't one of those be reusable as well?

    I like the what if scenario, it does give you insight on looking at your things.

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  39. Anonymous1/02/2014

    I am loving your blog! I stayed up late into the night reading all the Older Posts because I was so fascinated and inspired! Just wondering, if you put your food in fabric bags instead of plastic, doesn't it get stale or dried up? Like sandwiches and things...?

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  40. Dear Bea. Your sweet little remark about Europeans saving things in case of a new war might be true, if you talk to people who are old enough to have experienced the war and the difficulty getting clothes, food - anything actually, but the war ended in 1945, and the the ones left to tell about it are in their 80's. When it comes to an age group just a bit younger, the picture is quite different. At least here in Scandinavia, where minimalism has taken a big step into ordinary homes, and where less is more.

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  41. Time for me to purge again with fresh eyes. Thanks.

    Bea, my family was just featured in the Ann Arbor Observer for our waste minimizing efforts. You are mentioned in the article as my inspiration and guide. thank you, Bea.
    Jeanie

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  43. Well, I for one am burdened by things. I recently gave away hundreds of books, tons of clothes and "stuff". I did think a lot about "what ifs", especially in terms of the books, since I am a writer and sometime teacher. But, it felt so good to just get rid of it. I feel lighter. And now, it's taken on a life of its own. Last week, I got serious about my garbage, which I find depressing that I make so much of it--and I don't even eat processed food ever, AND I use my own grocery bags and produce bags and I never buy bottled water, and yet...so much garbage! What was the garbage: plastic rice bags, plastic spinach containers, plastic yogurt containers, the plastic from cheese, plastic flax seed pouches, etc., etc. Don't get me started on all the plastic in the bathroom, the cleaners, etc. Today I told the girl at the meat counter that she did not need to wrap my meats in plastic, then paper. Just the paper (I can compost that anyway. I'm not quite there with bringing a jar, maybe next week). She acted very surprised. At first I thought, "what if" she thinks I'm crazy. I can't care. I am only one person, but I can't bear to think about the garbage I've left in my wake. So, onward toward zero waste. Thank you, Bea. I know people probably think you are radical, but you are, which makes you so helpful.

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    1. Anonymous1/07/2014

      Yay! Kudos on your progress!! Sounds like the next best way to refuse and reduce is finding local bulk [if you can], and/or DIY: yogurt, cleaners, etc. Good Luck! The Forum has tons of ideas, and support.
      It takes courage and some experimentation to buck the community pressure to consume.

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