Using Things Up

Using Things Up

There’s an unexpected joy to be discovered in using things up whether that’s working your way through a pot of skincare, burning up the last of a candle, or using all the ingredients in your pantry. I find it’s especially pleasing when you find a purpose or use for something you haven’t needed or no longer fits your lifestyle and you can finally, after months (perhaps even years!) of storing it, say goodbye to the unwanted thing.

This year I challenged myself to not buy anything new. It’s made me think about what else I could do to live more sustainably. It got me thinking about the things I have that I could use up; the smaller, consumable items that are easy to impulse purchase or are regularly gifted, and hang around the home for longer than I’d like.

The more I looked around, the more I found items that are useful but rarely used. A selection of skincare; unread books; cooking ingredients; loose leaf tea; notebooks; craft supplies; empty jars. Some of these things I don’t want, others I can’t use, but many I simply haven’t gotten around to using up.

Never has it been more obvious to me that most of us enjoy bringing new things into our homes. The newness is addictive. When we welcome something new into our homes, we have a tendency to overlook the things we already have. The new item makes everything else dull in comparison. We forget to use up what we already have.

The flip side of this, of course, is when we keep something ‘for best’. Clothing, notebooks, our favourite fragrance. But what are we waiting for? Why not enjoy those things now? Everything runs out, breaks, or gets used up - and that’s a good thing. It means they’re being enjoyed not hidden away. So no more eking out my favourite candle. I’m going to burn it until it’s used up.

Using Things Up

There’s a problem with dropping our unwanted things on a charity shop doorstep. It just passes our problem onto someone else. So as much as I wanted to declutter all the half-used unwanted things from my cupboards, I decided to try to use them up or give them a new purpose.

To tackle my beauty products I implemented a ‘one in, one out’ policy. I don’t have an awful lot, a tiny amount compared to most, in fact. However, I’ve found myself with a stack of bar soap to wash my way through and a few bottles of skincare I’d like to try. Before welcoming any new products into my bathroom, I must work my way through what I already have.

In the kitchen we have quite a few ingredients we’ve cooked with only once or twice. Like many people do, we can get stuck in the habit of rotating the same well-loved meals every week. I’ve made it a goal to try to find a recipe that will use up the ingredients we have in the cupboard. The little pot of saffron, mustard seeds, and dried chillies we forgot we even had. It’s a habit that means not only do we get to try new recipes each week, we get to use everything up before it goes out of date. Win win.

There’s something so pleasingly satisfying about using things up; either swapping things out (once they’re empty) for plastic-free, sustainable alternatives or simply not replacing them and revelling in the space left behind. It’s exciting to realise I don’t need something anymore or I’ve enjoyed something so much I’ve used it all up.

The joy of using up and the excitement of finally being able to get rid of things that no longer suit my lifestyle is once of the many unexpected pleasures of going zero waste and living simply.

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