“It is not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It is what we do constantly.”
Have you ever sat back and thought about the amount of things you waste?
This is something that is really weighing on me right now. Lately, my thoughts have constantly drifted towards the number of people living in poverty and the number of children who wake up each morning hungry, without anything to eat, right here in the United States. Then there are the families that are struggling to make ends meet. They may not be homeless or hungry, but they struggle to pay for things that so often many of us take for granted. These thoughts keep me up at night.
I am beginning to really take a look at myself and acknowledge that over the years, I have really created a lot of waste and it makes me sick to my stomach. Self reflection can do that to you can’t it? It is not that I have intentionally wasted, it is just that I have been “privileged” enough to not have to think about how and what I am wasting, which has only made me ignorant to all of it.
What kind of waste has been bothering me so much? How much food our family was wasting and how much money we wasted on things that we just don’t need when that money could have been given to those who would really appreciate it.
Let’s start with the food. In the United States, 1 in 6 people face hunger, with 49 million people struggling to put food on the table (dosomething.org). Meanwhile, we would go grocery shopping, load up on a ton of meats, fruits and vegetables, only to find that we didn’t get to eating them, they went bad, we forgot about them in the freezer, my kids wouldn’t eat them, perhaps they eat only half, we would eat out instead and often, things would go bad and we would throw them out.
Then there is the money. As a family, we have always donated 10% of what we make but that seemed to only create a confidence of “well we are donating so we can spend all our other money however we want on whatever we want”. We never really thought about our spending but then I would sit back and think “why do I have 10 bags of things to get rid of! We have too much crap!” Yet, I was the one who bought all the “crap”. And though our donations were considered “well spent” in our eyes, they often came with a plaque, recognition, or a name in a program. How often did I hand it directly to a family in need? Rarely.
I am not writing this to say we are bad people who have done bad things or that people who do these things are bad. That is not it at all. I think that perhaps we were just a tad bit ignorant for a while on the life we were living and how much waste we were creating with no regard to it. Over the past 12 weeks I have been brought into new situations, had conversations with incredible people and basically, God has been opening my eyes to a lot. I have been humbled by these experiences and want to see change in this world and it is clear I need to start with myself. Here is what has changed so far.
Since we moved, I grocery shop with much more intent than I ever did. I make a list and only create meal plans for up to three days. I know that this means going to the store more frequently but it also keeps us from wasting produce and meats like we were before. For the first time ever, our fridge will look relatively empty by the end of the week and this makes me happy. We are eating leftovers, getting creative with items left behind and making sure that we doing our best to use everything. This is also keeping us from eating out, which I feel creates so much more wasted food (our family would rarely finish all 5 entrees?). I started to frequently talk to the kids about hunger in the United States so that they are very aware and are not wasting as well. Are we perfect at not wasting? No, but I will say that with being much more intent on food, we are throwing out far less than we were and not taking our food for granted.
With regards to all that “crap” we seem to accumulate, I am working hard on cutting this down. Our new rule for birthdays is that if you have a party, in lieu of gifts, you can ask your friends to bring something for a local charity. They will still get a gift from us and immediate family so there really is no need for additional items. They get enough already! For my daughter’s 7th birthday party last week, we selected a local organization that gathers presents for Christmas so that families can provide gifts to their children. At first she was a bit questioning of why she wouldn’t get gifts from her friends but when they arrived, she didn’t even think twice and is looking forward to dropping them off with me this weekend.
When our boxes showed up at the new house, it was very clear that we had too many things and clothes so I spent a lot of time cleaning out and donating everything. Now, I try to shop with intent. What is this for? Do we need this or simply want this? If I do purchase something, what am I donating? I am not going to lie, I love shopping so cutting this back and respecting the dollar when it comes to want vs need has been somewhat challenging. This may sound silly but it is the process of learning “just because I can buy something doesn’t mean I should”. I used to post photos in all my looks but then realized I had started shopping for the photo, not for what I really need and so, if you follow me on social media, you can see that I am posting a lot fewer looks and wearing things over and over again because lets be real. If I wear it over and over again, it was probably a good purchase because I love it and if I wear it once, never to be seen again, that was just a waste of money.
Finally, donating financially. Ironically, I am even more passionate about donating now when both of us don’t have jobs than I was when money wasn’t as much of a concern. I just figure that even with both of us not currently working, we are fortunate enough to live incredibly well that being unemployed is no excuse for not continuing to help others. May sound strange to some but I am confident we are going to be fine. There is just too much need right now for me to think only of our situation. Our situation is nothing compared to the situation of others.
Have we completely shut down our ability to waste? No. Do we have so many areas that we can continue to work on our waste? Yes. We are far from perfect and there are others who are doing this so much better than us. That being said, I am working really hard on this. It hasn’t been just a 12 week transition of a new home, but I have also been transitioning to perhaps a little larger perspective into the real world and what is needed. I want to get better at this. I want to do more for others. I want to teach my children the need to think about others first and to live with intent on everything you do, regardless of how much money you have. I am extremely passionate about this. So if this is what keeps me up at night, so be it. I am willing to give up sleep if it means I grow from it.
I know so many people that have so many great ideas on how to help others, stop wasting themselves and have made lifestyle changes to live with less so they are not accumulating waste. Please share your ideas and thoughts as I could definitely use additional ideas!