Tonight, I threw something away.
It was a phone charging cord.
Now, that doesn’t sound like much. It wasn’t much. Just a phone charging cord. It was blue.
It still worked.
Well, sorta. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. I could plug my phone in at night, and the next morning – no charge. Pick up the phone and look at it, and it would suddenly start to charge.
But not always. So I decided to throw it away. I picked it up – and then the internal dialogue started.
“Anything that still works, even if it is only sometimes, should not be thrown away.”
“After all, what if my good cord should quit working? I could still, maybe, use that as an emergency back-up.”
“It is WASTEFUL to throw something away that can still be used.”
Those thoughts ran through my head. I started to put the cord back.
I CHANGED the dialogue.
“Stop that, Melinda! You have two cords that work perfectly fine. You do NOT need to keep a cord that does not work properly!”
And…I THREW IT AWAY!!!
Such a small thing. And yet, so significant.
And there is more.
As I was writing this just now, as I was writing that sentence “It is WASTEFUL to throw something away that can still be used,” I made a connection to my past. And I started to cry.
When I was young, my mother used to tell us to always clean our plates. She talked about starving children in other parts of the world, starving children who would love to have our leftovers. We were not to waste any food. If we did leave something on our plates, usually my dad would finish it off. No waste.
To this day, I tend to clean my plate when I’m eating.
I also hold on to things that I don’t use, because they are too good to throw away. Some of them really are too good to just throw away.
I have a huge pile of old shirts – stained, missing buttons – but I can still use them as rags. Or recycle them into weaving projects.
I have old towels that are ragged, ratty, I don’t use them in the bathroom anymore – yet I don’t throw them away, because they still have some use in them.
I have a pile of mending – some of these clothes I have not worn for years. But they only need a button, or a few stitches in a seam.
And in thinking about how much I don’t want to “waste” things, I had a thought. One that I have never considered before.
Do I hold on to things – things that are too good to throw away, things that still have a little bit of use in them – because of a message that I internalized as a child? Did my mother’s message of not wasting food become a personal message of not wasting anything?
Tonight, I threw away something that still had some use.
I might have gained a new insight into my personal hoarding issues.
But oh, so great…