Say no to squander

January 10, 2013|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

The other night, we had a birthday party for one of my kids.

We provided lemonade and plenty of soda for a sizeable crowd of varying ages. At evening's end, there were four 2-liter bottles with some beverage remaining. Each was a different kind. The next day, I opened our booby-trap, I mean "refrigerator," to find a fifth 2-liter bottle, of yet a different variety of soda, teetering from the drink shelf.

Someone in my family — I'm not pointing fingers — determined that if he just shoved one more bottle in and closed the door fast enough, it would fit. Um, it didn't, and the next morning, I was greeted by an avalanche of bottles.

It wasn't so much the flood of flasks, though, that vexed me. It was the excess, the disregard for appreciating and using what was already there. The options of juice, lemonade, iced tea, milk, coffee creamers and four kinds of soda were not enough. Someone thought it was reasonable seek out, open and pile in a fifth flavor of soda.

We live in a culture where we commonly don't even use what we have before we start piling on more. We go beyond not appreciating what we already own. We discount it like spoiled, oblivious ninnies in ongoing pursuit of whatever suits us at the moment.

I see the same concept played out in our shower. Bottles of products fall off the shelves because we frequently feel like trying something different. Before the fruity shampoo and conditioner are gone, someone wants mint-scented. Chocolate body scrub was cool yesterday, but today is all about coconut. Before I know it, I'm kicking half-empty bottles out from underfoot. I sometimes actually hide new products until the old ones are finally emptied, or my family would just keep opening more. I'm all for an occasional treat, but excess as a way of life confounds me.

For as much as I hate to waste, I have my areas of weaknesses. I see it in my drawers full of clothes, while I want the shirt I just saw on that girl, and in the un-played toys on the shelf while my kids are talking about new ones they saw on TV. I'm a nerd for a good educational toy. For some people, it's gadgets, cars or décor.

I'm a big fan of "Little House on the Prairie." I find such appeal in the idea of a few outfits, just enough food to appreciate it, less stuff and more relationship. I blush to admit that I'll leave a good meal in the fridge because it's not what I'm hungry for, or that there came a point in time when I was embarrassed in certain settings to be seen using a phone that flipped open. I regret my part in the veneration of stuff.

A friend of mine has a foreign exchange student staying with her family. One day, my friend's daughter was shocked to see the student picking some stray pieces of rice from the kitchen sink and eating them. She asked what he was doing. His grandfather had taught him that each piece of rice was of great value.

"Like gold," he said.

The student's family is not poor. They just value what they have.

That's the kind of stuff I hope to share with my family.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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