What can I use that I already have?

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What can I use that I already have?

“What can I use that I already have?”

Here’s an unsolicited peek into my somewhat odd routine: what goes on in my bathtub. Don’t be scared, it’s not what you think. I take long baths in all seasons, sometimes more than one a day, even in addition to a shower. Other than my car, the bathtub is the closest thing to an office I have. Since the advent of the smartphone (and to be honest, it was before that too, just more cumbersome) I use my time in the tub to reply to correspondence, make my class playlist, read, set my schedule, order things that I need online. Like vitamins. Or a one-inch necklace extender for my niece. Or next month’s book for book club.

Online list fulfillment, for goods or information (can I use my stand-up paddleboard on Medina Lake?) is so immediate that it’s easy to overlook all that is right in front of us. Like many, I’ve been thinking-trying-hoping-planning to downsize, to purge, to live more simply and save more money. So, this morning with that in mind as I noticed I was near the end of the tub of my favorite moisturizer, wondering if there’s a backup in the hallway linen closet… it hit me: “what might I use that I already have?” Two birds, one stone?

I’m not suggesting skipping the Cerave and using coconut oil, (although, let’s be honest, we already know I’ve DONE that for everything from moisturizer to mouth-pulling and hair-taming), but I do have drawers and closets full of things that I either need to use, donate, or pass on to someone else. The gift bag I saved last week when friends brought me gourmet chocolates (which didn’t last 48 hours), the reader glasses I inherited from Jane, a pricey hair product that my sister passed on to me because she didn’t love it, the complimentary promotional notebook from my husband’s software conference (I could open a notebook store at this point.)

These things are taking up space, waiting for “someday,” I guess? Even if each of them wouldn’t be my first and best choice, I believe they’re worthy of being used, and why can’t I compromise on the ideal for certain things? I can’t imagine a friend would object to receiving a gift in a re-purposed gift bag bearing the name of a chocolatier. Or that I (or anyone else) would notice a temporary change in product on my rarely-styled hair. Usually, old hairspray and sweat are keeping it atop my head in a scraggly bunch with some small help from something containing elastic. And for all the notebooks I fill with ideas, essays, and lists, why would I need to buy one with a cartoon cat demonstrating yoga poses on the front cover?

My friend has given me her extra high-end cosmetics, and still an internet ad for a cool eye-brightening stick has reeled me in. Candles are in almost every room of my house, and I don’t light them very often. And does anyone really need designated “travel pajamas?”

It might be fun, or so I told myself this morning, to work my way through these things taking up space: my mom gives me the conditioner packet from her hair-color box, and our heating and cooling annual checkup included a free cooler-bag. Stuff is junk, yes. But I mean, I DO travel around with homemade peanut butter and often fruit in my car, so at some point that bag might not be a bad idea!

It won’t go perfectly, but imagining myself creating space, downsizing, having less clutter, and donating or repurposing more of these things to have calmer closets and emptier surfaces is appealing. I know I won’t be awesome at this, but I’m going to try.

And, then,

What I AM a little better at, what is less practical, is turning the sentiment (“what can I use that I already have?”) into a more figurative question.

Part of my job, if my job(s) include yoga instructor/student or a wannabe writer, is thinking that way: off the mat, outside the box.

As we strive for personal improvement by reading another self-help book, continuing our education, learning a new skill, making ourselves busier by doing ALLLL the things…adding to our schedule and resumé and activities list and that of our family members as well…

What if we each take a moment each morning and ask ourselves, “what can I use that I already have?”

If you’re a stellar soup-maker like my sister, and now have an emptier nest, you can share your gift with someone lonely, ill, or elderly. Most single people might be more inclined to open a can than go through the work of making homemade soup for themselves, so there’s nothing more appreciated! If you have tons of old books, you could write messages in them before donating to a local bookstore (there still are a few!) or make the message and the book choice even more personal and use it as an ACTUAL GIFT in a REUSED gift bag for a friend’s birthday with the promise of a picnic together. Last week a friend told me that when her daughter moved into a new home, the next-door neighbor gifted her a cutting from a plant. It had been given to that neighbor years ago by the previous owner of the home she had just moved into. What a precious connection! Could you take your dog to visit a nursing home? In the past year and a half, we’ve all seen people who sew make and share masks, a perfect example of this idea. A Facebook friend across the country, a real go-getter whom I only know once-removed through my husband, invited me to an accountability group of people trying to support and motivate each other. And don’t even get me started on the friend who came over to shovel a few tons of gravel for our firepit while we weren’t even home helping!

So, we are doing it already, right? But next time you’re tempted to overextend yourself, to stress yourself out trying to think of what you can do or give or be to someone…ask yourself that question:

“What can I use that I already have?”

I don’t mean just when it comes to giving gifts or sharing things. Let’s be honest, we’re not all going to do this instead of buying gifts (or at least I hope not!) But to add richness and purpose to each of our lives, instead of constantly asking yourself what MORE you can add to accomplish more, to contribute, what about what’s sitting in the crowded closet of your personality, the jumbled shelves of your talents and skills? Why add more to the pantry when its already so well-stocked?

If I could draw, I’d want to make the best custom cards. With clever sayings in them! You’re funny? Make someone laugh today. A stranger, even. You’re an awesome mom and your kid just went to college? Reach out to a young mom who may be struggling and remind her in your wisdom how these long days come up painfully short. Remind her of one of your favorite parenting hacks. If you used to be a bartender, don’t just serve wine at the next gathering, make a signature drink! If you’re direct, let that serve someone well by not skirting around an issue. (Thanks, Kim W.)

Your advice is invaluable. Your experience is needed. Your special talent can fill a gap like spackle today. There’s that quote about judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree, or something. Why do we try to climb the trees if we are so beautifully suited to the water, and vice versa?

Amy Grant sang, “Do you protect what you already own?”

My yoga teacher used to quietly say, “everything you need is right here.”

Ask yourself: “What can I use that I already have?”

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