At the end of my bed sit two boxes & two piles of stuff ready to go into boxes. I am doing a car boot sale next weekend & this has incentivised me to purge my belongings. I have the urge to clear out every few months or so – I wouldn’t say I was a hoarder & I’m certainly not a shopaholic, but I just seem to acquire so much stuff. Toiletries are the worst offenders. I am convinced that my toiletries come alive – like the toys in Toy Story (I appear to be obsessed with these films, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing!) – and conspire against me as I sleep. They are almost certainly magically reproducing themselves in my drawers & cupboards as I type.
For 32 months, I have been waging an outright war on my toiletries. Back in the dark, confused days when I first began my quest to sort my life out, I had some strange, instinctive urge to address the toiletry situation. At that time, it was a very nebulous sense that if I could control the amount of lotions & potions in my possession, then I would have the key to controlling the rest of my life. Since then, the motivation to tackle the toiletries has been something of a shape-shifter: financial, ethical & environmental concerns have all played a part, the latter issues becoming increasingly important to me.
The battle has been monumental. And the term ‘battle’ is no exaggeration (well, maybe it is – but it’s certainly been a fight). I just don’t know how I end up with so many random beauty-related items. I have a penchant for Space NK but I drastically reduced my spending there; this desire to simply consume the items I already possess has been sufficiently strong to stop me consuming new purchases – I haven’t wanted to buy things until I could honestly say that I don’t already have 27 multiples of the same things at home.
Obviously there have been some items that have been bought in the last 32 months. I didn’t have a nuclear winter style stockpile of toothpaste, for instance. I also use body lotion at a rate of knots, so I have genuinely needed to replace that – although it has surprised me how much less I’ve been buying since I’ve become more conscious of my product ownership levels. There are, though, far more items that I haven’t needed to buy than those that I have…
Bath oils: there are still 7 bottles of good quality bath oils in my cupboard (birthday/Christmas gifts seem to have boosted supplies whenever they’ve been dwindling). Deodorants: 5 – two crystal rocks (these last for years, but one is running low so I have a spare) and three aerosols – I don’t use aerosols! Where have they come from?! I think freebies are the answer, & I can’t just chuck them so I’ll have to make the effort to use them up. Lipbalm: I drown my lips in lip balm at night & use a good slather in the mornings too, yet I still haven’t bought any since at least November 2007. When I was in hospital last year, a kind nurse gave me a tube of soft paraffin (like Vaseline but better) as the treatment had dried my lips out, but even so it seems slightly ludicrous that I could ‘survive’ for so long with what I already have.
Don’t get me wrong: I love toiletries (maybe that’s part of the problem!) and I have no intention of stopping buying/using them altogether, but the level of consumption makes me uncomfortable with myself. It seems, well, a bit obscene. All the plastic, all the air miles, all the carbon footprint, when I haven’t even been using most of it. It just sits in my drawers & cupboards gathering dust.
But today my conscience has felt somewhat alleviated. Rummaging round as part of my car boot-related purge, I came across a box containing a talcum powder, two contact lens cases, a bottle of Clarins cleanser, a Clinique powder compact, a Lancome night cream, some Eve Lom TLC cream, some Nivea body lotion & several perfume sample bottles – all this manages to hide itself away even after 32 months of warfare. But I think this was the final toiletry stronghold. Aside from that box, during today’s purge I really felt – for the first time – that I may have conquered the enemy. The situation seems finally under control. The bath oils & deodorants will get used up in good time. Most products are now down to one item & possibly a spare ready to replace it. And now I can finally go out, guilt-free, & buy lovely, delectable, over-priced, cunningly marketed soap-based products safe in the knowledge that I really do not have the same thing at home already & that my bathroom cabinet is not single-handedly creating a hole in the ozone. Not a bad discovery for a Monday evening.