waste not?

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I have a very strong aversion to waste.

By that I mean I absolutely hate it.

I believe much of this comes from how I was raised. I was taught to always finish all the food on my plate (which, let me advise you, isn’t always the best approach for kids). I’d learned to never throw away what could be used later.

I still think, in general, waste is pretty bad.

Americans have a propensity to be incredibly wasteful—with our food, our resources, and our time.

But, on the other hand, being hyper sensitive about waste can lead to hoarding. 

I’m not sure if I’d call myself a hoarder, in the extreme sense, but I do have the tendency to save things that I really don’t need. I learned this acutely during our move. There were so many things I look back on wondering why we kept it.

Heck, even when playing video games, I tend to hoard equipment, way more than I could possibly need or use, “just in case.”

I once had a neighbor who was a legitimate hoarder. 

Her whole car was filled with trash and had only a tiny window to see out of. When here garage door was open, all that was visible was a solid wall of trash. 

The city once had volunteers come out to clean her place up, and I helped out, but it was something of a tragic event. The whole time she sat nearby crying bitterly that we were throwing away so many of her treasures.

I worry about becoming that way, if I’m not careful.

I’ve known of people who lived through the Great Depression who save all sorts of things like tissue and used tea bags. 

“Waste not, want not,” or so the saying goes. But everything has its limits.

I say, “Waste is a terrible thing to mind.”

I have a lot of trouble deciding what to let go of and what’s worth holding on to. Just about everything I own has some level of utility or sentiment to it, so where do I draw the line?

I remember a rather powerful short story about a first-world photographer who was documenting his captor, an African warlord. The warlord, a rather nasty person, explained to the photographer how the freedom to waste was the mark of privilege and authority. The thought stuck with me.

When it comes to creativity, we want to cherish everything, to cling to every little scribble and scrap, to every idea with a modicum of potential.

But when you cling too tightly to your past works, you’re less likely to try something new.

I’ve seen many an author stuck as slaves to one series because it’s what they know, or afraid to write again because they feel their best work is behind them.

Waste management is still something I’m figuring out. 

There’s much to gain from recycling some of your old work. However, some things just belong in the rubbish bin. I mean, do you need to save every crayon drawing you made in 3rd grade? 

I think it’s best to keep an open hand and open mind, one just as ready to let go as to explore something new.

A.P. Lambert

A.P. Lambert is a creative professional who helps others live with creativity and purpose.