BY KELLEY SKUMAUTZ
To me, huge stockpiles of stuff is crazy making. What I see are expiration dates and things calling out “do something with me!” The idea of buying cases and pallets of merchandise individually packaged screams waste, so I prefer to source household staples in simple, sustainable quantities.
I have always enjoyed the co-op model of buying goods in bulk, and I have not purchased shampoo, conditioner, lotions, hair spray, detergents, or soap off the shelf in more than three years – refilling these and other goods in empty containers instead. There is probably some arithmetic to calculate bottles not landfilled or recycled, but my satisfaction comes not in enumerating these exact quantities but more from how I feel: lighter, more empowered, and with greater peace of mind.
I am beginning to explore other territory as well. I’ll admit I have been slow on the uptake with food packaging (which I attribute to my lack of acuity in the kitchen), so it has only been recently that I have had “aha” moments about avoiding pre-packaged goods even more. I now bake cookies instead of buying thrice-wrapped Trader Joe-Joe’s. I make salad dressing and orange preserves instead of buying in bottles and jars. I have eliminated boxed pastas, cereals, and grains from the traditional grocery store list, buying them in bulk instead (along with honey, spices, cooking oils, candy, beans, dried fruit, nuts, peanut butter, sugar, flour, chocolate chips, and dried soup mix).
It is in simplifying and modifying my routines that I gain some semblance of control in my epic battle against too much stuff, over-packaging, and having to throw things away or recycle them before they are thoroughly used. I am looking forward to conquering new feats in doing-it-myself like making yogurt, ice cream, and granola bars from scratch, freezing fresh fruit for smoothies, and popping my own corn.
This simplicity extends not just into what I buy but how I shop. When I do drive, I set a pre-plotted course of errands I’ve ganged up, including stopping and walking points, and making them in tandem with other stuff I need to do, whether it be social, recreational, or work-related.
Kelley Skumautz recently launched a small business that takes advantage of her experience in limiting the amount of disposable packaging in her life. Her service, Refill to You, replenishes empty containers with organic, cruelty and paraben-free soaps, detergents, lotions, and sprays for kitchen, bath, and laundry, and delivering them directly to Santa Barbara area homes and businesses.