My fridge has been really empty the last few days, and I’m really loving it. It’s a weird kind of freedom, liberation from the pressure of trying to manage using up all the bits, a thing I love to do, and not losing track of something like a jar of homemade bone broth pulled from the back yesterday that was starting to mold. I have more exciting ideas for food projects in my head than my body and soul can keep up with, and even I, as passionate about being frugal and not wasting food, occasionally lose something good because I can only play with so much food on any given day. Not long ago, I was truly saddened at having to compost fuzzy beets, it really hurts my heart. Beets are delicious and nutritious. I sautéed the greens, packed with yummy antioxidants and important vitamins and minerals, right after we bought them, as they are delicate and rot quickly, then took the hearty root for granted for its longevity in the fridge and failed to use them in a timely manner. My anxiety levels rapidly escalate when I think about all the ingredients I have on hand that I’d like to use for this or that purpose, especially the more perishable ones, and I realize I can only get so much of it done in a day, and I feel the urgency of the ticking clock of rot and waste. No joke, it really does cause me some low grade panic. Legitimate sadness when I had to compost that 4 oz. chunk of cream cheese left over from something because it had gotten all hard and gross on the end and the rest probably wasn’t any better. It was exactly the quantity needed for a Caramel Banana Cake Roll I’d seen that would also utilize the frozen bananas I inevitably have in my freezer and that homemade caramel lingering in the back of my fridge that needs a purpose other than just eating by the spoonful.
And then a couple of days ago, I noticed our fridge was really empty, and I was flooded with a weird sense of relief. No playing Tetris to keep track of and access what’s in there. No mental gymnastics to prioritize what needs to be used most urgently, how I’m going to use it, and if I have the bandwidth to do that thing in a timely manner in balance with all my other adulting. For both economic and health reasons, my SO and I have dialed way back, I mean way back, on grocery delivery, opting instead to buy locally, in smaller quantities, on a more as-needed basis, going out for walks to our neighborhood markets, where produce tends to be cheaper, we’re not paying delivery fees or overinflated delivery platform prices, and we’re getting fresh air, movement, and sunshine, #Winning, and bonus win: at least two of our local markets put out really ripe produce for sale at deep discounts, so as long as we can either use it right away or otherwise preserve it, like freezing or making a quick refrigerator pickle, we are both saving more money and fighting food waste.
And while the refrigerator above looks pretty empty, it was, in fact, much emptier just yesterday, before we went out on one of those neighborhood shopping trips and made dinner. The left produce bin was empty, save those oyster mushrooms, the right held 4 kohlrabi that were starting to sprout, a bunch of carrots, and the limp heart of a celery bunch. That deli container of soup on the top shelf wasn’t there, that’s leftovers from last night’s dinner, a meatball soup featuring the kohlrabi, half the carrots, and the rest of the celery after perking it up in a glass of water. That large jar with a little cold brew coffee just went in this morning after brewing on my countertop overnight, and the deli container next to it is the papaya and Korean melon we bought really ripe and at a discount, chopped and nibbled as soon as we got home, and stashed the rest for snacking in the next day or two. Even that flat of eggs is down to 8 and I’m not twitching to buy more, even though eggs are my most favorite and versatile way to use things up and repurpose leftovers, from quiche and frittata to poaching them in liquid leftovers to frying them to adorn leftover rice or noodle dishes, yum. So yeah, the fridge I woke up to yesterday morning was much emptier. And it felt so good.
And if you’ve followed the highly unusual events of my past two years or so, you know it’s not for no good reason that this feels like a relief and not food scarcity. I am bang in the middle of cleaning up, literally and figuratively, the mind-bogglingly complicated estates of my Step-father and my mother, who both passed in close succession in 2020. The literal mess clean up falls significantly on the fact that my mom was a level four hoarder. While I’ve always had my struggles with my own accumulation of stuff, I’ve never felt anxiety in a clinical sense over my stuff. Until I had to confront my mom’s accumulation of stuff. While after cumulative months of work on their house has resulted in good progress, there is still so much to do, it would make your head spin. I’ve had to limit how much time I spend in that house at once significantly for mental health reasons. And taking care of my mental, physical, and emotional health in the wake of tons of trauma unleashed mostly by 2020 is nearly a full time job in and of itself these days. And while at first, I danced in the open spaces and ease of utility of my own home every time I returned from my parent’s cluttered, narrow, overwhelming, and minimally usable spaces, I’ve slowly become more and more aware of and anxious about the happiness stumbling blocks in my own home, like cluttered corners, things in the way for whatever reason, unfinished projects, things bursting beyond their containers, needed items awkward or difficult to access, and relentless grit and grime and grub. Whereas, in 2020 my whole world, personal and external, was falling apart and I effectively stopped leaving the house, cleaning much, getting any exercise, or being mindful of eating and drinking habits, because I was emotionally stuck, After lots of intentional work on lots of habits, I’m now walking a minimum of 1.1 miles every day, often more, and practicing yoga and core strengthening workouts a couple of times per week. I’m engaged in a structured process of personal growth and healing trauma, including therapy, journaling, meditation, and lots of calming breaths. The renewed energy I have from mental, emotional, and physical improvements has driven me to tackle the outer disorder in my home and life and it just further contributes to my inner calm. Reinforced and encouraged by pinging into clutter clearing rooms on Clubhouse, joining clutter clearing groups on Facebook, and following pages on minimalism, keeping me soaking in positive reinforcement and moral support to keep up the good work and keep working on positive habit changes, with each new corner I declutter, edit, clean, and organize, not just in my parent’s home, in my own as well, I revel in each new clean inch of negative space, my mind feels lighter, and I’m happier, healthier, and more productive in the areas of my life that really matter.
Contemplating the nature of emptiness is something Buddhists have done for a couple thousand years now. In the madness of our capitalist consumer driven world, I’ve got a new to me take on emptiness to consider. While I’ve been focused on the overwhelming clutter clearing of my parent’s house and making meaningful improvements to my own home, I’d not considered the impact that decluttering my refrigerator would have. The emptiness in the fridge is not a lack, it’s not things we need to stock up on again. It’s holding space for important things, it’s fewer things going to waste. It’s fewer food projects that I can’t keep up with. It makes what is there more available and easier to access. The emptiness in my fridge corresponds directly to less noise in my head, more ease in my breath. The emptiness in my fridge is fullness, it’s abundance, it’s enough.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my supply of stock bones is threatening to bulge from its bin in my freezer, so I’m going to go make some stock and add a few jars to the emptiness in the fridge. And I’ll probably go buy some eggs, too. I really hate being out of eggs.
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