In the life of a ponytail holder…

By January 11, 2013 No Comments

I had a scare last week: For a day, I thought I had lost one of my most prized possession. You might ask: What would that necessity be?

my ponytail holder repaired

In my previous home, my bathroom was as big as my current kitchen and dining room combined (a real waste of heating and space considering that we used it only twice a day for only a few minutes). Its cabinets and drawers stored countless products that I had deemed necessary, such as miracle creams, makeup, colorful nail polishes, nail polish remover, Q-tips, cotton balls, rubbing alcohol… and a dozen ponytail holders.

Then when I moved to a small house and came to question the need for everything I owned, I eventually looked at my pile of ponytail holders and wondered: Would I ever use them all at once? Do I need all of these? I realized that I had been caught in the what-if; that I simply held onto the arsenal just in case. What was I afraid of?  Maybe running out or maybe limiting possible hairstyles. Since I had outgrown my pigtail years and knew that I would not wear more than one at once – ponytails and loose buns were already well ingrained into my daily routine… I decided to challenge myself: To stick to a single one (donate the others to resist any temptation to grab another option) and see how long I could make it last.

With everyday use to keep my hair tied when I cook, eat, garden, wash my face over the sink and keep my hair from getting wet in the shower every other morning, the metal-free band split in half within a couple of months, leaving me with a full head of uncontrollable hair. Crushed that my experiment had come to an end so quickly, I went to the store, out of habit, as we instinctively do to replace a broken object. But with my consumption habits changed, my view on the selection available at the store had changed too. And when I realized that to purchase a replacement required purchasing a bundle of twenty, I refused to go along with the marketing trick. Shopping is voting – and in no circumstance, was I going to participate in such gluttony.

As I often do when I cannot find an “acceptable” product (i.e., one that matches my lifestyle beautifully), I returned home empty-handed, looking for a solution to present itself. It always does, I found out. I immediately reached for a pencil and attempted to weave it into my hair, but my fine texture would not allow for such cool trick (I have always admired heads that can pull that off). Then, I simply twisted my hair into a knot and tucked the end under to make a device-free bun, one that could last a few minutes as long as I stayed in place, but this was not a sustainable alternative considering my activity level. Eventually, I pulled out the broken ponytail holder from my landfill collection and looked for a way to repair it: I simply knotted the two ends together and with a great sense of satisfaction, tied my hair back. It worked! and with this small victory, the challenge would go on. Amazingly, I found that my repair strengthened the design while retaining its elasticity. And so for ten months I went on wearing it, giving it a dedicated space for storage and diligently keeping track of it.

But on my vacation last week, moving from one condo to another disturbed its whereabouts. I thought I lost it, disappointed that such relationship, a year’s worth of effort, would not earn a showcase in the glass jar containing our annual trash tally…

I did find the ponytail holder after all, stashed in a pocket for safe keeping between moves. But considering the materials used to manufacture the band, I know that it won’t last another year and it will eventually join the other articles of bad design, contained in our jar. The elasticity is not what it used to be, and I will soon have to surrender it, but when I do add it to our yearly landfill collection, I’ll have a story to tell 😉 Overall, things that are made to quickly fail on us, make me angry. For my own peace of mind, when my ponytail holder is no longer usable, I’ll vote against ephemeral crap and consider going back to the french barrettes that I use to wear as a kid. They are made of metal and they never failed.

With the Zero Waste lifestyle, nothing is too little to declutter or repair. Smart consumption entails taking care of the stuff that we have, before we run to the store at the first sign of loss or breakage, and learn from our mistakes so that we do not blindly vote for poor design, again and again.

What purchase will you make differently when it needs replacement?

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