Tag Archives: cleaning

Your Trash, My Memories

During my usual spring cleaning, I was throwing all my clothes on the floor, taking the trash out of drawers that haven’t been touched in ages, and organizing all my personal belongings. Every year, I tend to skip over two shelves in the back of my closet. The thought of cleaning all the endless junk of failed dioramas from elementary school all the way to the newest addition, the Hy-Vee receipt that I found in my wallet from three days ago, made my head hurt more than a sprained ankle.

After years of my mom pestering and nagging me to clear it all up, I finally thought to myself that this was the year. This was the year I would plow through all the pieces of Butterfinger candy wrappers that I was too lazy to put into the trash and all the loose beads that have fallen off my Indian clothes over the years. I grabbed three heavy-duty trash bags, blasted my “Hype Up” playlist on Spotify, and got down to work. 

As I opened my closet door, I felt instant regret. I was defeated even before the task had started.

Nevertheless, I proceeded. I pulled my old movie ticket stubs, crumpled up pieces of paper with random math problems, and an assortment of different colored pencils and pens. But through all the miscellaneous junk, I stumbled upon my seventh-grade art projects.

I started to look at them for a bit. The longer I looked, the more memories came back. I saw my art teacher, Mrs. Castillo, demonstrating how to draw a flower on the SMART Board while I tried to recreate it with my unskilled hand. I heard my friend whisper about how cool the seventh-grade dance was going to be and how sparkly her dress was, and I smelled the pizza sticks in the cafeteria being cooked for all the hungry preteens in the upcoming period. 

I started to look more intently through the massive mess to find even more thrown away memories. Everything I grabbed had a different meaning, each item brought back moments of joy, sadness, regret, anger, and fulfillment. Stuff that I assumed was junk and trash turned out to be something meaningful and sacred. I found the first book that taught me how to read. I found my plans to throw the best birthday party which involved cotton candy covered clowns and puppy playpen. I found my kindergarten yearbook filled with people I had completely forgotten about. I found a shirt I had tie-dyed all by myself during summer camp. All these moments were right in front of me and I didn’t even notice. All the moments that I once thought were insignificant turned out to shape me the most. After an unsuccessful attempt at drawing in the seventh grade, I took several art classes in high school to help improve my ability. 

Most of my friendships in middle school and elementary school started to disappear once high school started. Having these moments to reminisce about those others helped me reconnect with so many intelligent and kindhearted people. Not only that, I learned so much about myself as well. I saw how much personal growth I had made in the last ten or so years. I saw all my mistakes and defeats which have helped me tremendously move forward in life. I learned micro-concepts like slowing down when you talk so that people can understand, but I also learned lifelong truths like trusting yourself before trusting others, being patient will lead to the best results, hard work is vital in any situation, and facing your fears isn’t as bad as it seems. 

It has been a couple of months since the shelves have been cleaned. However, the other day, as I subconsciously started to toss a straw wrapper to the back of my closet as I was too lazy to walk to the nearest trashcan, an epiphany hit me. I glimpsed at my two cleaned shelves and I was greeted with properly sorted middle school art projects, summer camp props, tacky participation awards, baby memorabilia, which reminded myself how much I have truly grown and how much progress I still need to make in order to become a more well-rounded person. I can’t wait to commence the journey of my next chapter!

Ishani Adidam is a high school senior who lives in Nebraska. She plans on studying medicine in college in order to tend to the underserved patients. In her free time, she loves to bake and cook various Indian foods to grow closer to her heritage and culture.

Lota in the Loo

Winston Churchill famously said, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”  But even during the most desperate times, Winnie’s wit carried the day. So perhaps today, while a virus wends its way across the world, we can take a deep breath (while practicing social distancing) and smile.

To be sure, the coronavirus presents a rather serious crisis. It’s so bad that people have convinced themselves that there are shortages that don’t really exist. The opening sentence from Michael Corkery and Sapna Maheshwari’s New York Times March 13, 2020 article titled, “Is There Really a Toilet Paper Shortage?” captured the madness: “If there’s one image that captures the panic sweeping through the United States this week, it might be the empty store shelves where toilet paper usually sits.”

I went to my local Costco to see if this madness could possibly be true. Were otherwise intelligent people actually hoarding rolls of soft, perforated white paper whose only function was arse-cleaning? Were they willing to wait over an hour in line just to enter the warehouse store to buy massive amounts of this Western brainchild of the inventor who named it after himself: Gayetty’s Medicated Paper? Would panicky people contribute to supply chain sabotage and throw demand-planning forecasts out of kilter by emptying store shelves of this quotidian product?

Yes. Yes. And yes.

So what to do about all these affirmatives that presage a rather unsavory negative? Just imagine a world where people don’t have enough toilet paper to do their business! In my line of work, I help organizations make transitions through times of change. I use a rather simple formula to overcome resistance to transformation:  D x V x F > R.

  • Dissatisfaction: Internalize dissatisfaction with the current change
  • Vision: Envision a desired future state
  • First Steps: Take the necessary first steps
  • Resistance: Recognize that there is resistance to change

If it is true that there is always some level of resistance to change, then R is always greater than zero; and in the simple math formula, R will always win out if D or V or F is zero.

Back to the toilet paper crisis, which is actually a metaphor for the paradox of abundance.  


It is clearly unacceptable that people should fight over toilet paper. Similarly, price gouging must be unacceptable, and yet capitalist individuals corral the supply of hand sanitizers and sell their goods on Amazon at obscene markups. And as we climb the ladder of abstraction, we can all agree that authoritarian systems must not exploit the free market by accepting the largesse of other countries in their own time of need but limit the flow of medical products when their time of distress has passed (yes, this is about China limiting the flow of face masks). With each of us surely only six degrees of separation removed from someone inflicted with COVID-19, Dissatisfaction is greater than zero.


Look around and imagine that we have plenty of resources; we just have to be empathetically resourceful in how we make these resources available to those who need them most. Let’s not become like Joseph Gayetty who watermarked his name on each sheet with which people cleaned what they had shat; let’s be a bit less egocentric and self-centered. The following quote often attributed to M. K. Gandhi, but actually first said by Frank Buchman of Initiatives for Change, can help us all envision a more generous world, thus making our collective Vision greater than zero: “There’s enough in the world for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.”

First Steps

Here’s a more famous Gandhian quote that the so-called Mahatma might or might not have said:  “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” That’s a great philosophical first step.  Now on to the practical matter of what we do to hygienically clean up after we defecate in the loo. I suggest this call to action as part of your morning ablutions, thus making your personal First Step greater than zero:  minimize your dependence on toilet paper by cleaning your backside with water. For those whose toilets are so-quipped, loo like the French do and use a bidet.  For those without fancy ceramic fixtures, loo like billions of villagers do and pour the water from a lota. 


When I first returned to India in the mid-1970s, I saw all of the Rajasthanis in my native village carrying lotas with them to the “jungle” at sunrise. At first, I resisted this communal cleansing but eventually, I joined the morning march. Perhaps you, too, will resist the idea of using a lota in the loo. But try a little behavior change on just one morning this week. By giving up the urge to wipe your rump with a lifetime of bright white reams of paper, you might see that we’re all in this crisis together.  Regardless of where you land on the economics of globalization, the coronavirus has proven that Marshall McLuhan was right: we all live in a global village.

Dr. Rajesh C. Oza, is a Change Management Consultant working with clients across the world; he also facilitates the development of MBA students’ interpersonal dynamics at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.