Something quite remarkable happens to us humans at the beginning of every year. Bloated from the excess of the holidays both physically and mentally, we embark on a rigorous quest to gain control of ourselves and feel better again.
We eat cleaner. We go to the gym. We reduce our alcohol intake. We floss in earnest. We organize closets. We put things in storage bins. We donate old clothing. We vacuum drapes.
We toss rotting leftovers. We pitch expired canned goods. We rage fresh wars on pantry moths. We alphabetize spices.
It’s exhausting. You know what else is exhausting?
Along the way, most of us come down with a bad case of MUTU, a debilitating condition that stands for Must Use Things Up. And I’m not talking about just food either; I’m talking about all sorts of products throughout the house.
Here’s an example, and I have many, too many, so many I rarely leave my house anymore I’m so busy using things up. As I was combing through my bathroom vanity drawers, I came across about a dozen small tubes of toothpaste, most half-used.
“What a waste,” I said to no one. “I must use those up.”
And so since then, I’ve been brushing my teeth like a madwoman throughout the day just to get rid of the toothpaste.
Much to my surprise, I also discovered all kinds of hair products I didn’t even know I had. Do I have a secret twin with hair fantasies? I only ask because I care so little about my hair that I often cut it myself. At any other time, I would simply chuck all the products — the mousse, the shine booster, the defrizzing serum, the styling paste — into the trash. But, because I’m all wound up now with not letting anything go to waste, I’ve been dutifully slathering on all the goop. Note to self — let Hollywood know they’ve got a shoo-in to play Phyllis Diller.
When I am in the throes of MUTU, I also become unusually fixated on partially used candles and votives.
“When’s the exorcism?” my husband asked the other evening when he approached the living room.
He had me there. No thanks to my crazy need to squeeze the last flicker of light out of each and every candle, our living room looked unhinged and downright weird. Kind of like how I…oh, never mind.
Where MUTU brings me to my knees, however, is in the kitchen. Ever since I started going through the contents of my freezer, I’ve become obsessed with using things up. Freezer burn? Meh. Expired? We’ll live. Discolored? Bury it in a stew. I know, I’m never this lax when it comes to food. But MUTU makes me crazy. And, believe me, freezer contents are just the tip of the iceberg. On an encouraging note, however, I must say that holiday fruitcake can add some real heft to meatloaf, candy canes dipped in peanut butter taste great and sour eggnog makes a mean salad dressing.
Thankfully, MUTU dies down in February. In the meantime, though, I’ve scheduled several dinner parties. Let’s just hope none of my friends know how to read.
Anne Palumbo writes this column for Messenger Post newspapers. Her email is