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Can You Find Freedom at 55 By Learning to Just Say No?

Updated on January 3, 2014
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Adventures in Soap Making

You would think I should have learned by now, when someone turns to me and asks brightly, “You'd be able to use them up wouldn't you?” the answer always should be no.

Wisdom that comes with age is slowly catching up with me (gasp – that means I have to admit to growing up) but I still find it difficult to turn down something that is free, especially when that something involves re-purposing an item that has barely been used and would otherwise be thrown out. I blame having parents who were raised in the Depression – we certainly don't have any Scottish ancestry that I am aware of. Whatever the reason, I have a difficult time refusing something that is still a useful commodity that I might have to go and pay money to get at a later date.

Innocuous Looking Enough

In this particular case the item in question was slightly used glycerin hand soap from a local hotel. At the height of the recycling mania the housekeeping manager had issued the degree that all used bars of soap were to be put to one side for recycling instead of being deposited in the garbage and whisked away to languish in our local landfill. A friend of mine works in that department and immediately volunteered to find a use for those still perfectly good soaps. This led to the moment above when I had expressed an interest in soap-making. My friend seized her opportunity to move these soaps to their forever home by offering me something that I couldn't refuse – an item that was still usable but needed a little help to become more attractive.

Recycling Soap -- the Basics

Once I got over the shock of finding two large (and correspondingly heavy) boxes of used glycerin soaps on my door a day or so after our conversation, during the next lull in my busy semi-retired work schedule I took an hour or so and Googled recycling soap. Every web site I found made the process seem easy and straightforward enough so I gathered up some initial bars and set about making my first batch of recycled soap.

The Google search that I ran – make your own recycled soap – returned nearly 4 million results including pages of step-by-step instructions, photos of every step and lots of e-book offers. All this to make one hand-sized piece of soap from all the little bitty soaps you have left lying around. It's generally agreed that the first step to chop the soap bits up into smaller pieces so I carved my left over bars into chunks and then whirled them briefly in my mini food processor to make those chunks into smaller chunks.

Chop and Then Melt. How Hard Can That Be?

The instructions were united in saying that all I needed to turn my gently used soaps into a new bar was the addition of a little bit of water and gentle heating in a water bath to facilitate melting. Sounds simple enough. I happily ground up my soap placed it in a plastic container that I had handy and set it on low heat on the stove. The soap started melting and there I was stirring away, being careful to make sure that the plastic bucket I was using never came in contact with the bottom of the pan. I was thrilled as the glycerin soap melted down just as anticipated, so I took a few minutes to find the perfect container or mold for my lovely new batch of soap.

Returning to my task of stirring the melting soap I noted that the soap had seemed to reach a point where it just wasn't melting any more yet there were still chunks of soap floating in the soup. A smart person would have just said that okay, that's enough melting but my obsessive self felt a compulsive need to melt those puppies down to nothing. Solution? Turn the heat up of course, how else can you hurry melting glycerin soap along??

Check the Melting Mixture Frequently!

As I'm busily stirring I notice that the bottom of the soap is thickening up for some reason, hmm.

I thought I had been super careful not to let the plastic sit on the metal pan but as I lifted the container completely out of the water my suspicions were confirmed. There was only time for a strangled shriek of “OH NO.” as the bottom of the container gave way and about four cups of liquid glycerin soap poured all over my stove top.

Fortunately I have a newer ceramic cook top (no exposed burners) and my husband who had been following this process with close attention, was not passing through the kitchen at the particular moment. He had already asked me casually if I was SURE the plastic wasn't getting too hot.

I think it probably goes without saying that by the time clean up was finished I had an extremely clean stove top as well.

What Do You Think?

Is it okay to say no to something you really don't want to do?

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The Moral of This Story

The biggest freedom that you'll ever experience once you turn 55 is that you're totally free to say NO to any and all requests that you don't feel inclined to say Yes to. House sit a friends place complete with snakes, spiders and iguanas? Thanks, but I'll pass! Take a load of junk that another friend can't bring themselves to part with and send to the dump? A firm and heartfelt NO would be indicated. Saying no doesn't mean that you like the person any less, or in the case of adult children that you don't love them.

By the time you're my age – closer to 60 that 55, saying no should be viewed as the greatest freedom of all because it saves you from having to deal with all the things that you are asked to do or items offered for free that ultimately someone (this usually means you unless you can pay the favor forward) WILL have to deal with on another day. I should also mention that these kindly free stuff donors do tend to ask if you have finished with or used up whatever it was that they were off loading. Saying "no" up front means you won't have to confess that you thought about their offer/request for about as long as it took to answer them and turn away.

As for me, I'm practicing saying no at every opportunity so please don't be offended if a tactful mention of soap and water in the same sentence meets with a resounding NO every time it comes up. My family has become quite resigned to my practicing on them.

There's Always Exceptions To a Rule!

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