colored pencils

Thinking about Scarcity

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I mentioned in one of my previous posts how sick I got in March. There was some incredibly nasty bug going around that went straight to the lungs. I was coughing so much, and so hard, that my chest just ached. One of the things I found that helped was laying on my stomach on the floor. The hard floor supported my chest and abdominal muscles, and I seemed to cough less in that position.

But there is really only so much you can do in that position. I played a lot of games of tug and fetch with my dog, but after that… what are you going to do? The answer? Coloring! A few years ago when Adult coloring books were all the rage, my girlfriend Catie bought me a beautiful coloring book (Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book) and a set of pencils. Because I was sick, feeling rotten, and doped up on cold meds, my brain was really foggy. Coloring was perfect! It was zen, keeping me in the moment. Creative, which I love. And it was something to do, down there on the floor.

pages in my coloring book
So much green.

However, as you can see by the Enchanted Forest title, it was full of forest-y pictures. And slowly I started using up all my green colored pencils. I have a thing about scarcity. It can be hard for me to completely use something up, especially something I love, because I want to make sure I can have it later. There are things I absolutely hate being without, or if they get low, I feel a strong need to replace them: hair and body care products, certain beloved spices, and certainly, particular staple foods like olive oil. It is to the point where I won’t use them until I know I have backups either in the house or on the schedule to pick up.

I think most people have this feeling of anxiousness around scarcity for different things. It’s more than just a concern that we might run out of milk or toilet paper, it’s a feeling that makes us nervous and jittery. It’s why I always have an extra bottle or two of shampoo in the cupboard. It’s why my mother always has a full supply of canned goods in her house – more than one woman can use in a month. These are things that make us feel safe and in control.

What’s interesting is that this feeling of scarcity not only makes me stock up on things, it also makes me want to eat things. Why is it that I can pass two different amazing bakeries twice a day every weekday and never feel the urge to go in, but if someone brings day-old doughnuts into the office they suddenly look appealing? I don’t even like doughnuts that much! And it’s not that I am hungry – it is that feeling of scarcity. That there is only so much of any one thing in the world and if I don’t claim mine, I won’t have it. Think about the candy bowl at work. Sure, you can be called by the 3:00pm sugar crash, but ever grab some when you don’t even really want it? That’s scarcity – that’s saying, “if I don’t take these M&Ms now, I won’t get any,”

But that isn’t really true, is it? I mean, it might be true in the office candy bowl, (chocolate disappears in minutes in my office,) but it isn’t like there is a worldwide shortage of candy. You could go out at any time and go purchase a bag at a gas station or grocery store. Sure, there is an expense, but it really isn’t about the money, is it?

Or think about buffets. Buffets are ironically a study in scarcity. All that food, we can have whenever we want. When will that come again? I have to try everything that looks appealing, otherwise, I will be without… and so on. Abundance, but feeling the pangs of scarcity.

When it came to my coloring, I want on to Amazon to buy some new green colored pencils. I have been to enough art stores over the years that I know pencils can be sold individually, and I figured there might even be a company making sets – sets just of blues or all different greens. I would just get one of those. What I found instead, was this:

SUDEE STILE Colored Pencils 150 Unique Colors (No Duplicates) Art Drawing Colored Pencils Set with Case Sharpener

In case you are wondering, that is a set of SUDEE STILE – 150 Colored Pencils! Yes, I bought an entire box, with four removable trays of 150 colored pencils (and no, there aren’t any duplicates.) It is probably overkill, but it was $39.95 and I had a bunch of Amazon points that paid for it. And seriously – just look at all those delicious greens! And it worked, as soon as I got them, I had to lay them out on the floor and do some coloring. I also felt perfectly okay after that using up the other pencils I had gotten from Catie. But later it got me thinking about scarcity, hoarding, anxiety, and abundance.

Which is why I bring this up on a health and nutrition blog. I think scarcity often makes us do unwanted behavior when it comes to food. The world is abundant with things. I could have totally used up those other pencils. There wasn’t a ban on green pencils, I could have gotten more at any time. Just as there is no shortage in my world of baked goods or candy. Assuming I have the financial resources to do so, I am not in a place where I need to feel anxious about not having “mine.” Even if a meal is delicious, I don’t need to eat past where I am full, because I can have delicious food tomorrow. I can relax, knowing my needs will be met.

I think noticing this feeling of scarcity, recognizing it and naming it, can help me think a little more clearly. Maybe it will be food for thought for you too.


  1. Dawn, I do the same thing. I have many little nearly empty containers of favorite things that I just can’t imagine living without.

    1. I think a lot of us do. But what is cracking me up is that then we don’t even use the favorite things. I want to start being ore aware when I am doing that and be okay letting stuff go or using it up. 😀

  2. I have thought about this concept quite a bit. Something that happens to me is that I will be in a restaurant eating something heavenly, I get full, but….. there’s either not enough to take home or it’s something that won’t keep well. And I have to make the decision: leave all that heaven on my plate or eat it though I’m stuffed. Because obviously I WILL NEVER HAVE THE CHANCE TO EAT IT AGAIN. Thanks for your clear thoughts on this topic.

    1. Oh my goodness yes! That feeling makes so much sense to me. But then you pull it out and look at it, and yeah… I mean, there are some foods that I probably won’t have again, like my dad’s apple pie. But eating a whole one back when I could wouldn’t help me at all today. Somehow that isn’t the way we usually think in the moment. though.

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