By Sherrin Fitzer

I have been obsessed with towels—soft, fluffy Egyptian cotton towels.

Why? Because I read one of those lists online; you know the ones. This one was five things a person should do by the time they turn 50. And although that ship has sailed, one of the items listed was to own a nice, fluffy set of towels.

I found myself looking at them longingly on my computer. I compared prices. I debated over colors. I worried that if I ordered them online they might not be fluffy enough when they arrived. Maybe it was better to buy fluffy towels in person.

As Cher says in the film Moonstruck: “Snap out of it!” Thank goodness she spoke to me before I began to head to my car.

My towels are perfectly fine. They may not be Egyptian cotton, but they are functional, do not have holes in them and are not uncomfortable to use. It never occurred to me I needed towels before I read this article. That of course is what happens in our consumer culture. It’s someone’s job to convince us that we should purchase items that we do not need.

I don’t mean that the article was sponsored by the towel lobby, but you get the idea.

Author and co-founder of The Human Kindness Foundation, Bo Lozoff, divides his book Deep & Simple (one of Mr. Rogers’ favorites) into three sections: spiritual practice, dedication to service, and simple living. I have used these concepts to guide me in my life.

Living simply makes sense to me. It is ecologically sound. It helps me resist our society’s obsession with conspicuous consumption.  It reminds me to be grateful for what I have, and that my worth and happiness do not derive from material goods. And, it saves me money.

The “towel incident” pushed me to evaluate how I have been doing with my goal of living simply. I guess I needed the reminder as it seems I have been slipping into some patterns of convenience and thoughtlessness.

What has my lack of remembering to live simply led to? Among other things: purchases of canned sparkling water,  coffee at drive-throughs, frozen “healthy” dinners, a pair of shoes that do not fit and this:

Cat Buddha

I have a filter on my faucet and drinking my tap water is perfectly fine. Again there is perfectly good coffee in my home. I used to cook on weekends for the whole week and I can do that again. I really did not need the shoes.

So I have decided to get back on track with simple living. No more impulse or convenience purchases. No more throwing away money or increasing my debt by mindlessly clicking buttons. No more opening packages in the mail only to say “What was I thinking?”

I challenge the status quo every day by being a feminist, vegetarian, Buddhist, prison worker. I will not crumble by being a mindless consumer. I do not need those towels, that $5 cup of coffee canned sparkling water or expensive frozen dinners.

Cat Buddha? What can I say? He was an impulse purchase that I did not need, but he sure makes me grin as I watch him bouncing on my dashboard.


Sherrin FitzerSherrin Fitzer works at a large women’s prison in the Midwest (a place she never would have expected to be, yet it is exactly where she is supposed to be). She has been involved in teaching incarcerated prisoners since 1991. In addition to helping incarcerated women with their children, she facilitates a theatre troupe and meditation classes. She believes in the importance of the arts in prisons and tries to implement this as much as possible. Sophia—seen in the picture—is often her editor and generally a quite harsh one.



Photo: (source)

Editor: Dana Gornall