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How do you know you need to replace your toothbrush?

When the color indicator wears away?

When the toothpaste buildup is just too much to bear?

When you drop it in the toilet and decide that, yeah, probably not a good idea to keep using it?

Or when it starts to disintegrate in your mouth?

Because that’s what finally drove me to buy replacement toothbrush heads. The fibers from my first-generation Sonicare head – which I had replaced many times since I first got the toothbrush in middle school — were starting to get left behind in my mouth as I brushed my teeth.

Like a piece of popcorn kernel, or a fiber from a pineapple, it finally bothered me enough that I bought new toothbrush heads.

And I realized that I might have taken the values instilled by my parents about using something until it cannot be fixed anymore a little too far.

Just after I’d brushed my teeth that morning, I prepared to head out on a run in my neighborhood, and realized the elastic in both my sports bra band and my waistband were totally worn out. They had the consistency of a fully-cooked spaghetti noodle, and were doing almost nothing they were designed to do.

Then I looked at my socks. Holdouts from my high school and college track careers, I could still see the dirt marks from where the sand had been stuck in my track spikes between triple jumps, almost five years post-grad.

The most recent victim of my use-it-until-it’s-dead habit was my laptop bag. It was a gift from my mom after I signed my letter of intent to attend Central Washington University and thus emblazoned with my college’s mascot.

I’d been lugging that sad excuse for laptop protection since high school. The handle was barely hanging by a thread. Luckily, my brother saved my Macbook from certain destruction with his Christmas gift: a more professional, and certainly better constructed, laptop tote.

I could see a pattern developing: buy a necessary item and use the item for so many years you forget that replacement is possible…until the day it finally fails you. Then suddenly, the clouds part, opening your eyes to a world without toothbrush fibers in your mouth, without disintegrating elastic waistbands, without tenuously held together laptop carriers.

You realize life doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to go on living, fearing the moment your laptop falls out of its bag, like a gallon of milk out the bottom of a grocery bag. Or the moment when your dentist discovers a strange fiber in your mouth, whose presence might have gone unnoticed for months, you realize, turning bright red, as he asks you when was the last time you replaced your toothbrush and hands you a new one, with a look of horror-stricken skepticism in his eye.

No, life can be different. All it takes is a trip to Costco and about a hundred bucks.

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Katharine Lotze
Katharine Lotze is a photojournalist and columnist at the Signal, and can be found photographing daily life in Santa Clarita, or writing personal essays about her own daily life.
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