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Blog // Simplicity
September 25, 2021

This Week I Quit Subscribing To Lens Wipes

We’ve all made changes and tried to adapt. For me that included using an awful lot of Lens wipes.

The great pandemic toilet paper shortage. We’ll joke about it for years to come. In country after country, as we faced the most urgent global threat of our lifetimes, a horrible contagious respiratory disease, we watched people empty supermarket shelves of toilet paper.


There was another shortage, less talked about. Stores also quickly ran out of hand sanitiser.

This made much more sense. We know infections can be carried from our hands to our faces. We didn’t know then how long this new disease could live on surfaces. Did we honestly want to trust everyone else’s sense of personal hygiene?

Beginning An Obsession With Lens Wipes

Heathrow airport was particularly chaotic that day. I was waiting for my daughter’s flight to arrive from the US. Her campus had recently closed.

She’d boxed up her dorm, like thousands of other students, unsure when they’d see their belongings again. And she boarded a flight with as much of her life as she could cram into two suitcases.

At the airport I was one of the few people wearing a mask. But almost everyone was wary, keeping their distance. It was like being at a train station famous for its pickpockets. Everyone watched everyone else out of the corner of their eyes.

I had one bottle of hand sanitiser with me. It was nearly empty.

To pass the time I went searching for more. The airport stores, like those near my home, were mostly empty. I did find one brand but it didn’t list alcohol among its ingredients – a requirement we had been advised to look for at the time, in any hand sanitiser.

Then I thought about lens wipes.

Those packets of lens wipes intended for cleaning spectacles and camera gear are usually quite high in alchohol. To my surprise they were fully stocked. I bought a packet.

Later that day I searched on Amazon. You could buy boxes of lens wipes from Zeiss, 200 of them, in handy sachets! I took out a subscription.

Wiping My Way Through The Pandemic

Through the middle months of 2020 I wiped furiously. Wiping to keep disease at bay. Wipe, wipe, wipe.

Everything that came through the mailbox, which of course was everything that came into the house, got wiped down with CIF antibacterial wipes.

I was glad I’d bought a box of them, because soon you couldn’t buy them. Along with masks and nitrile gloves they were sequestered by the government for emergency services. You’d think governments would have stockpiles of that sort of stuff for just this kind of emergency, but clearly they didn’t.

For more personal things, the Zeiss lens wipes came into service.

Anything that we touched outside the house got wiped. Phones, EarPods, keys, even jacket zippers. Wipe, wipe, wipe. The subscription came in handy because we were using a lot of wipes.

The Great Wipe Slowdown

Over time it became clear: the threat from surfaces wasn’t so great. Magazines that had travelled across the Atlantic in an envelope didn’t need to be wiped down. Same for EarPods that had been untouched while I went for a walk in the park.

The rate of wipe use started to decrease.

Finding lens wipes in that nearly empty airport store was a moment of clarity. Maybe one of those wipes, in the car home from the airport, or some other trip, helped keep us safe?

I’ll keep some of them with me every time I travel from now on. Like masks and hand sanitizer, they’re now a permanent part of my kit.

But a box of 200 lens wipes will last a long time!

Rethinking Adaptations

We often develop habits that outgrow their usefulness; adaptations to circumstances we no longer need to address. It’s worth auditing those habits occasionally to ask if they are still relevant.

This Week I Quit is an occasional series about using minimalism and simplicity to foster creativity, productivity, and well-being. The series originally ran from 2016 to 2019, and you can read a summary of that series here. You can find an archive of all This Week I Quit articles here. You can also follow the hashtag #ThisWeekIQuit on Twitter.

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