To Save or Not to Save

cottage cheese containers
Don’t throw away; or you can if you want

Early on last Fall semester, my roommate asked me a question: “Does your family save cottage cheese containers?”

“Uh, what do you mean?” I asked.

“You know, did your mom ever save cottage cheese or sour cream containers to use as Tupperware?”


“Oh. My mom never saved containers. She just always bought Tupperware. I thought it was really weird the first time I saw one of my old roommates save one.”


You might be thinking that this is an absolutely pointless experience. It’s possible that you are right. However, while discussing potential food containers is pretty uninteresting, this story does illustrate a point about the role families play in society: our families shape our behavior.

Think of any differences you’ve experienced with roommates or friends: You choose the cheapest meal at a restaurant; your roomie chooses the most expensive plus dessert. Your other roommate leaves on all the lights in your apartment all the time, no matter how long he or she is away from the apartment; you compulsively flip lights off, whether there is someone in the room or not. Your friend hugs everyone he or she comes in contact with, while you won’t sit in a chair if a human being is sitting in the chair next to it.

Admittedly, some of these behaviors are unique to the individual. But many of them stem from the culture of a person’s family. The religious beliefs, financial choices, health practices, political associations, and social behaviors of parents and siblings largely affect us, even if we don’t realize it. It took me three years of living away from home to realize that I could get dessert if I wanted to (my family is morally against getting dessert at restaurants).

Our families help shape our behavior. Part of that behavior might be saving cottage cheese containers to store food. Some of it might not (ask my roommate).

—Jessica Neilson, Stance