USE IT OR LOSE IT En­joy the finer things in life

Ottawa Business Journal - Ottawa at Home - - LIVING | ON SECOND THOUGHT - By Laura Byrne Pa­quet


lurk­ing in your house that you love but never use: some gor­geous per­fume, a beau­ti­ful neck­lace or a cash­mere sweater, per­haps. If you’re like me, you may be sav­ing them for a spe­cial oc­ca­sion.

Yet, why do so many of us feel guilty us­ing lovely things in our day-to-day lives? I’m no so­cial psy­chol­o­gist, but here’s my the­ory.

Back in the “bad old days” (the Great De­pres­sion, the Po­tato Famine, the stu­dent loan years—take your pick), we didn’t have much. So it was im­por­tant to pro­tect our big­gest in­vest­ments—from the farmer’s Sun­day suit to the con­tents of his daugh­ter’s hope chest—by cre­at­ing a mys­tique around them. That way, they’d be less likely to get bro­ken, torn or lost.

But th­ese days, when clut­ter con­sul­tants help us man­age the stuff spilling out of our clos­ets, it seems silly to ear­mark 90 per­cent of our pos­ses­sions for 10 per­cent of our lives.

“But it would be waste­ful to wear that silk shirt to the gro­cery store!” I hear you wail­ing. As some­one who usu­ally heads to Loblaws in an out­fit barely re­moved from py­ja­mas, I sym­pa­thize. But let me play devil’s ad­vo­cate for a minute, and ar­gue that it may be more waste­ful to save things than to use them.

For in­stance, I love can­dles, but it seems ex­trav­a­gant to buy them—or even to use them. So when I re­ceived some as a gift a few years ago, I care­fully stored them in a box for some as-yet un­planned party. A few months ago I opened the box, only to find a pile of half-melted wax. I’d ab­sent­mind­edly put the box next to a heat­ing vent.

At that point I de­cided I’d had enough of keep­ing things for good. Dig­ging into our kitchen cup­boards, I un­earthed a rarely used an­tique teacup and a Thai teapot. Feel­ing like a kid con­tem­plat­ing shoplift­ing, I asked my­self, “Why don’t I use th­ese ev­ery day?”

They might get bro­ken, a voice in­side me mur­mured. Be­sides, you should save them for com­pany. The in­sin­u­a­tion, I re­al­ized, was that I wasn’t quite de­serv­ing of my own china.

When your pos­ses­sions start own­ing you, it’s time to fight back. De­fi­antly, I washed the cup, saucer and teapot, and made a big pot of Earl Grey.

Th­ese days, the china reg­u­larly finds a home amid the worka­day clut­ter on my desk.And, yes, it may well get bro­ken; I’m no­to­ri­ously clumsy. But in the in­terim, I have the plea­sure ev­ery day—how deca­dent!—of ad­mir­ing the del­i­cacy of the teacup’s han­dle and the sleek lines of the blue-and-white teapot.

I can’t say that my tea tastes any dif­fer­ent now than it did in a plain old mug. But us­ing th­ese pretty im­ple­ments has made me won­der: if we all gave our­selves per­mis­sion to use the lovely things many of us are al­ready lucky enough to own, wouldn’t it help stanch our con­stant crav­ing to buy new stuff? And wouldn’t that be a bonus?

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