USE IT OR LOSE IT Enjoy the finer things in life
YOU PROBABLY HAVE AT LEAST A FEW THINGS
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?