Saving Things, Using Things

5 years ago

I am fascinated by things, and our attachment to our things.

Why are some people hoarders? How are some people able to live out of a suitcase, or in carefully curated minimalist surroundings ?

The answer, of course, comes down to the psychology of it. Many people who have lived through hard times tend to keep a lot of things around “just in case” … and the people who live in minimalist environments probably don’t want to feel tied down to things for one reason or another. (I do believe that our things control us to a degree.) And then there’s a whole group of people who just keep buying and buying and buying, so much so that it’s given rise to a whole new industry: self-storage. (Did you know the U.S. self-storage market is worth approximately US $22 billion? Crazy.)

The emotional value of the “thing” in question usually comes down to the history attached to it. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately as we continue to go through our stuff post-reno. It’s hard to get rid of things like high-school yearbooks or our kid’s first pair of shoes because there’s a story there, and the story is more valuable than the item. But if the story is lost, that item becomes worthless. After we’re dead and gone, 99.9% of the items we cherish will disappear because they will no longer have a story.

I have a set of vintage Pyrex mixing bowls that I really love. It seems weird to love one’s mixing bowls, but I cannot help myself. They were my mom’s, and she gave them to me. I added a couple bowls to the set in colours that spoke to me sometime between then and now, but for the longest time they sat high on a shelf, seldom used but always admired from afar.

How can I put into words why I like these bowls so much. Perhaps it’s because they’re so simple in design. Perhaps it’s because they remind of an innocent time in which kids were encouraged to lick the beaters despite the Deadly Threat of Raw Egg. Perhaps I like them because of their colour, gentle on the eye, pleasing to the brain. Perhaps it’s because so many good things came from these bowls.

When we moved into our apartment over the summer I had to severely pare down our belongings. I bid farewell to extra gadgets and infrequently used dishes, bowls and plates. There just wasn’t room for them. I did, however, elect to keep my bowls, and I had no choice but to keep them handy because cupboard space was limited.

And so I started using them more often - for big tasks and for small - and you know what? It was more enjoyable to use those bowls than to watch them gathering dust. Now I keep them in a really deep drawer along with my other favourite cooking and baking tools. They are perfectly accessible for whenever I need them.

Of course, by using the bowls I risk breakage - not just of the actual bowls but of my heart as I hear one of my kitchen treasures crashing to the floor. This has already happened to my favourite set of drinking glasses - vintage bird-watcher type glasses that I bought for a song at a yard sale. (One of them is pictured here.) I think I started with a set of seven or eight: a blue jay and a couple orioles, tanagers, and goldfinches, but they’ve been broken over time. [OMG - I just found them on eBay!!]

Here’s the question, what’s worth more to me emotionally… the happiness they bring me when I use them, or the happiness they bring me when I see them on the shelf and know they’re ok?

One of the other things I’d been saving is various bath salts and bubbles. In fact, I moved a whole bunch of them OUT of the house to our new apartment in the spring, and then FROM the apartment back into the renovated house. They were all untouched. I found container after container of the stuff as I unpacked. I hit a breaking point, and suffice it to say that the past couple weeks I have BATHED LIKE I HAVE NEVER BATHED BEFORE. And it feels good, really good, to use them up and then get rid of the packages that have been kicking around for ages, doing nothing but taking up space in my cupboard and in my brain.

Moving forward I think I will try to use my things more: the good dishes and my fancy lotions and soaps and pretty thank you cards. What have I been saving them for? 


andrea tomkins 

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