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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Why You Shouldn’t Save It for Later

But sometimes all those books come in handy!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about hoarding.

No, I am not in any danger of having a house filled several feet deep with old newspapers, empty pizza boxes and cat poop. Or at least, I don’t think I’m in danger of that. I am guessing the man currently tunneling through an apartment piled to the ceiling in filth at one time didn’t think he would ever be living like that, and yet…there he is.

No, I am thinking about my own personal hoarding demon. Perhaps a more insidious form of crazy because it’s less obvious. I am thinking about the way I endlessly pin things on Pinterest for “later” that I never look at again—clothes, decorating ideas, DIY projects and recipes. I am thinking of the GB of emails and files I have saved to “read later” and for projects I never get around to. I look at the box of “too small” clothes in the spare closet that I might fit into again one day, and the box of “too big” clothes I may have to wear again one day.

Then there’s the “just in case” food storage rotting away in the cupboard, the flower pots I bought for an herb garden I haven’t started…yet…two years later. The cracked watercolors and warped paintbrushes I have lugged around since college through several moves, packing and unpacking but never using. Because one mysterious and magical day, I will have time again to paint and have a garden and do all of the cooking and DIY projects I imagine I could do…probably in the same imaginary world where I am a size 2 again.

Mostly I think about why I keep all of these things. I know the reasons I give my long-suffering husband, especially about the piles of cooking magazines and endless Tupperware collections. I tell myself I am being thrifty, not wasting or throwing away “perfectly good” ratty towels and squeaky shoes, and how I will need all of these things later. Probably tomorrow actually. But why am I really hanging on?

The cats enjoy when I hoard boxes.
I remember during our last move, I finally went through a bin of old college notes and papers I was saving for when I went to grad school. And I couldn’t just throw the entire bin away, I had to pour over old handwritten notes I didn’t even really understand anymore. I wasn’t throwing away college notes and papers, I was throwing away a dream, a dusty, deteriorating dream that sat in a closet too long.

The other day, I was trying to remember some Shakespeare minutiae during a random conversation. I can’t even remember why it was so important that I recall a bunch of factoids from an old college class, but it suddenly struck me how much I had forgotten about a subject I used to be very knowledgeable and passionate about. I finally had to admit that I wasn’t sure anymore.

“You know, you can’t hoard knowledge,” I said to my husband, feeling a little deflated. “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

This realization is disheartening. A part of me wants to save as much as I can—ideas, things, plans—when they’re available, and even if I don’t use something for a decade, it should still be shiny and new and just as useful as the day I stored it away. But in real life, that doesn’t happen. Pant seams fray, that gaudy “gold” ring turns brassy, the colors fade on that poster you planned to frame eventually, and the last few drops of your favorite perfume sour while you wait for the special occasion to use them.

I don’t understand what fears of mine are being assuaged by holding on. But I am starting to understand that if you hang onto something that you aren’t using, you are wasting it. And by the time you finally get around to using it, there probably won’t be much left to work with anyway. If you don’t use it, you lose it, even if it’s still stowed safely in a drawer somewhere waiting for the perfect moment.



2 comments:

Pauline B Jones said...

It is very interesting, the tipping point that happens when our treasures become our burdens. Or the burdens of our families. I'm trying to look at my "familiar and dear" in terms of how dear it would be to my heirs. And realizing that if I let it go, maybe it can become "dear" to someone else, rather than that burden to my family. It's not easy, no question. I used to watch a lot of de-junking show before we moved and the basic question was: is this adding value or stress to my life? Are we keeping things because we want to or because we think we should? (Applies to inherited items.) Right now looking to find good homes for some things and just new homes for others. Great and thoughtful post. :-)

Accidental Foodie said...

I like that, treasures that become burdens. Every few months I go through my shoe collection and vow to be ruthless. And each time, get rid of one pair of shoes. It's a curse! I think more than my shoe closet needs a serious spring cleaning, even if it is November.