Silly Sounding, but Simple: Use Your Stuff


I've written before about how I'm a reformed (or, at least, reforming) pack rat. Last month, when I was going through bins of old stuff at my parents' house, I rediscovered one of what I deem to be the sadder aspects of my particular pack-ratness — not using nice things.

In high school, I liked the cartoon "Sailor Moon." Around that time, I went on vacation with my family to Florida, and I was thrilled to find these awesome, straight-from-Japan Sailor Moon stickers at a toy store. So I bought 'em. I did a lot of letter writing at the time, and I used some of them on letters I mailed to friends.

But the majority of those stickers? When I was home earlier this year, I found them in a bin in the basement. I had thought that they were so nice, so precious, that I had to save them for the perfect time.

The reality is that usually, there isn't a perfect time to use things like this.

It's a lesson I'm still trying to learn. If I get nice things — things that are high-quality, delicate, or that I just really enjoy — I want to make sure that they last, and that I enjoy them as much as I can. And I don't think that's a bad urge. Taking good care of items, using those items judiciously, and appreciating the things you have are all important parts of frugality. But there are times even recently when I've taken it too far — there was the truffle oil from Italy that sat on my shelf for so long, waiting for the right meal, that the rich truffle flavor faded; there was the amazing-looking dress I splurged on that sat in the back of my closet for six months because I feared that I'd spill food all over it (I'm clumsy, so this is not unfounded).

I've been working on enjoying the things I have now — not "soon," not when "the time is right." I've been wearing that dress out on dinner dates. And while the truffle oil may be long gone, the fancy cocktail bitters I received as a gift? I'm always thrilled to mix a drink with them for guests at my apartment.

It's something my mom has been working on as well. I credit her for much of my wonderful frugality, but this mindset is something I might have also picked up from her. She's told me before about the drawer of nice nightgowns she used to have and never wore. I called her while working on this post to ask her about why she didn't wear them. Her answer? "Because they were too nice."

But, while we were having that conversation, she also told me about how one of her recent basement-emptying jaunts revealed the box of lead crystal glasses my parents received as a wedding gift. She decided to put them into regular household rotation. "I think that's something that's more of my generation," she said. "You had one set of dishes for everyday, and one set of dishes for company. But it's just so silly [to keep them stored away]. What, are we not good enough for the nice glasses?"

Yup; it is silly to keep them stored away. Here's to enjoying and appreciating the things we have — today.


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Guest's picture

I tend to be guilty of this, myself. I had so many candles that were too nice to burn and clothes that were too nice to wear, and worst of all, pretty journals that were too nice to write in.

So when my husband and I got married, I decided to sometimes bring out our wedding china on a Tuesday, just because. I haven't done that in a while, but I think I'll have to do so this week.

Thanks for the inspiration to remind myself that I'm worth the nice stuff I have.

Guest's picture

I love this! What's the point of having things if you don't use them. Great points :)

Guest's picture

I'm right there with you. I'm a pack-rat, and I'm working on heading in the "minimalist" direction instead of the "hoarder" direction. I can't say "reformed" or "reforming" or anything else, because while I'm working on it, I still haven't beat my packrat ways.

In my defense, it's inherited. :) My mom's the same way. Her whole family is. When they cleared out my grandparents attic after my grandpa died and my grandma was moving closer to the rest of the family, they found a box labeled "Bits of string, too small to save." Inside, sure enough, were bits of string in a variety of very short lengths.


So I'm very curious to read your post on "Getting Rid of Stuff." I've been doing better, I think. Every time we move, I make sure that every single box from the last move was unpacked and gone through (even if I only do it in the weeks before we move), so we don't keep moving miscellaneous stuff that we no longer need. I'm trying to implement a "one item in, one item out" policy for my clothes, but that's harder. Some of them I made, and... well, they're hard to get rid of, even if I never wear them.

It's a work in progress, as is the nature of life in general. It's nice to hear from people who are ahead of me on the path, though, who can offer encouragement and assurance that the terrain isn't too rocky up ahead, even if it looks steep and challenging. So, thank you.

Andrea Karim's picture

My parents bought me an exquisite set of placemats from a yard sale. They are linen, hand-embroidered with delicate blue thread all around the edges, and contained a note from the original owner saying "SOMEBODY PLEASE USE THESE!".

I have yet to use them, although I do occasionally take them out and admire them. I feel bad about it, but the first red wine stain would mean that I wouldn't even get to enjoy LOOKING at them, you know?

It's funny, because I don't like to collect stuff at all, and my mother has always been super chill about stuff getting ruined - like when we accidentally break a nice champagne glass or something. She's always, like, "Eh, it's just a THING." And yet somehow I think I still have a collection of stickers that I bought in Japan, along with amusing stationery with amusing slogans. And for what??!

Guest's picture

I have a thing for beautiful table linens, too. Especially those with handwork.

Have you considered framing them or hanging them, as is, for wall decor? I've done this when things have just seemed "too nice" to risk the stains.

Guest's picture

I've been trying to get over this too! It's been better since we moved - and as another commenter mentioned - got rid of a bunch of stuff, including our "everyday" dishes. We did this because some very wise friends shared with us their dish-ware philosophy: "so what if it breaks - dishes are made to be used."

So now we use my great grandmother's dishes, which I inherited a few years ago, to eat our meals.

They have 22k gold plate decorations. It makes me feel awesome, if a little excessive, (and far richer than I am) every day - And I'm very confident that great-granny Fisher would be happy to see them still in use among her descendants. Although I'm not sure what she would make of tofurky...

Excellent article, Meg - thanks for the reminder!