I was visiting my parents recently, helping them get ready for a garage sale.
Mom and I were upstairs; she asked if I thought she should get rid of a group of stuffed animals. I explained that they are meant to be played with and get lonely when they are left in a corner by themselves.
That got me to thinking about how we hang on to stuff we’re not using or why we don’t use the things we have.
It seems to me that if it’s important enough to keep, then its use should be a priority. Certainly, I’ve carped frequently about people getting rid of stuff, and I do think if you’re not using something, you should consider donating it somewhere.
Use what you have or give it to someone who will appreciate it. But what I’m talking about here is the idea that an item is too good to use.
I should clarify that I’m not encouraging you to go out and buy expensive stuff — I would never urge someone to do something crazy like actually spend money — but I’m saying if you already have nice things, use them.
If someone gives you a gift, they probably want to see you enjoy it and not let it sit on a shelf in a closet and be forgotten. I know I would.
This reminds me of my grandmother who, when you’d give her stuff, would say: “That’s too good to use; I’ll save it.” Finally, at one point, in exasperation, my mom pointed out that she was in her 80s; what was she waiting for? What, indeed. In my opinion, if you’re in your 80s, you deserve to drink champagne out of a silver goblet every day at breakfast if you want.
Besides, if you wait too long before using something, you may have lost the opportunity. I’ve had things get ruined in storage such as clothes that become covered in mold and had to be thrown away. Other potential threats could be water damage or infection with mouse droppings.
There’s also the possibility that you will have things stored at different places and forget to retrieve them.
I have some designer perfume that I’ve had since college — maybe since high school. I’m now 45. So in the past two or so decades, I haven’t had an occasion special enough to use this stuff?
I can understand not wearing it when I’m going on a canoe trip, but how about when I’ve gone to the opera or at Christmas?
I recently went through my clothes and remembered I have two suits. I decided to get them dry-cleaned and thought I’d wear them to church sometime instead of always throwing on my everyday clothes. They were both gifts, so if I wear them, then I can tell the givers how thankful I am for their generosity.
If it’s difficult to savor the good stuff on yourself, then consider sharing it with a friend. Have someone over for tea and use the porcelain teapot and cups. If you have these kinds of things but consider them too valuable for anything other than sitting in a display cabinet, then perhaps they should be given to a museum — that way more people can appreciate them.
Lastly, I’d say this principle applies to us. We need to use our bodies — not just for exercise to stay healthy but also to live life. I’m certainly not some kind of risk junkie parachuting out of airplanes or anything, but I’m amazed at how often people are too scared to do much at all. Life involves a certain amount of uncertainty. You need to be reasonable and take precautions but beyond that, you can’t shield yourself from every potential danger.
Yes, wear a helmet when you go for a bike ride, but get off the couch.
The same goes for emotional harm. People hurt our feelings, and we, in turn, are unkind to others. That’s not an excuse to go about like a bull in a china shop but just a comment about reality. I hope it’s also an encouragement to not shy away from opening up to others and to consider the benefits to be greater than the pitfalls.
I’ve read that even centuries-old violins need to be played periodically or they will deteriorate.
They were not created to be on display; they were intended to be used to make music. I think this applies to the material things in our lives as well as to us. Use it or lose it.
Stephanie Haines is a writer from Greenfield who now lives in Bloomington. She can be contacted through her website, stephaniehaines.com.