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Don't Save Anything for a Special Occasion...

…being alive is the special occasion.

I recently had the opportunity/honor to help in cleaning out my husband’s grandmother’s house after her death at 95 years old. She had lived in the house for nearly 70 years, and while she wasn’t a materialistic person, there was still quite an accumulation of “stuff” that naturally builds up when you raise 6 kids and several grandchildren in the same place for so long.

Along with the bookshelves filled with books and closets full of clothes and linens, I was stunned by the mountains of dishes and cookware and glasses and mugs and vases and those kinds of things that were spread out on several tables for people to go through and “tag” if they wanted to take them home as a remembrance of Grandma. While a few things were selected because of sentimental value, we spent the rest of the afternoon packing up the rest to go to Goodwill or placed into the pile for the dump run.

As I stood there watching this whole process what struck me was that the things that were once essential parts of a person’s life were now trash. As I wrapped up countless “free giveaway” glasses and cute ceramic spoon rests one things kept going through my mind:

Use what you have NOW, and get rid of the rest.

I’m a big fan of famed de-cluttering experts Marie Kondo and Peter Walsh. Because we have moved across the country a few times in our lives, thankfully we don’t have a ton of useless things taking up space in our home. But after I got home and assessed the boxes of “good dishes” that we rarely use, and the random once-used appliances that were well-intentioned gifts, I decided that there is no point in saving anything for another time or a special occasion - the time to use these things is NOW, and if I don’t want to use them, then I really shouldn’t save them for someone else to have to get rid of later. If one person’s trash is another person’s treasure then the reverse is also most certainly true.

This process also reminded me of a friend I had growing up whose mother had a particular set of crystal wine glasses that she kept on the highest shelves of a ceiling-high cabinet in their dining room. One time we were helping her set the table for a dinner party and she realized that she didn’t have enough matching glasses for all of the guests. My friend asked her, “How about those up there?” gesturing toward the highest shelves. “Oh no,” her mother replied, “we can’t use those.” “Why not?” my friend asked. “Because they no longer make that pattern, if one breaks it can’t be replaced,” was the reply.

Even as a young kid this response baffled me. I remember thinking two things. Firstly I thought, “But what if it DOESN’T break? Why are you assuming that the worst will happen?” And then my brain tried to construct the thought of, “If something was designed for a particular use, then doesn’t it make sense to use it for the purpose for which it was made?” I remember thinking the same thing when I asked that same friend if we could play with the dolls she had up on her bedroom shelf. She responded curtly, “These dolls aren’t for playing with, they are for display.” And even at that young age I remember thinking to myself, “They make dolls for DISPLAY? It’s a doll! It’s meant to be played with!”

Clearly I’ve never been a “For Display Only” type of person. I let my daughter wear her flower girl dress to preschool every day because i knew that all too soon she would grow out of it and never be able to wear it again. I let my son wear my grandfather’s antique ring when he wanted to rather than have it sit in a dusty box in a drawer. I allowed both of my kids to take the tags off of their Beanie Babies and throw them around the room playing “Stuffed Animal Olympics” rather than keep them in pristine condition (as a I knew many people did) in case they were worth something someday.

At the end of the day, and especially at the end of someone’s life, things are just things. Glasses get broken, curtains fade in the sun, beloved books get dog eared, and favorite pens run out of ink. Yes, things should be valued and treated with respect, but they should also be used, while we are still living and breathing and have the chance to get the pleasure out of using them.

So my advice for choosing happiness to you is, use the pretty glasses and don’t worry if one of them breaks. Wear the special blouse you bought because you loved it instead of letting it sit in your closet because you’re worried about the possibility of spilling coffee on it. Break out the pasta machine or the Belgian waffle maker once in a while and treat your family to something different from the regular old fare that you’re all used to. Use your things or let them go so someone else can use them and get the joy out of them that they were originally intended for.

Don’t save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is indeed, the most special occasion there is.

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