Tag Archives: saving things

A medium-sized story about saving things for “good”

There are 3 pieces to understand as background before I launch into the rest of the tale.

1) I am the sort of person who tries to pay attention and learn things from my life. Some things I have learned, othersĀ have taken me an abysmally long time to learn, and still more, I clearly haven’t gotten yet.

2) I was raised on the school that says there are everyday things, and then there are “good” things which are to be stored away and rarely, if ever used. This way of thinking was thoroughly drilled into me. “Good enough,” patched, and mediocre described the stuff that should make up everyday living. It’s taken me a very long time to challenge and replace these beliefs, and it continues.

3) I am wild about popcorn and eat a lot of stove-popped corn. My favorite popper for many years has been Wabash Valley Farms Whirley PopĀ©. These poppers have traditionally not been cheap, and I was fortunate to initially receive one as a gift. I wore that thing into the ground. I replaced that with a second and at some level noticed it wasn’t quite the same. It still madeĀ brilliant popcorn but the pan dented more easily and looked shabby sooner.

The Main Story:

A few (3?) years ago I had what I considered the magnificent fortune to land Ā an unused Whirley Pop fromĀ Freecycle. I carefully put it away to “save” it. I wasn’t going to hop onto a brand new one just because I had it, no sir. I needed to get full use out of the one I had first.

So comes the day recently when I decided it was time for the new one. I put the old one out in recycling and away it went. I was going to use the nice one saved for “good!” I deserved the new one now, I told myself.

First thing I noticed when I removed the popper pan from the bag it was stored in, was that one of the little wood knobs on the lid was cracked. How had I not noticed this before? Had it happened while it as in storage? Cracked wood usually suggests cheap wood to me. The wood parts on my old poppers had always been fine, as had the basic turn-crank mechanisms. And then there was that; I started using my popper but something seemed amiss. The popcorn wasn’t as good. I examined the popper and one of the two metal wires that spin the popcorn wasn’t even close to the bottom of the pan. Surely it was just traveling over the top of the kernels. Scorching on the bottom of my nice, new pan seemed to indicate the same. Inferior was the word that kept coming to mind.

Then the cracked wood knob broke completely in two and fell off. It could not be repaired nor did I see a simple way to jury-rig a replacement. This knob is how you open the lid when the popping is done without giving yourself second-degree burns on the hot pan. I tried to work without it but its absence irritated me.

The new popper with its missing wood knob

The new popper with its missing wood knob

I went online and looked at recent reviews of the popper. Many people wrote of a change in quality from earlier versions they’d owned. They said the popper was flimsier (some mentioned “aluminum foil”) and dented more easily. They said the turning gears broke. Hmmm. Sometimes I can be a little slow to grasp points like this; I think something represented as a product, sold as the same thing, is just the same as it’s always been, even in face of evidence to the contrary. Ā My mind will even make strange, compensatory leaps to account for failings in an item. (I even briefly blamed my poor, innocent, great-as-always Jolly TimeĀ© popcorn, even though I was still popping kernels from the same bag that had been fine with the dearly departed popper.)

Boy, did I feel gypped! Here I had carefully saved the fresh, unused popper for “good” and unbeknownst to me it was junky. Just sitting there quietly waiting to be junky. Now, I’m not saying ALL the Whirley PopĀ© poppers must be this way but I’m certain this one is not as good as the first one I ever owned. And it’s not as good as the one IĀ sent off to the recycling graveyard.Ā And THAT was another mistake. Never get rid of the old but still serviceable Ā thing till you try out the new thing. I know this! I SHOULD know this!! Why don’t I know this?!

So. If this isn’t a good kick in the head to reconsider my saving-for-good philosophy – a solidly direct message that supposedly good things aren’t even necessarily so or if they were, may turn to crud while they wile away the years unused – I’m not sure what is. And should I ever let go of a serviceable item before making sure its replacement is okay, I expect I’ll deserve whatever results. And my popping situation? I bought a new popper, a different brand. It was time. We will see. Lesson(s) learned. Oh I hope so.

My “stuff” isn’t getting the better of me any more

Probably like (too) many things, we first learn about “stuff” [tilts head toward the late George Carlin] from our parents. My parents hung onto their stuff. There were two generations between us – they could have been my grandparents age-wise and had lived through the U.S. Great Depression – and I have to think that affected how they approached their belongings. They weren’t of the same exact mindset and that was but one of the things which caused friction between them. (Note to self: Only cohabitate with people who share your attitudes about stuff.)

I grew up believing that a person could have one nice thing of a type for “special” (that was almost never allowed to be used be it shoes, a piece of jewelry, a dish, a dress), and the rest had to be kinda crappy or run-of-the-mill. I learned to hang onto things, because you just never know. And: don’t be wasteful. Contrary to increasingly popular attitudes about scaling back and getting rid of things you don’t need, when I was coming up, the message (from what I heard and read in articles & books) was about how to keep things. But there’s only so many pencil holders made from tricked out tin cans a gal can use.

Over the course of my life, I’ve moved a lot. I don’t mean around the country, but the way a typical renter moves a lot. And I hauled all my sh*t with me. It just didn’t occur to me that I could let things go. I felt an obligation to keep every stuffed animal given to me by old boyfriends, friends or relatives (even though I didn’t really like having them, or so darn many of them past the age of 20 or so); every greeting card, everything I’d made, every knick-knack, almost every present received. It wasn’t as if I was toting around heirlooms, antiques, and things that would appreciate in value. (As I told a cousin who expressed regret over possibly having tossed out too many things, if they were gold bricks you would have saved them.) I’ve kept house plants that were ailing and/or I didn’t like. It’s a plant, a living thing: you can’t throw that out! I kept broken or substandard things: you might be able to fix it one day. Or it’s good enough (and here’s the uncomfortable, then-unconscious part: ā€¦for you.)

I never lived in squalor. I always cleaned. But I couldn’t always lay my hands on things I was looking for; my shelves were stacked with books and knick-knacks, my closets were full, my paper files plentiful. Every time I saw certain items – things from the past, broken stuff, things that were once nice, jewelry I no longer wore, things I’d hauled home with the thought of one day making something with them, magazines and books I hadn’t read (yet) – I felt twinges of guilt or unease. Those were familiar sensations, part of the diet I was fed from a very young age, and had been toting around for years. Applying them to my belongings was largely my own doing. (Feelings are always in need of outlets are they not?! We just look around for what’s at hand.)

As I started to look at myself differently – from reading, from thinking, from growing up – I started to look at the stuff differently too. Part of what motivated me was being involved in dismantling the households and possessions of a few people who had died. There is nothing like seeing what another person has held onto to shock you into action. Looks like THEY never found a use for 20 old glass jars. As I mentioned in one of my earliest posts, I saw a garage belonging to a woman I know that was almost empty. It housed a car and almost nothing else. I was so impressed! I watched public personalities like the quirky, common-sensical Peter Walsh, clutter master, and too cute designer Nate Berkus, on TV. I couldn’t relate to the shopping habits and hording I saw in many of the people profiled, but the basic principals I could. I read books from the library: Throw Out 50 Things, Peter Walsh’s books, and others.

What these people said made sense. It’s like they gave me the permission I’d been seeking. I remember one author mentioning that a shelf didn’t have to be filled. Maybe it’s terribly obvious, but that had never occurred to me before. I felt huge relief in letting things go. It became a game and a challenge (and I love both!). What else can I get rid of? I wanted to look around and only see things that pleased me. It wasn’t about money. It didnā€™t require a bunch of spending, so much as getting creative. Raising my standards. I stopped accepting substandard stuff from other people, both tangible and not. And not to get too metaphaphysical on you, but as I did this, better stuff came along when I needed it.

Don’t imagine I now live in a museum, stark and bare, the kitchen stocked with a simple bowl and a single spoon, the shelves stripped, no knick-knacks or houseplants in evidence. Not at all. I like having pictures on the wall, plants in every room, knick-knacks on shelves, and a couple time-saving devices in the kitchen. Doesn’t have to be pricey or high-end. Comfortable, organized, and attractive is the goal. I need a place that makes me feel cozy and safe and at ease. I need pretty. But I’m mindful and careful now. The whole kit and caboodle requires maintenance, needs me to be vigilant and keep my eyes on the prize.