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“Saving Things ‘For Good’ Is a Bad Idea”

March 6, 2020

by Kathleen Vestal Logan, MS, MA
“You should have your jewelry appraised every three to five years,” the appraiser told me. I laughed. “You mean 1985 doesn’t count?” In preparation, I had retrieved all my jewelry from its various hiding places, finding myself saying again and again, “I forgot I had this!” or “Why haven’t I worn this in years?”
I was guilty of saving lovely pieces “for good,” a common affliction, I’m finding out. Why do we even have nice things? I know I appreciate their beauty, the memories they evoke of people, places, or experiences, or the love with which they were given to me. As I glanced around the dining room where I had laid out the jewelry on the table, I was suddenly aware of all the other things I was saving “for good.”
How do we come by all our belongings? Some items just come to us, as an inheritance or as gifts. For example, I have Aunt Marge’s elegant tea pot and stand, as well as Grandma Marshall’s blue and white tea set she brought when her family immigrated from Scotland. I’m a tea drinker, and even I don’t use them!
My friend, Sue, has her grandmother’s china stored on a shelf in the garage gathering dust. And Jackie confesses that “I have three sets of fine dining china” which she inherited from her mother and a friend who died young, “but I never entertain! I keep thinking I will, but I don’t.” I’ve known Jackie for thirty years and that’s true. She also inherited an old piano that dominates her small living room. “I thought I’d take piano lessons, but I won’t,” she admits. How many of the rest of us hang onto unused things because of such wishful thinking?
What items do we tend to save? For some women, it may be shoes, linens, purses, cutlery, clothes, books, even food. As one woman told me, “We received some fine food items for Christmas, but saved them for a special occasion. Unfortunately, we saved them well past the ‘best if used by’ date and they wasn’t good anymore.”
Shelby thinks part of our problem stems from when and how we were brought up. Years ago, girls would choose good china and silver before marriage. “Now,” she says, “no one wants it. Young people are different.”
For some women, not using their special things is a safety concern. What if it gets chipped or broken? What if someone steals it? It turns out, though, that there are even bigger risks. What if you await special occasions that never happen? What if you wait too long and you missed the opportunities, you’re too late? My friend Pat’s house was robbed and all of her jewelry was taken, including precious family heirlooms she wanted to give to her daughters. Here in Pensacola, Florida, hundreds of homes were severely damaged or destroyed by hurricanes with belongings washed into surrounding waters. In 2014, our area drowned in 24 inches of rain in 24 hours; hundreds of homes had feet of water in them, soaking everything. Fires, earthquakes – natural disasters abound. And at a gut level, who knows how long we’ll live? Or what health problems we may endure? There’s a risk in saving our treasures for a future that we can’t depend on. 
Each of us is different. Sue, the keeper of generations of dishes, doesn’t hang onto other possessions “except for a black skirt and the Bible that was given to us when we got married.” For Mary, “If I don’t use it, I don’t keep it. I don’t get a big connection to things.” She even took the wedding bands she and her husband weren’t wearing and had them melted down. “The kids don’t want them, so take the money and run!” She also shared a clever and practical way of handling clothes. “I hang things together, like short-sleeved shirts. When I wear one, I put it back on the left. At the end of the season, shirts on the right side that I haven’t worn, I give away.”
As for the rest of us savers, perhaps we need an attitude adjustment! Shelby reminds us that “every day is a special day, so use what you have. Quit worrying that someone may break your good things.” I asked, “What prompted this attitude?” She said, “I don’t know. It just popped in my head one day. I figure I’m on 3rd base in life right now; I feel free, uninhibited! I’ve come out of my closet!”
How do we get past the “I’m saving it for good” or “I don’t want it to get broken” kind of thinking? What works for women? Some helpful comments I’ve heard include:
  • Use it now instead of risking it becoming damaged or out of date before you’ve had time to enjoy it.
  • Using your stuff keeps memories fresh.
  • I get pleasure from using my things.
  • Life is too short for saving stuff “for good.”
  • You’ll never experience the joy from an item that might have been a gift from someone close to you. It was given to you to be used.
  • Enjoy using your good things before it’s too late or you can’t.
  • Every day, make the most of what you have.
  • Use everything that makes you happy or brings back good memories.
Initially, all I intended to do was to have my jewelry appraised, but that one act has inspired me to appraise everything I own and change my behavior. I’ve organized my jewelry, making it more visible and accessible. Instead of wearing just my wedding band, I’ll swap it out for another ring, or even wear two of them. I’m wearing the “good” jewelry on ordinary days! I’m also writing the background of each piece on its appraisal sheet while deciding who will receive it as a gift someday.
As for clothes, rather than grabbing jeans in the morning, the easy choice, I’m putting on nice slacks and a top. Surprisingly, this simple change makes me feel more confident, ready to meet the day. I also checked out a consignment shop and am already pulling clothes out of my closet to sell or give away, for example, to Interfaith Ministries which uses the money it makes to finance a free clinic.
Last Sunday, when my husband and I had a glass of wine, I poured it into two of our crystal, gold-rimmed glasses. I swear they enhanced the taste of the wine. Even my friends are changing their behavior! Sue has decided to retrieve a set of her grandmother’s china from the garage and swap it out for her mismatched kitchen dishes. Even Jackie says she has a big box ready to fill with unused belongings.  
For Christmas dinner, I skipped the obvious red and white checked tablecloth, choosing instead my mother’s elegant, 60-year-old green and silver cloth with matching napkins. My brother and sister-in-law were coming, as well as two widowed friends. “If this occasion isn’t good enough,” I asked myself, “what is?” As an unexpected reward while we were eating, I could picture the many meals in years past with Uncle Harry, Uncle Alex and Aunt Nellie, Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Winnie, my brothers and sister, their spouses and children, and now my own son, daughter-in-law and granddaughters. Four generations breaking bread together over this same tablecloth. What could be better than that?
Bring out those good things and use them, because every day is a special day!