When I was growing up, my parents saved everything. Because you never know! My mother said it was because she was a depression-era baby, and as she and my dad were both born in 1936, I’m sure growing up in Depression era/WWII austerity had a huge influence on them. My maternal grandfather sold fruit from a cart in the streets of San Francisco until the fifties, I believe. My father’s parents were immigrants from Russia (Fiddler on the Roof is their story. They were tailors both here and in the old country), and I think on that side of the family there was an awe that they actually had anything and couldn’t image getting rid of it. They came over on the boat with nothing. Reuse and recycle was a way of life for both my parents. You reused anything and everything because you never knew what you were going to have and when. So this mentality was an intrinsic part of the way I grew up, and has been, for better and worse, a part of my children’s upbringing as well.
And now I am trying to live the philosophy that we should get rid of everything we don’t need right now and think in terms of abundance–to have faith that should we need this item again in the future, we will have the means to buy it again, or borrow it, or find it in a thrift store.
And that works to a point. Except that I have found more and more in the past year that things I have gotten rid of–telling myself I don’t really need it, I haven’t used it in over a year, I don’t plan to ever own fish again, that the gadget or gizmo is just taking up space–I find that I DID NEED IT! Or did want it. Or my daughter or son needed it. Or it would have been perfect for the succulent terrariums that Shira is now obsessed with. Or it would have been the perfect final piece for that Halloween costume. And then I kick myself for getting rid of it. Is it nice to have the extra space on the shelf or in the garage? Of course. But the really frugal part of me that grew up saving, reusing, and finding new life for old things (big on Pinterest, and Real Simple, you’ll notice) is excessively aggravated.
And thus the primary conflict between me, simplicity, how I want to be, what I want to do, and REALITY. Oh, such a struggle. My daughter wanted to dress up as the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) for a concert she recently attended. She has been at college for the past four years, so I haven’t been a part of a lot of her thrift store costume buying, and she had a lot of the pieces already. And I knew I had the perfect pants (“Mom, do you have pinstriped pants?” “Yes! I do!”) But wait…I think I just gave them away in my last closet purge because I really never thought I’d wear them again. Or that anyone else would either. Sigh. No pinstriped pants. Which isn’t really a tragedy, as terrible things go. Just annoying. And in that same purge, I gave away the white tights she could have used for her Link costume (Comikaze this weekend at the LA Convention Center). So…we’re buying white tights from Amazon because it’s after Labor Day and we can’t find them anywhere. Worth the microspace they took up in the drawer to spend $10 on new tights? Not so sure.
And what about the aquariums I gave away? They sat in my garage for years. I freed up space! I freecycled them, which did make me happy to be giving them away to a grateful teenager, but now we need one for the new terrarium she is building. Hmmmm. So off to the thrift shop we go, and yes I am thankful to be able to buy a new one (or that she can, in this case) but it does annoy me that I had a perfectly good aquarium sitting in my garage, hurting no one.
And these stories go on. The juicer I rarely used and gave away (also this year) that I desperately needed when several branches on my lime tree broke and after I gave away more limes than my supermarket sees in a year, I still had enough for an awful lot of juice. The picture that used to hang in my living room that then lived in my garage, but now would be perfect to replace the faded picture hanging above my kitchen table. The baby gates and dog carrier I needed for the new rescue puppy (bought new ones). Because who knew that in the span of 6 months I would lose both my beloved dogs? Ah Well. I’m blessed that I am able to buy more.
So what is my point? That yes, it is good to pare down and good to give away, and good to think in terms of abundance, but how much of that gets mitigated by the money and frustration I have to turn around and spend because I just gave away the very thing I needed? And that is exactly that fear that runs through the minds of many of us who are decluttering, minimalizing, living simpler and clearer lives. I’m not sure how much more I am really accomplishing because I gave away the aquarium and the juicer. Maybe I’ll have a different perspective on it when I can finally fit the car in my garage. But then again, I live in Anaheim, California. Who really needs their car to live in the garage? On the other hand, I really do love looking at a clean space, so maybe it’s all worth it after all.