Have you ever seen the pantry of someone who grew up during the Great Depression? It seems like most people have a story about how the mindset of survival left by this era impacted people’s desire to keep things. I’ve heard stories of people finding decades-old pancake mix, mice living in flour bags, and clothing with elastic that had long since disintegrated in the nooks and crannies of older relatives’ homes, all kept with the mindset that everything may once again fall apart someday and they might be needed. Some of this is reasonable – who hasn’t heard the phrase “saving for a rainy day” – but it is easy to let it get excessive. This mindset lives on in future generations in less-traumatic, seemingly benign ways. We see it in the way people save things for a special occasion or hoard the last piece of a chocolate cake. We want to save and savor, preserve and make use of, and never get rid of anything because we might just want or need it down the road in ways we don’t currently know.
It’s easy to recognize it in extremes. All it takes is a few minutes of a Hoarders episode to think “well, at least I’m not like that. Mine is normal!” Maybe you’re right, maybe yours is normal, but that doesn’t mean it’s helpful. Just because you don’t have three bookshelves dedicated to your stash of bath and beauty products, doesn’t mean there’s a good reason to have 8 different cleansers and 20 different face masks. Just because you don’t have a pantry the size of a bedroom full of stuff, doesn’t mean you need 14 boxes of pasta available at all times. Just because you live in a place where the season changes by the hour (hi, fellow Midwesterners), doesn’t mean you need 40 hoodies and 35 tank tops. You don’t have to be at the extreme for it to impact you.
One of the first ways that I noticed this cropping up in my own home and life was food. Each week I would stock the fridge, and I would almost always end up losing just a little bit of anything I bought out of a desire to save the best for last. Then I started stashing bath and body products, then I started holding onto clothes that were torn or stained in the hopes that I would one day have a use for them, and before I realized what was happening I was drowning under piles of clutter, including things I loved but never found or repaired or used because they were lost in all the stuff. The hoarder mentality of saving everything for as long as possible was making me save things that I didn’t like, to avoid using things I did like, to make them last longer.
Everyone does this with something, at some point. Maybe you avoid wearing your favorite sweater to avoid having to wash it and eventually wear it out. Maybe you’re stashing that favorite shade of lipstick. We are taught to save things for the special occasion, like fine china displayed in a cabinet but never used to eat or drink from, because it’s too good, too pretty, to be used.
Screw that. Life is too short.
Life is too short and time is too precious to spend life waiting for a special occasion to use as an excuse to do the things we actually want to do all the time. Life is too short to be so afraid of using up our favorite things that we purchase things we like less to avoid using what we like more. Life is too short to lose what we love under things that are lesser, but cheaper or easier.
I’m eating the good chocolate, drinking my favorite tea, and wearing my favorite outfits.
I got rid of the decor I don’t like, the food that’s gone stale, and the clothes that don’t fit.
Life is too short to let the hoarder mentality push us to never use up, never finish, never enjoy every last drop and speck and bite and wear of everything we love. It is time to say no to the urge to stash and store, and enjoy the beautiful things while we have the time to enjoy them. Go brew your favorite tea, eat the chocolate you’ve been saving, crack open the bottle you’ve been waiting for a special occasion to drink from. Life is too short to wait.