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Realising “Kept for best” is wasteful

Posted by on Friday 10 December 2010 in decluttering, frugal | 1 comment

Yesterday, our friend Strowger tweeted a link to this article by “essayist and programmer” Paul Graham about “stuff”.

I would urge you to read it if you’ve got five minutes. If you haven’t got five minutes, the message is “stuff, clutter, is bad, m’kay?” but it says it somewhat better than that.

It’s a topic I’ve touched on a few times on this blog – and it’s a concept I believe even if I don’t always live it. But this paragraph leapt out at me:

The worst stuff in this respect may be stuff you don’t use much because it’s too good. Nothing owns you like fragile stuff. For example, the “good china” so many households have, and whose defining quality is not so much that it’s fun to use, but that one must be especially careful not to break it.

Paul Graham on “Stuff

I think this not only applies to “fragile stuff” but anything that’s “kept for best” or “kept to be enjoyed at a later special time, not now, not all the time”.

We don’t have “good china” or a pristine room solely for entertaining guests. We don’t have a fancy car that we worry about parking it on the street or in bad areas. We don’t really have “Sunday best” clothes – we have items we don’t wear every day, that are a bit smarter, but we don’t wear them because we prefer to wear other things, not because we’re saving them for a special occasion.

But on smaller things, I’m guilty of wasteful behaviour when “keeping stuff for best”.

For example, I frequently delay pleasure to, in theory, enjoy it all the more at the end. Sometimes this pays off: I finish a meal on my favourite bit of it so the taste of the delicious, seasoned meat stays in my mouth rather than the overcooked, watery carrot.

But other times it promotes waste. John gets annoyed when I save a piece of cake or sweets until I really, *really* want it/them – but it goes stale or sticky before that time arrives. Or, slightly different but part of the same thing, a craft project sits half finished forever because I worry I haven’t the skills to complete it PERFECTLY (when I could finish it in a “good enough” way immediately).

It’s funny, I knew I wasted cake sometimes. And I knew exactly why I wasn’t finishing that half-made quilt. But it was only after reading that paragraph that it really drove home to me quite how bad the habit is – how wasteful it is of the world’s resources, of money and of my mental resources.

Definitely something I need to change about myself!

One Comment

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  1. p. futter

    Yes I remember the party/sunday best dress and coat you could only wear high days and holidays, and the next time you tried it on it was to small for you, or the parlour to entertain guests, with the sunday best china. Glad we dont do that now.

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