“How are those leggings I gave you for your birthday working out? I know it’s the brand you love.”
“They’re awesome, and they’ll really look great with a few of my longer sweaters.”
“Wait. You mean you haven’t worn them yet? I thought you loved them.”
“Please don’t tell me you’re saving them for good…”
My sister knows me. The truth is that the mere sight of a few dangling tags brings me joy, a sense of excitement, and anticipation. These tags mark my “on reserve” items, the things I cherish, like the leggings… and have yet to wear. Honestly, they give me a head rush.
You may not be into clothes as much as I am. But just as likely, there is something else that you keep “on reserve,” in anticipation of the right time, the right moment, the right place. Today I restrict the number of “on reserve” items in my closet and in my life. That intentionality emerged from an unexpected eureka moment that’s embedded in a personal story.
My mother-in-law, Margaret, lived with us for eight years until she moved into a nursing home for her final days. I grew to honor, respect, and love this woman in a way that I could never have imagined. After the funeral, my husband, her only child, couldn’t fathom the idea of “going through Margaret’s life” by clearing out the many things she had brought with her from Illinois when she came to live with us in Connecticut. In true organizer fashion, I took on the task.
Today, Margaret might be labeled a hoarder. Born in a log cabin in Wisconsin, Margaret lived through the Great Depression and eventually became a bookkeeper and a beautician – all with an eighth-grade education. When she suddenly found herself a widow, she somehow managed to put her only son through college and graduate school. At five feet tall, Margaret was a quiet force to be reckoned with. Her life experience taught her to “waste not, want not,” and so she lived, gathered, and accumulated. Amongst the salvaged 1920s wrapping paper, the decades-old bill receipts, and the miscellany of strings, pins, and bra straps that reflected her frugality and pragmatism, I discovered something else: her treasure trove of good.
Finally, the booty! My hands caressed the beautiful, monogrammed linens from her wedding shower, some seventy years past. And there was of course the set of china she had saved and scrimped for, carefully packed in the basement. We brought it out once or twice at Christmas when our scattered family managed to convene at our house. Otherwise, it sat in anticipation, in dust-covered crates, its beauty lost to us.
I remember grieving over all of the good stuff sitting in wait. And then it hit me: In wait for what?
Most of us have things that we keep on perpetual “reserve.” We think that today is not worthy of the good stuff. Or, we have a scarcity mindset, reasoning that if we use it and it becomes “imperfect,” we may not be able to replace it. These ideas become habits of thought and action that are hard to break. In so many ways, it makes no sense. We deprive ourselves on the one hand and burden ourselves with things to store and lug along with us on the other.
When I began to challenge myself by getting my good on at every opportunity, I discovered that I:
- Elevate my everyday by bringing more beauty into my world
- Spend less money on mediocre “good enoughs” (a pleasant surprise!)
- Embrace the truth that tomorrow is not promised
- Demonstrate that I am worthy of the best that I have
When I falter, I remind myself of these truths and resolve that every day I am here – alert, alive, breathing–is a day to get my good on. Here’s to your linens, Margaret, and your china! A stain here, a chip there? Now I can relax and enjoy them all the more. Will those tags still dangle in my closet? Well, yeah…but instead of ten, there are merely two.