Discover more from Beyond Self Improvement
Use the Good Stuff
Stop waiting for the perfect moment. Use and appreciate your nicest things today and every day.
Hello & welcome to another edition of Beyond Self Improvement! Last Wednesday, I published Feel Your Feelings: Mastering the Art of Managing Emotions.
Welcome to the 22 new Beyond Self Improvement people who have subscribed since last Wednesday! 🥳 If you haven’t already, join 647 thinkers & spiritual seekers in 54 countries:
The Article in Three Sentences
In my last year at university, my roommates loved their expensive stuff, but only Dan used his things thoroughly. My mother saved her best stuff for rare occasions, and I did the same until I saw its folly. Now, I use what I have because things are meant to be used, not just for admiring.
In my last year at university, I lived with three others. Two I called friends. They had a thing for nice things—apparel, sound systems, bikes for the backcountry. But it was their cameras, that ubiquitous ode to bourgeois creativity, that caught one’s eye.
One brisk fall day, my roommate, Dan, bragged about his things. “You always have the best stuff,” I said. “I do,” he replied, “but unlike most, I use my stuff.” He wasn’t wrong. Unlike the others, he bought stuff to use, not just to look good.
My mother kept good things because she grew up financially poor (yet geographically rich). To her, good meant anything costly or irreplaceable or both. Silver for special holidays. Plates with tiny trees for Christmas. To break one was a sin, almost.
I cleaned up, washed everything carefully, and turned on the garbage disposal one Christmas. It made an unmistakable sound. Inside, I found a mangled silver fork. "That was my mother's," my mom mourned, drawn by the noise. “That was all she had in her life.” I was sorry but also mad at whoever left the fork there, now on the sofa, blissfully unaware.
I saved cherished things, too. The sweater too lovely to wear. The sketchbook too clean for drawing. The hand-knit afghan from my grandmother too fine to unfold. The remaining .1 ounce of ridiculously expensive Japanese facial cleanser too precious to finish. The book too pristine to mark. The heirloom pen that looked cheap but wasn’t. Leather boots too handsome to scuff. The handmade cutting board too nice to cut on that came with my friend Willow’s caution: “Ryan, this is meant to be used, not saved.”
But it’s not just me. A woman wrote once about keeping her best intimates for ‘special’ occasions while wearing the worn-out ones around town, feeling frumpy because of it. I still grab my old boxers on workout days.
We keep things for many reasons. Tradition, like saving our Sunday best for church. Or to be ready, like animals storing food. Or maybe to fight time, to keep things from getting old.
I appreciate craftsmanship, things made to last in a world quick to pave over beauty with billboards and strip malls. Sometimes, guilt or shame causes me to hold on, as in I’m not worthy like the Wayne’s World guys.
My sixth-grade teacher told my class, “Buy gold. It only goes up!” My dad took it to heart and bought each kid a quarter ounce. I thought of selling it when it was finally worth what it was when it was purchased. "I gave you that as a gift," said my father when I told him. "You want to sell it?" So I kept it, though my brothers and sisters lost theirs long ago.
You might have things, too. Things that sit unused, waiting for some unknown occasion at some indeterminate time. A cashmere sweater tucked away, handmade candles unlit, copper pans resting in the cupboard.
My family was obsessed with beauty and design. But our belongings are meant to be part of our days, to enhance our lives. So, if you have something beautiful, like a Dualit toaster, use it. Delight in how well it is crafted and sturdily made. Let it do what it was made to do. And wearing your Sunday best? Well, that can make others happy, too.
Once I started using my stuff, it saved me from buying new things. It also freed up mental space. Stuff we ignore still weighs on us, like a fridge's hum you only notice when it stops. Marie Kondo, whose books I still haven’t read, reminds us of this truth. We only see how full our minds and contracted bodies are once our closets are thinned, and our garages are gleaned.
Gifted or bought, our things aren’t meant to sit there collecting dust in a drawer, dresser, or closet. They’re meant to be used. The little things enhance our lives, making for a richer, fuller life.
So don't wait for some perfect moment. Use your stuff now. Every day can be that moment. If you won't, maybe someone else will. They might even thank you for it like I thank the secondhand store for my favorite tweed coat.
Use your stuff,
When you’re ready, I can help you transform chronic stress and worry into ongoing calm—making you feel in control in 90 days. Schedule a free, 30-minute discovery call today.
Or, if you want to grab coffee or tea, let me know when you're in Silicon Valley. ☕️