Saturday, February 25, 2012

Too Pretty to Use

In the post-Christmas house clean-out I do every year I found a Ziploc bag of stickers from my childhood. Sticker collecting was en vogue in my elementary years, and these fetish properties -- which included unicorns, fuzzy panda bears, and iridescent pink rose buds -- I had deemed too pretty and valuable to use. And now here they were, 25 years later. Their adhesive was gummy, their scratch and sniff smell gone.

Since then, I have slowly been digging through other dark corners of my house and found other ridiculous things that were rotting in their packaging. Like some floating candles that someone gave me for a party favor...nine years ago. It reminded me of a MOPS speaker we had once who had inherited 30-year-old Christmas candles from her mother in law that were "too pretty to burn."

In December, my grandfather passed away at the age of 96, and his loss is taking me a while to process. Part of the process is grieving the loss of our family house: a custom ranch-style in L.A. county that my mom and her five siblings grew up in, and myself, two brothers and 11 cousins spent our birthdays and family holidays at for our entire childhood. When the house sells, it will be like losing our mother ship.

My mom and her siblings have been going through 50 years worth of drawers. So far, along with wonderful sentimental things like my grandmothers' pearls and costume jewelry and gifts my grandfather was given by the patients of his decades-long medical practice, they have also found innumerable pencil stubs, odd golf shoes, Halloween costumes from the 1960s, wooden water skis that haven't been used in 20 years.

And the thing is, my grandparents weren't the type to keep a lot of junk. Their house was actually quite sparse and pristine. Going through the drawers, though, I'm sure my aunts learned some things they didn't know about Grandma and Grandpa.

Maybe it's morbid, but I've been thinking about how my house would speak to someone after I'm gone. If something happened tomorrow, there would be a lot of quilting fabric and thread to go through. But also, bureau drawers full of odd socks I am still thinking might suddenly find their long-lost partner, and kitchen drawers that are lined by a spilled box of toothpicks. In my bathroom are half a dozen old toothbrushes I'm saving for cleaning grout, and I don't even clean my grout.

So, I'm approaching my stuff differently. First of all, I want to pick up those toothpicks. Then get all the dried beans that have spilled in the back of my pantry swept out. Out with the odd socks. Bye-bye old toothbrushes. Gone with the expired medicine. I donated the place mats I got for a wedding gift that no longer match anything I have.

I shall no longer deem anything in this house "too pretty to use." I've been rooting around in my "china cabinet" (which is really just a wooden hutch I bought at a garage sale), pulling out dishes with dust on them, and eating off them.

This week, Livie, two friends and I had a tea party for lunch on my fancy glass punch-and-cake plates that I've had for years but only used once.

I'm using all the "fancy" paper napkins I've saved from past holidays and birthdays of which I only have about four of each kind.

I'm drinking out of the "good" wine glasses. (One of them got broken last week, and I'm not replacing it.)

I don't want to go all Fight Club on you here, but I'm thinking that if I die and there's hardly anything left in my house that would be pretty awesome. If I'm not using it regularly, I'm going to give it away.

Sometimes in this world, weird things happen. I just paused after the above sentence and went to cut my four year old daughter a pear. And as she was waiting she was singing this under her breath:

Jesus said to live,
give and give and give
store up all your treasure
where it lasts forever

This is a song she learned at church this week, based on the Bible verses in Matthew chapter 6:

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I don't want my heart decaying in a drawer like old stickers. I want to use my pretty things to bless people, give them away when they are needed, and spend less time maintaining these earthly treasures. God give me the conviction to follow through.


  1. You have a great way of expressing things that are so common to all of us, I definitely use the "good stuff" at my age what am I saving it for?
    Love your blog

  2. wow, that is beautiful how God added your daughter's refrain to this post at just the right moment. i hoarded stickers as a kid too. i just gave them to my kids like a year ago. ms. grossman was my hero. i also used my tucked away china for valentines family dinner and it was so fun to use. i've been thinking about doing some purging lately. your words are pushing me a bit closer to that end. thanks.