This morning I needed a note card to give a tip for a counselor at camp. With the girls already out the door and in the car, I ran back in and up to my craft room, picturing in my mind what card to reach for. On a particular shelf, completely packed full, are several boxes of note cards that I have collected over the years. I reached for a box featuring a storybook character and for a moment, I hesitated. Do I really want to use this card? What if I need it for something else later? Shaking off those thoughts, I told myself "if you don't use it now, when are you going to?" and pulled the card out, put the box away and ran back downstairs to the car.
As we headed off to camp, I thought a bit more about my quick personal dilemma over the note cards and wondered where else in my house I choose not to use things and why. I was reminded of the story written years ago that used to circulate by email chain (and now probably still pops up on Facebook or other social media once in awhile), written by Erma Bombeck. The story came after someone asked her if she would do anything differently, if she had it all to do over. Erma wrote a letter in response, proclaiming that she would no longer leave "good" things in the cabinets or save things for a "special occasion, but instead would use those nice things every day and cherish the memories created in doing so. A link to the letter (with story on Snopes.com) is here. http://www.snopes.com/glurge/bombeck.asp
Looking around my craft room and even my house, I wonder sometimes what I'm waiting for. Growing up, we had a cabinet with "good china." I do not remember a time as a kid when those dishes were ever used. The cabinet that they were kept in had a particular smell and if I think about it, I can just recall it. It wasn't musty, but it was a woodsy smell that did not fade over time, mostly because the cabinet was rarely opened. After my dad passed away and we moved to a new house, we started hosting family dinners at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Those dishes finally got some use. Of course in doing so, there were cracks in some and some that broke completely. But we have memories of family gathered around the table eating, and memories of the men gathering in the kitchen to wash the dishes (hand wash only!) and even memories of a dog or two sitting on the floor waiting for scraps to fall. If we had left the dishes in the cabinet, would we have those memories?
When I got engaged and was registering for wedding gifts, I registered for a set of "good china" and "good silver." I also added various silver trays and bowls and things to my list. We were blessed to have many friends and family purchase those things for us and now they sit in a cabinet. One of the reasons I started having a large Passover gathering after Rob and I got married, was because I wanted to use my china and did not want it sitting in the cabinet. After last year's water heater debacle, and the purchase of new dining room furniture, I had to move all of that china and silver into the new cabinet and was again struck by how little some of it is used.
I also unearthed place mats and napkins that see relatively little use. For a time, I would buy sets of place mats and napkins when they were on sale at Macys or Crate & Barrel, loving the idea of dinners with color coordinated linens serving as the base. It was a lovely thought. The reality of life with kids is that they want plastic "Frozen" or "Dora" (or their own handmade) place mats and could care less about your matching, color coordinated efforts. Cloth napkins need to be washed (and ironed) to retain their crisp look and who has time for that? Paper napkins are so much easier. And things get spilled. BBQ sauce does NOT easily come out of white place mats.
I could probably mentally wander through each room of my house and identify things purchased with good intentions or lofty dreams of decorating wonder, but that have sadly sat unused on a shelf or in a cabinet, collecting dust, waiting for just the right moment. I won't bore you with the details. I will tell you that I have resolved to be better about it, to stop buying things that I wouldn't use right away, to only buy things that can survive my kids. I resolve to clean out those cabinets of unused things and either make more use of them, or sell or donate them to someone else who can (or wants to) use them.
Of course, the main offender in this story is my craft room. Yes, the room itself is the problem. You see, it sucks up my craft hoard, making me forget what I have. In forgetting what I have, I don't use it and just buy more. I need to clean the room out. But at the same time, I need to recognize that for as beautiful as that paper or sticker or whatever is in its original form, it will be much more beautiful when it is showcased with a family picture or a memory caught on film and packaged in a scrapbook. The beautiful paper is nice when it is tucked on my shelf in a box with others like it, but when it is cut or torn and connected with memories of our time together, it becomes so much more.
So get out there and use those "special" note cards. Take a page from Erma and use your good china tonight for dinner, even if you aren't having guests and even if you're just having hot dogs and baked beans. Choose to live life more fully, and include the things you have surrounded yourself with. After all, if you don't, who will?