November 6, 2010

Use It or Lose It...

As we passed the time at a farmers market one spring morning, a friend told me a tragic story.

Her beautiful table linens,
the ones passed down from her great grandmother,
the ones with beautiful intricate designs and embroidery,
the ones that where just to good to use....

...were eaten by mice.


The linens she had gently washed and pressed and folded and then placed safely in a drawer, each one separated by a piece of parchment paper....

 ...Destroyed.  Garbage.  Gone.
Friends, use your good stuff:  the antique silverware, the irreplaceable china, and yes, great grandmas linens.
My friend was saddened to see her linens destroyed.  Of course she was, they represented something important to her.  But the only difference between when she had those linens and now is that now she's got a drawer freed up to fill with things she will actually use.

Be it  mice, or fire, or a dinner guest dropping it on the floor, one day you will be separated from all of your beautiful things. Accept this. Say good bye to all of those beautiful things.  And then truly appreciate their beauty as you use them to serve the people you love most.

Once you have already said good-bye, when that trying-to-be-helpful dinner guest drops a supposedly priceless heirloom and the whole room comes to a standstill and everyone turns to look and see how you are going to respond... you can smile.  And tell them you knew that would happen eventually.  No harm done, except for maybe a couple tears shed in the kitchen while the coffee brews.

When my friend told me her story of the linens, I started to wonder if maybe the things we own, no matter how sentimental, are completely meaningless until we have used them to serve somebody else. Use your beautiful things.  Use them to serve the people in your life who are truly priceless.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. {Matthew 6:19-21}

Agree?  Disagree?  Comment below or share this article with your friends!

37 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful way to approach stuff!
    Say good-bye to it and then just appreciate the beauty and serve someone else!! I Love that.
    I personally am one (as you know Kelly) that likes to give away something with special meaning to someone that will get great delight from it. Isn't it just heartwarming to look upon the same angel that rested upon your Grandma's shelf at one time?!
    Used or new, I love to see the gift accepted and treasured and possibly shared again!
    Better shared than stuffed into a drawer or packed away for years in a box in the basement.

    Shar

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  2. We recently had a Wednesday night service about this. . .how are we using our "things". . .and how do we want to be used? Case-in-point was a "priceless" teapot that sits on a high shelf in the pastor's home. . .so priceless it can only be shown off, never touched, never used. Then he showed us a beat-up tupperware pitcher. . .this, he said, has had Kool-Aid, iced tea, sand and rocks, used by kids and adults alike, and was USEFUL. Not pretty, exactly, but useful. He then likened this to *us*. . .are we pretty, sit-on-the-shelf people, only to be looked at and admired, or are we transparent vessels that will take anything God puts in us (rocks, sand, water, tea) and be useful to others?
    Anyway, great post. . .great reminder of this challenge we had. . .

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  3. Jennibell: That is inspiring and challenging...thanks so much for sharing!!!

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  4. Great thought! Stuff is just "stuff" unless it can be used to meet needs or bring a smile to a face--it needs a function. Now I'm thinking about my grandmother's quilt that is in plastic wrap...and feeling very guilty about it! ;)

    BTW, just found your blog through (in)courage & it's great! Man, I never knew there was an actual GUIDE to imperfect homemaking. I thought I was just making it up as I went along! :)

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  5. I am a FIRM believer in using my good china ALL the time. My darling husband worked hard to buy this for me and it brings him great joy to see me and the whole family use it (he told me so). My mother-in-law was shocked but I NOW have her using her wedding china.

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  6. This post made me cry. I, too, have a basement with grandma's china that has moved with my husband and I SIX TIMES!!! After each move, I would open the boxes, just to peek and see if they were still in tact. Then re-packed and shoved into my basement. They mean something to me because I remember my family using them. Why not let my children make memories of US using them?!?!

    Plus, isn't that what grandma would want anyway?

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    Replies
    1. So true. Grandma would want us to appreciate her treasured items.

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  7. True and important words... it's also a very good rule to live by that helps clutter from piling up in nooks and crannies!
    Loved your organised home series, thank you! :o)

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  8. I'm still making my way through you blog and I love this idea!

    Anne xx

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  9. I have things I dont want to use for concern of losing it. I have tried, I used my great grandmothers mixing bowl and my step daughter broke it. It was OLD, I cried but I wasnt mad. I can't take it with me. Had a glass I loved drinking out of, forbid anyone to use it, my child knocked it out of the cabinet accidently, I cried and moved on. My mother has always said use EVERYTHING, cause if you dont the next hag that moves in your house WILL! Enough said :)

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  10. "Use your beautiful things." I have always lived by this rule. For years I tried to make my mother understand this. She had a cabinet that beautifully displayed all of her lovely (never used) crystal. Every Christmas she nearly had a stroke when I took out her beautiful, heavy crystal water pitcher to use for Christmas dinner. She never said a word but her face was priceless. I know she secretly was praying to God that no one dropped it. lol

    But now she is gone and I inherited certain items; all of her beautiful, antique blue glass. And because they were hers and are such sentimental items, I found I was doing the same thing. Displaying them. And wouldn't you know, I went on a weekend trip and upon my return I found them smashed on the floor, it seems the cat was climbing. I cried and moved on. Now I am going to happily use what I have left. Oh the irony! It serves me right!

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  11. Agree, agree, agree!!! I absolutely love your blog!!!

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  12. Awe how true, I think about my grandmothers stuff too,that I have packed away, and precious crystal wear that just sits in my china cabinet,,, no more sister, I am using it !!!
    You are inspiring !Thank God I found this site !! God Bless you !!

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  13. LOVE This! Came upon your blog on Pintrest (Actually, I'm new to Pintrest) and I LOVE it! Be blessed!

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  14. LOVE This! Came upon your blog on Pintrest (Actually, I'm new to Pintrest) and I LOVE it! Be blessed!

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  15. This is great advice. I lost my mom last year and I waver between being sad that she had many things stored that, indeed, rust and moth destroyed, and trying to actually use sentimental items of hers that are now mine. Pinterest has been a great source of ideas to put these things to use. I am about to make an apron out of her wedding dress. Love the thought of incorporating meaningful items of hers into my life! Great blog!

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  16. There once was a family with a precious vintage ring. After years of sitting in a box, the ring was given by the Dad, to one of the sons so he could ask his girlfriend to marry him. She loved the ring - and the story and love behind it made it even more special.

    Sadly, the family was not pleased with Dad's choice. Horrible harsh words were spoken. The ring went back into the box where it remains today - deemed too special for anyone to wear. Ever.

    Ironically, in taking care of the ring, the angry words caused pain and agony on what should have been a happy occasion.

    Goodness came out of the situation.

    After hearing the story of how the ring would spend eternity living in a box - a friend pulled her grandma's pearl earrings out and started wearing them. She had been afraid of losing one and dishonoring her grandma. Then she realized that if she never wears them - they were as good as lost already. Now she wears with a smile, not worry...which is likely what her grandma intended in the first place. :)

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  17. An email that I received once was a story about a husband and his sister in law sorting through the wife's things after her early death. So many things kept 'for best', for 'that special occasion'. Of course they were practically unused. Since reading that I use my best frequently. That's the crystal vase from my grandmother, silver spoons from my nan etc. Every use I smile and think of these special people. No one can break my memories.

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  18. I think there's stock in using your beautiful and sentimental things, but there's also a place for preserving and displaying. For instance, my grandmother gave me a pincushion given to her by her grandmother (my namesake), and I framed it with the card in a shadowbox to display above my sewing table. I look at it and smile, remembering the passion for handiwork passed down from generation to generation.

    Perhaps those precious linens could have been framed and displayed as sentimental wall art. Perhaps an antique shelf could display beautiful glass pieces... it all depends on how you will recognize and appreciate beauty.

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  19. Whoa. I've been going back over your posts, and this post stopped me in my tracks. "...the things we own, no matter how sentimental, are completely meaningless until we have used them to serve somebody else." That quote will be going somewhere in my house (with the proper credit, of course). I feel like I've heard that concept a thousand times before, cloaked in vague language and a lot of words, but that one phrase, simply put, just rocked my world a little bit. I want to go home and evaluate every item in my apartment...have I used it to serve someone?..every item that I buy...will I use this to serve someone? I've been trying to "simplify" and get rid of objects that don't have any function or beauty to me, but this thought changes the way I think of "function." Thank you for the mind-blown moment.

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  20. You are absolutely right! We have to use all that is beautiful. If we keep them in lockers or anything like this, it´s like we never had it!

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  21. Absolutely and something i recently told a friend about a lovely watch that she had been bought :)

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  22. Thank you for this entry. Last summer I went to our safe deposit box and held a bag of jewelry that belonged to family that had died. It was very sad to me that I was afraid someone would steal it, but I wasn't enjoying it. Off to the jeweler I went. Had my great grandmother's rose gold bangle polished and am wearing. Then I had my dad's ring made into a band I can wear with my wedding rings. I have felt very guilty for doing, but after reading this I'm at peace. Thank you again!

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  23. Wow! I just pinned this essay so I can remember your words and share them with others. Talk about thought provoking! Thank you~ I am your newest fan!

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  24. Wow - can I quote this? This story is worth repeating.
    One day a person called who'd heard of our clothing giveaway ministry, and wanted to give us all their parents' clothing. Their parents had both been killed in a tragic auto accident while on vacation, and they wanted the things they treasured to be used for someone's good.

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  25. Love this post. I will be purging soon to move into my grandma-in-love's home. Will make me think twice on need it, love it or can do without it. Thank you for the verse too.

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  26. My mama always said "if it is too good to use, it is too good to have." She is a firm believer in using what she has. I am working on "free-ing up" and enjoying things, not just displaying -- or storing-- them. Thanks for the reminder!

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  27. that is so very true. Why have it if you arent going to use it. One time a bowl dropped out of my hands at my moms and everyone was horrifide. To my surprize my mom says good! I was just waiting for that to break, I've put up with that annoying thing too long.

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  28. LOVE this post!

    My dad passed away when I was just out of high school, and left me his big, comfy leather chair. He had sat in that chair so much that it actually sagged where he used to sit :) I had hoped to keep it forever, but over the years it got bumped, bruised and damaged.

    I left my newly-trained (or so I thought) puppy home one day only to find the leather on the arm completely chewed up. Eventually, after spills and more damage from everyday life, we had to let it go. My brother comforted me by reminding me that if we had reupholstered the entire chair, a chair that I lugged from one tiny apartment to the next despite the fact that it truly never fit, it would no longer be "Dad's chair" and it wouldn't bring him back. Letting it go helped me remember what is important to hold onto: all of our treasured memories. An no teething pup can take those away!

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  29. Agree! It's silly to not use valuable or sentimental things because it might break. It's useless if it's not being used.

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  30. We often eat cereal out of our good china we got as a wedding present. I do not mind drinking water or Kool-ade from a crystal gobblet. I believe it is not the stuff that is special it is the memories made with it. You will always have the memories even if you no longer have the stuff. Our philosophy is "We want to own our stuff not let our stuff own us."

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  31. Thank you for your post. I have a lot of items that I inherited after my father's untimely death almost 4 years ago. I have clothes of his, some little trinkets, a couple of coffee mugs, some vintage cameras, a teapot, and a French press. The only things I have used are the cameras and the the coffee mugs. I have too many coffee mugs so in an effort to organize, I decided to get rid of some of them. I almost got rid of the ones that were his, because I had so many and they didn't match my set that came with my wedding china which I never use. I ended up getting rid of the set of coffee mugs, even though they go with my china, because I know I will use my dad's mugs, but I will never use the ones that go with my china. I am ashamed for even thinking of getting rid of them really. Because of your post, I am going to make sure I begin using the other items I've been afraid to use. I've been telling myself to do it for ages, but I haven't been able to bring myself to do it yet. I know that he is never going to walk through the door and pick up his teapot and brew some tea, and he's never going to reach into the coat closet and put on his jacket. So I need to start doing it myself. I am not honoring him by letting his things that were so much a part of him get dusty on a shelf.

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  32. I love this concept. I'm getting ready to movve out on my own (again) and decided that I didn't need flatware- I have my grandma's silver set, that has been in it's box for at least the last 14 years, since she died. My mother thought Grandma would be rolling over in her grave if I used them every day, but I think she would be happy that I was using it. I have also found my grandfather's army jacket, that I'm going to have cleaned and give to my cousin, who will love to wear it. There are also the ugly things (like this weird guy made out of bottle caps, holding an ashtray my great grandparents had on their table) that remind us of days gone by. If thry bring back good memories, why store them? So what if they don't match any thing else?

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  33. I love this post, glad I am not the only one who wants to USE what I have! I use my linens, crystal, silver and china every day. And I wear my vintage jewelry, too. Most of it was inherited from my grandparents or sadly, purchased from estate sales in brand-new condition. My feeling is it won't have any sentimental value to my grandchildren unless they have an association with it, by seeing it used and using it themselves. By that time, there may only be one goblet left, but I hope my granddaughters will remember them as Grandma's glasses someday, and use whatever remains. Thanks for a great blog!

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  34. I LOVE this! Thank you so much for sharing.

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