Caring for things without caring about things

sweaterShopping for and buying things is stressful for me. There are so many decisions to make, and so few things that fit my life well. When I look for shoes or clothes, it’s difficult to find simple, practical styles. When I look for gadgets or games, I wonder if I’ll really use them. I think about not only the hours of my life that the dollars represent, but also the need for storage, use, maintenance, and disposal. I try to postpone purchases until I understand what I need, and even then, I buy grudgingly. (Do I really need it? I’ve survived thus far, haven’t I? How do other people manage? What kinds of benefits do I expect? What are the costs? What can I learn from previous decisions? Can I wait a month or two for a good sale?)

I’d like to become the kind of person who cares for things without caring about things—to keep my things in order, but to not get so attached to them that I lose my equanimity. Time to grow up. Time to learn how to maintain what I have, and how to choose new purchases well. Time to embrace repair and modification. Time to embrace the hours of research as an opportunity to geek out about something, like the way that W- knows a lot about kitchen knives and shoes. Time to spend for quality (but not over-engineering, or more quality than I can use).

I want to know I can take care of nice things before I buy a lot of nice things. This can be a little difficult, because cheap things are often cheap because they’re not designed to be durable. I can practise some habits even before I upgrade stuff to see whether the habits are sustainable and useful.

For example, several of my sweaters have small holes in them. Moths? Cats? Rips? Laundry? Not sure. I’ve already frozen my sweaters to help kill insects; the recent ice-storm-caused power outage probably took care of the rest. Step 1: Stop tossing my sweaters into the washing machine, even on the delicates/hand-wash cycle, because of detergent and agitation. Instead, air, then hand-wash. Step 2: Hang up all my sweaters to air. Step 3: Prepare my own lavender sachets next year, when the lavender in the front yard flowers again, and clean all the drawers. Sand the cedar blocks, too. Step 4: Figure out my long-term sweater solution. (Still have to decide on the colour anyway, since black doesn’t work well with cats… Maybe browns and argyles? Maybe non-wool, even though wool is warmer?)

I’m gradually going to rotate out the things that I hadn’t taken care of so well, depending on whether I feel like upgrading them. But I’m also going to limit the things I care about upgrading. I don’t particularly feel the need to be part of the cashmere-and-pearls set. In terms of office wear, I can switch to blazers for now. Even moth-eaten sweaters are still warm around the house. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll learn how to felt.

Part of it is accepting that my life is a messy and imperfect one: ink stains on my cuff, scratches on my shoes, sweater pills on my shoulder due to cats digging in their claws. (“No, don’t go back to writing yet! Cuddle me more!”)

I can learn to optimize for durability, though. I can learn to spot things that are worth the cost. I can learn to get better at squeezing out more from the things I have, so that they wear out properly. A stitch in time, and all that. I’ll figure this out eventually!

  • Mylene Sereno

    Now this reminds me not to put my sweaters in the machine.. :)
    I’m in Texas right now for a temporary assignment and it’s too cold to hand wash my sweaters/delicate fabrics.. :(