When broken is better than nothing (or is it?)


Part of being minimalist is discarding what you don’t find useful or beautiful. However, it’s a very privileged position to be able to discard something functional just because you don’t quite love it with unbridled joy. So we usually hang onto the functionally imperfect items that aren’t totally our style, because sometimes you can’t afford to go buy a whole new wardrobe. It’s ok to find joy in having pants, even if the pants themselves don’t make your butt look the best.

That said, there are some moments when it’s okay to let go of something that’s functional — and they usually involve those pesky emotions.

Exhibit A: The Snarky Mugs

For two years in a row, I received a snarky mug from my mother for Christmas. One said “I’m not bossy I just know how what you should be doing” (or something similar) and one said “I’m silently correcting your grammar.” I laughed when I received them. I kept them in my cabinet. I even drank out of one. But every time I saw them in the cabinet, I’d end up feeling subconsciously crappy.

The mugs replayed the tapes in my head of my mom telling me I was too much of this or that. I was rude, I was bossy, I was whatever. Months after I ceased contact with her, I decided these mugs needed to go. Once they were gone, I felt much better.

Honestly, if the mugs had come from someone else, I would have probably found them really funny. They might have been my favorite mugs. I will never know. Because my mother raised me criticizing the things she bought these mugs to “poke fun at,” they triggered negative self-thoughts. So I got rid of them.

Exhibit B: The Laptop Bag

My ex had a habit of buying himself things on Amazon on a whim. If it wasn’t just right, he wouldn’t return it, he’d just give it to me. Thus I ended up with a gray laptop bag that switched from a backpack to a messenger bag. It was perfectly functional, until one of the backpack straps broke. I switched to the messenger bag orientation and that strap broke too. So I was one-shouldering it for many months, constantly irritated by it.

But it was functional, so I wasn’t letting myself replace it. I’d Amazon search for other backpacks, never deciding to buy one. I’d go browse the discount stores, but nothing there jumped out at me. Finally I just ordered one and switched bags the day it arrived. It is brightly colored and floral print and I absolutely adore it.

When I see it, I feel joy. It seems so silly to be this excited by a bag, but I am. It means I no longer have to see the bag my ex gave me. The broken, still-using-it-because-it’s-better-than-nothing bag my ex gave me.

Screw holding onto things that make you think of toxic people.

3 thoughts on “When broken is better than nothing (or is it?)

  1. I am 100% with you on that! There’s no reason to keep physical reminders of such folks, especially if they’re still in your life. My experience doesn’t quite compare, but I have held onto those things that are still working just because. I’ve also held onto an entire household of things ‘just in case’. Then, after more than a decade of living as an adult, it occurred to me that I just wasn’t interested in pursuing a lot of those ‘just in case’ scenarios, like dinner parties.
    There have also been a couple of things over the years that came from my grandmother, along with the caveat, “If you don’t want it anymore, don’t give it away, bring it back to me.” With the most recent – a lovely walnut dining table that had been bought shortly after she was married – I made an executive decision for both of us. She’s 95 and already has more than enough tables; she also lives about 400 Kms away, and I don’t drive. So that table now lives with someone else who’s just starting out. If that’s not priceless, I don’t know what is.
    Thanks for the great post!

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