I opened a bag of caramel popcorn the other day to eat while we watched a movie. I like the idea of caramel corn. The reality? Not so much. My teeth stuck together and I really didn’t need much of it anyway – it’s awfully sweet. So I re-fastened the bag and set it aside.
A few days later I dipped into it again, just a little handful. But I immediately regretted it. I went and brushed my teeth and decided that I’d had enough of caramel corn.
“I was going to take the rest of this caramel corn to work to share. But did you want any?”
Hubby replied that he did. Not a lot. Just a small portion. But yes.
So I put the caramel corn back on the counter. It was about half full.
Two weeks later I’ve dipped into it a few more times, seduced again by the idea of it. Just a small handful each time. Just enough to stick my teeth together. It’s right in my line of sight because I’m leaving it on the counter so hubby can see it and eat it like he said he wanted to.
Hubby hasn’t touched it.
I found myself annoyed. So, he doesn’t want to me to share it, he wants to keep it around, but he’s not actually eating it, and now it’s probably going stale and then no one is going to eat it. What a waste! That’s so stupid.
(It’s easy to see other people’s stupidity, especially people you live with ;) It’s just a small annoyance. I don’t think hubby is stupid. I just think this behavior is stupid.)
But I realized we all do this, all the time. When someone asks “do you want this thing?” we usually say yes, because we like the thing, and it’s right here, and even though we don’t want it right now, we can definitely picture a time in the near future when we’re going to want it.
When push comes to shove, though, when hubby reaches for a snack, caramel corn is not the snack he wants. Cheesy crackers are more his style. A gin & tonic goes better with an after dinner movie. No one wants to eat sweets with a G&T. In the “right now” we choose our favorites, and hubby’s favorite is not ever caramel corn.
Netflix found that people do this all the time too. They queue up art house films, documentaries that sound so interesting, and intriguing foreign films that critics have called “challenging” and “life changing.” But when they sit down to stream a movie right now after a long week they scroll right past 12 Years a Slave and I Vitelloni to watch Guardians of the Galaxy or Love Actually (again). We imagine our future self as an idealized version of ourself, one who watches Important Films. Future Self is going to do all kinds of worthwhile things, all the things we’ve been meaning to do. But Right Now Self just doesn’t have the energy, would rather just reach for a familiar comfort and watch something fun.
In the case of movies, queueing something on Netflix doesn’t cost us anything, and it doesn’t deprive anyone else of it. But when we do this same thing with physical objects, this tendency can actually be viewed as a form of hoarding. We keep things we’re not using for some imagined future, but we don’t use them. And that means no one can use or enjoy them either. The longer we store them, the more like they will end up damaged, broken, and unusable by the time that “someday” comes along.
At this rate my caramel corn is probably going to end up in the trash. No one’s life is going to be harmed by being deprived of it, but still, it’s a waste. Someone needs to make caramel corn in small serving packages, but that’s a complaint for a different blog post! Buying special food for Future Self has to be one of the leading causes of food waste. I get tempted by “superfoods” and exotic vegetables, but Right Now Self just doesn’t know what to do with them. So, guess where they end up?
In the case of the old kindle sitting in the cupboard, which somebody said they’d use, but didn’t, it’s becoming more and more obsolete every day. A year ago we might have been able to sell it for a few dollars and someone would have been excited to have it. In another year it will be little better than trash. Some things actually become impossible to get rid of as they age – you have to pay people to take away some old TVs.
(BTW don’t get me wrong, I do this just as much as hubby does. I held onto my iPod Touch for 3 years before finally admitting that I would never find another use for it. I’m always opening some new food I’m sure I’m going to start eating, but then forgetting all about it because I’m too busy eating my favorites. It’s just easier to be annoyed at this behavior when you see it in other people!)
One of the hardest questions to answer in the decluttering process is “am I ever going to use this (again)?” More often than not the answer is no. Some of us cycle back to old hobbies and get excited to wear clothes we were previously sick of. But if you are happy to use plain Ivory soap and you can’t imagine not having a bar in the shower, is it really likely that you’re going to suddenly switch to using scented body wash, especially if that body wash has been sitting in your cupboard for several months? If you put the special soap next to the Ivory in the shower and find that you’re still reaching for the Ivory, maybe it would have been better to pass the special soap on and give someone else the gift of it, instead of holding on to it and under-using it.
If you’re not eager to set aside your “usual” when you’re offered something new, chances are your Future Self isn’t going to be either. That’s how we end up wearing the same old clothes even after we go shopping for new ones. If you’re not ready to put the new clothes on right now and leave behind the items you tell yourself they’re replacing, you probably didn’t need to buy the new version at all.
Which reminds me, I still have 2 denim skirts in my closet where there should only be one – the new one that I got to replace the old one.
So, I’m not going to ask hubby about the caramel corn again. If I make it go away, I bet he will never ask me what happened to it. If I told him we ate it all when Friend came over to watch a movie he wouldn’t be upset, so I may as well just take it to work and share it, just as I had originally planned. If I was to put a little portion in a container for him I’m sure I will find myself annoyed when it sits untouched for months (just like his other special snacks, which have been on the counter forever). I think I might just get rid of the caramel corn and ask for forgiveness if (big IF) the issue ever arises.
And I’m going to wear that new denim skirt again today, and I’m going to put the old one in the donation bag. Even if the new one isn’t perfect, even if it’s not the One True Skirt, the Skirt of Destiny, it’s still two pockets better than the old one.
Thanks for reading my long-winded thoughts on caramel corn. Hopefully you thought of something in your life that’s caramel corn-like that you can admit you will never use and pass it on for someone else to enjoy.
Bye for now,