By Linda Militello
I learned the fine distinction between need and want during a childhood lacking bare necessities. Feelings of shame and inadequacy have never left me. On the positive side, life in small apartments with smaller cupboards and closets for garments, kitchenware and food saved decision time on what to wear and what to eat.
For three years, our first apartment while married resembled today’s common storage units in size and the rent cost comparatively less. Yet, my husband and I dressed and ate well without space for time-wasting clutter.
My grandmother didn’t own measuring spoons or cups and whisks to create potential award-winning cooking. Coffee cups, empty milk bottles and ordinary tableware, especially a fork, enabled baking cakes and deep dish pies in the same iron skillets used for main meals. After 30 years of peeling thousands of potatoes and apples with her paring knife, I used it another 20 years before the handle detached from the blade.
Looking for shortcuts, time savers or nuance increases buying desire for yesterday’s bread making machine or today’s air fryer and all unused gadgets in between. If you are cooking well, will a new tool save time or just need storage space? When you haven’t used a dish, cup, or glass for five years, will you use it in the next five? Likely not. But today others would use your overflow.
Long before current organization and joy-promoting gurus, William Morris, one of the most influential designers in 18th century England, advised, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Finger-click shopping entices us with countless beautiful and useful items; this magnified decisional conundrum leads many to obtain wants that morph into clutter.
Instead of reading sales ads, I read community papers at libraries that list organizations in need of everything. My acute awareness of deprivation won’t allow me to buy or keep things for the unknown tomorrow when someone in our community needs something today. My husband and I will transport items where needed.
Occupational therapists in nursing facilities welcome coloring, painting and crafting supplies. Children’s hospital, pediatric clinics and waiting rooms need new or invisibly used books for children.
If shopping, especially bargain hunting, brings you joy, double the joy by buying for someone in need.
I know from 18 years of working in multiple Buffalo schools that nurses will always accept new underwear and socks. Children come to school without either or accidents increase the shortage. I brought several bonus sale packages of panties and socks to a school a few weeks ago and asked the nurse if there was a need. She smiled and said, “Always!”
Thankfully, today I can meet my needs. I scrutinize my wants almost pathologically. I covet good health. I purchase health promoting foods and maintain a safe, comfortable, uncluttered dwelling. This allows me to focus on the needs of others. The Cornerstone Manor, Friends of the Night People and City Mission need underwear and socks for men and women all year long, just like we do.
Giving from your excess will be a win for you and the beneficiary.
Linda Militello, of Williamsville, doubles the pleasure of uncluttering by donating items to the needy.