Thursday, May 11, 2017

Smells Like Sunk Cost...

Okay, I was going to say that could be the weirdest title for a piece I've ever written but we both know that's probably not true...

This morning I finally got around to cleaning out my spice rack. I say finally because I've been putting it off for ages. It's one of those things that I would look at the jars and cans of spices and think, I really need to sort these. Then I would remember how much that little jar of spice cost and close the cabinet. But the thing with spices is that it doesn't matter how much you paid for it, eventually it will stop being, well, spicy. It's just a jar of faded herbs with no real flavor, or worse, a bitter nasty flavor. But so expensive...

So this morning as I was cooking breakfast I took all of my spices out and put them on the counter. No closing the door and ignoring them this time. And really how bad could it be? I'm sure most of them are fine, right?

Started with the basic sniff test. Does it still smell like the spice it's supposed to be? And as I was opening and smelling I saw that some of them did have dates on the jars. Well that's a handy marker as to when I bought them, and holy crap was it really that long ago? Well that explains why the dark green it should be is more of a suggestion of green now...

I ended up dumping about 2/3 of the spices I had. The ones I kept are for the most part almost empty, obviously the ones I used most frequently are the ones that are freshest. Now I need to keep in mind when I go to make something that I probably don't have that spice after all and should look at buying it. Just a very small jar of it, if I can. There is a spice aisle now in the grocery store where you can buy your spices in bulk, or not bulk as the case may be. Need a pinch? Buy a few pinches instead of a giant jar. Or a trip downtown to Penzey's might be a good Saturday addition to our week. Still not cheap, but much less waste for sure.

Which is still what made it a hard morning. Looking at all of those jars and bottles and cans lined up on the counter I could hear the ching ching ching adding up in my head. That's a lot of wasted money. The few teaspoons that were missing out of a few of them made me cringe. Obviously the recipe wasn't good enough to repeat and there wasn't something else that needed that spice in my treasure trove. So a lot of them were dumped in to the trash. Glass bottles and metal cans put in to the recycling. The rest just tossed.

Salt, pepper, chile powder, cumin, garlic, onion, cinnamon, oregano, basil...these are the ones that I use over and over again. Marjoram? It was opened, but I'm not sure there was anything missing. Old Bay? I know there are people that swear by it, but what did I use it for again? Dried rosemary? Much easier than fresh for sure, but apparently I rarely make that easy choice. And on and on. Just tossed. Ching, ching, ching...

Sunk cost. We get so attached to things because of the money we have already put in to them. I bought those seasonings so I need to keep them. For years. Never mind that I didn't  use them. I paid for them so they must be worth something. Same thing happens when we are clearing out other areas of our houses. I can't possibly just get rid of that chair. I spent so much for it, I will sell it and get back at least half of my cost. Then you find out that the real market value of that chair is not $100 but more like $20. So you get insulted and decide to keep it. You cannot possibly afford to get rid of it for that little. It's worth much more than that!

No, you can get rid of it. And you should. I stopped trying to profitably sell most things ages ago. Now if it's a big ticket item I will sometimes try to sell it for a little bit, just enough that people don't think it's trash but little enough that it goes very quickly. It's better for me that someone comes and gets it than if I have to pay to have it hauled away. I've done the FREE! thing as well. You can have it if you come get it, I'm done with it and it's just taking up space.

I'm in the process right now of paring down in the house. The level of stuff has crept up again so it's time to clear it out. I like things a little sparse. It makes me feel better to see space on shelves instead of crammed edge to edge with things. But that doesn't mean I don't have a lot of things. I recently found a box of collectibles that had been put away for 15 years. They made me happy when I saw them so I put them back out. Now I'm trying to decide if they make me happy enough to keep out. And that's the test for me. Does this thing make me happy? I have some odd collectibles. Things that other people might think, what the hell? But they pass the joy test. The things that don't pass the joy test anymore? Those are going away.

Which is harder than you think. Because I have some things that USED to pass the joy test with flying colors. They made me very happy. But that was a few decades ago and my tastes have changed. Or they have gotten beaten up so much in our many moves that they aren't so joyful anymore. But I look at them and I hear the echos of the 20 year old me when I first got that Talbot print and I felt very grown up to actually have it framed instead of stuck to the wall with tape. The memory makes me smile. The actual print now, well, I look at it and think, ehh. So it's hard to take it down, but I know I will. I need to make room for things that make me joyful now. Not echos of joy, but current joy.

And life is filled with those things. Jobs that no longer work for you. Books that you started to read but you aren't enjoying. Clothes that never have fit right, or fit right long enough ago that you just need to let them move along. Shoes that pinch. People that rub you the wrong way. Let things that are not working for you anymore go. They are taking up space in your life that you could use.

When C was in elementary school he wanted to add chess club to the things he was doing. I told him fine, but he had to let go of another activity. He was doing Tae Kwon Do, swimming lessons, coronet club, football and now wanted to add chess club. I told him I couldn't do another activity. I was full. So he had to choose. If he wanted to add one, he needed to get rid of one. If you want to add something to your life you are going to have to get rid of something else. Even if it's just free time. Everything has a cost. Make sure what you are adding isn't actually subtracting. And that's a decision you need to make for yourself. Only you know what really brings you the greatest joy, or sense of accomplishment, or peace. You get to choose what to spend your time and your money on. C dropped football and picked up chess. I would have ditched Tae Kwon Do. That's why he made the choice, not me.

Now I'm going to make a pitch for a friend here, I wasn't planning on it but as I was writing this out I realized that for some people getting things sorted and cleared is really hard. Not just a little time consuming like it is for me. But actually hard to even know where to start. The Practical Sort is a company a friend of mine runs. She can give you a hand in getting the clutter out. Make room for the things in your life to breathe. Make space for new things that bring you joy. Get rid of the mess that makes you stress. It can seem like an odd thing, but getting control of that hall closet can make you feel pretty accomplished.

Let go of the things that aren't working for you anymore. Even if it's a $12 bottle of spice.

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