“Chronic remorse, as all the moralists agree, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.”
– Aldous Huxley, A Brave New World
Why is spending for a transient experience okay on food and movies but we get ourselves in such a twist over objects? Wrestling that insidious feeling that if we get rid of this object it will mean that we wasted our money causes us to behave as if somehow by keeping it around we are improving our chances of compensation for the expense. We aren’t.
So how to avoid the guilt of bad buying decisions? Think about purchases longer before making them. Also, recognize that you will make some bad decisions. As one Discardian put it, “Did you get your money's worth? If you are ditching a $5 paperback book, did you enjoy it $5 worth? If you did, then, like a loaf of bread you ate, you got your money's worth.” For that reason, sometimes the cheap (or used) version of something is the better way to go; give yourself room to feel free to part with it.
Once you’ve gained what you needed to get or learn from something – including an emotion – it’s perfectly acceptable and often helpful to let it go and move on.
The flipside to this coin is the stuff you fail to enjoy because you spent so much on it, but which you know you would still enjoy. My friend, writer and mom Meg Hourihan, wrote poignantly of this dilemma:
“I'd keep bottles of wine and treasure jars of jam for so long they'd be no good once I got around to using them. I decided life was too short and that it was important to use the good stuff. And now I do, mostly. I saved a beautiful birthday gift of 1989 Laurent-Perrier Champagne too long (no situation ever seemed good enough to justify its drinking) and when I opened it, it was passed and I was so sad. It was just the kick in the pants I needed to remember to use the good stuff.”
Journalists and wine critics Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher of the Wall Street Journal recommend you quit waiting for some occasion special enough for that most special bottle you've been holding onto for years. They said:
“We invented Open That Bottle Night for a simple reason: All of us, no matter how big or small our wine collections, have that single bottle of wine we simply can never bear to open. Maybe it's from Grandpa's cellar or a trip to Italy or a wedding. We're always going to open it on a special occasion, but no occasion is ever special enough. So it sits. And sits. Then, at some point, we decide we should have opened it years ago and now it's bad anyway, so there's no reason to open it, which gives us an excuse to hang onto it for a few more decades. So OTBN – which is now always the last Saturday in February – offers a great opportunity to prepare a special meal, open the bottle and savor the memories.”
You can wait until the last Saturday in February if you like, but wouldn't tonight be a good enough for a special meal with those closest to you and a toast to the past and the future over a glass of something fine?