“Enough is as good as a feast.”
Mary Poppins said it, and it was one of those lines I didn’t understand for a long time, just sounds that flowed past me, insignificant in the grander scheme of dancing penguins, flying chimney-sweeps, and talking umbrella handles.
Now, almost two decades removed from the child I was, I’m remembering that line.
Some interesting habits develop when you grow up poor. Let’s be clear—I grew up a different kind of poor than a lot of kids. I never went hungry. I had medical insurance. We got free food, but not food stamps. Still, when you know you’re poor, you do things to cope.
This isn’t just keeping stuff that has sentimental value. This is keeping everything.
If there’s a free handout, you take it—even if you don’t need it, because someday you might, and you probably won’t have money to buy it when that day comes. I remember stashing food in third grade. I hid apples and half-bowls of trail mix and stacks of crackers on the top shelf, ferreting them away for that moment when I might be hungry and we might not have any snack foods around (until, of course, my mother found them moulding and confiscated my stockpile).
This especially affects things like clothes. If someone gives away free clothes, you take them. When you’re in a large family full of growing kids, you can never have too many clothes; someone always needs your hand-me-downs, and when you can’t afford to go buy a new outfit, having that one skirt you never thought you’d wear becomes an essential contingency plan.
The problem is, I now have more clothes than I can fit in my closet. I have shirts I’ve forgotten about, cardigans with holes in them that I’m going to fix someday, jeans that don’t actually fit but that I keep because do you know how expensive jeans are?!
Growing up, I had regular growth spurts and lived in a country with one season—meaning I wore the same clothes year round. I went through clothes fast. But as an adult, I haven’t changed sizes in years, and I live in a country with four seasons—read: four different wardrobes. The last item of clothing I actually wore out was a pair of jeans I’d been wearing since middle school.
But I keep collecting, because someday I might need those clothes, and I won’t have money to buy new ones.
Lately, I’ve begun trying to curb my stockpiling tendencies and diminish the mountain of useless-but-might-be-essential-someday belongings packed around my room.
Clothes I don’t wear go in bags to give away, even if they’re super nice clothes I’ll never be able to afford replacing—because, let’s be honest, if I’m not wearing them now, why would I ever replace them? Those seven hundred ballpoint pens? Those go, too, along with the broken jewellery that I’m going to someday fix, the buttons that will make a great craft when (if?) I finally have time, the ugly scarf I’m going to eventually repurpose…
And as I toss item after item, my heart grows lighter and lighter, and I hear that voice from my childhood: “Enough is as good as a feast.”
And finally, I think I know what she means.