So much stuff comes into our lives these days – or attempts to – that it can be hard to process it all. Some choices are easy: junk mail in the recycle bin, useful bags into the Bag of Useful Bags, last week’s newspaper into the kindling basket/worm farm/rodent cage, etc.
But other choices can be harder to make. Should I buy this petit objet? Should I accept this goody-bag? Should I chip in for this fundraiser even if I’m not that keen on what they’re selling?
While reading The Fellowship of the Ring, I came up with a useful measuring stick for these situations: is it mathom-worthy? That is, is it something that you could pass on to someone else, regift, or donate?
Note the distinction between “pass on” and “regift”. There are many things that are useful but would not make a good gift.
For example, I collect orts (the snipped-off bits from sewn-in ends of knitted or crocheted items) for stuffing knitted baby toys. I am always happy to have these passed on to me, but a bag of snipped ends of wool would undeniably raise eyebrows as a gift.
So what counts as mathom-worthy? A soap of a scent you don’t much like is mathom-worthy, because you can give it to a friend who does like it. A reusable cup is mathom-worthy, because even if you already have one at home (which you didn’t think to bring today) you can give this new one to someone else.
A pen might be mathom-worthy – fountain pens definitely are – but if it’s disposable and covered in advertising, why make your home (or anyone else’s) the halfway house to its inevitable destination and spiritual home, the landfill?
This isn’t just for things that you’ll want to regift immediately. When selecting things that you will want or need for a while but not forever, choose something that will still be mathom-worthy when you have finished with it.
Example: if you are staying in a city for just a month, then going overseas, buy mathom-worthy simple crockery instead of using disposables. Another example: buy clothes that will wear well and continue to be of good quality even after you have grown (or shrunk) out of them.
One could argue that charity shops are modern mathom warehouses, which is a reminder to us all not to donate to a charity shop something we would be ashamed to offer to a friend at a mathom-party. (And speaking of mathom-parties, why not have one?)
It’s always wise to ask yourself “can it be Reused, or is it better Refused? Is it of more than momentary value? Is this thing going to turn into rubbish the moment I look away, turning my house into an outpost of the dump?”
In short, is it mathom-worthy?