I bought the bowl above at a crafts fair when I was in college. I loved the size—big enough for the dinners I routinely made for friends—, the shape, and, most of all, the drippy glaze of a handmade ceramic. At the time—well over 40 years ago now—it was my style, and I was smitten. It’s still one of my favorite bowls, and I use it all the time. Despite its imperfection. 

There’s a chip on the edge. Not bad for a 40-year-old bowl, you might be thinking. Thing is, I dropped the bowl on the way back to my apartment from the craft fair—that’s when the chip happened. I was crushed at the time, but the bowl has served me well, and I’ve forgiven myself for the drop. Over the years, that chip became a story and part of my relationship with the bowl. I never stopped appreciating the bowl’s service and the artist’s work. I learned to be okay with the imperfection. 

Do you know about Kintsugu? It’s a Japanese art of repairing objects that enhances the breaks. A ceramic bowl or pot, for example, is joined back together using precious liquid metals and powdered gold. The repair actually adds to the value of the object rather than diminishing it. I love this concept. Even without gold embellishment, I feel that we add something of value every time we repair rather than discard broken items. And thoughtful touches, such as a beautifully embroidered patch to cover an imperfection, can make a garment that otherwise might be discarded even more enjoyable. 

There are times, though, when there’s no enhancing to be done—times when something doesn’t even need repair to be functional, but I still want to replace it. And I struggle with that. My toaster is my current example. Until recently, it was attractive enough. But while making pancakes with grandkids one morning, I pushed the electric griddle back on the counter (away from little fingers) until it accidentally touched the toaster. Before I realized it, the griddle burned a truly ugly hole in the toaster. The toaster still works perfectly. That’s my problem. 

I don’t like being wasteful. I can’t bring myself to throw away a toaster that works perfectly well just because it has an ugly burn hole in it. On the other hand, I like things to look pretty and well taken care of. That toaster does not look like it’s been taken care of! And I can think of no way to “enhance” it!

When I told one of our daughters about my dilemma, she suggested I give it to someone who needs a toaster and wouldn’t mind the hole. And I thought for a bit that this would be the ideal solution. But after mulling it over, I feel as if I’d be saying, ” Here, this toaster isn’t good enough for me, but it is for you.” And it is good enough for me.

I realize that in order to minimize waste, I need to do my part by not discarding perfectly useful appliances. So I’m turning the toaster so that the hole faces the wall. I’m not fond of the toaster the way I am of my bowl, but it, too, has a story—and I certainly appreciate that it has been functioning perfectly, making my toast for more than a decade now. 

Do you have things you’re keeping despite their imperfections? Do you keep things that you don’t love because they’re still functioning for you? I’d love to hear about them.

You might also like: De-cluttering and Dream home.

4 thoughts on “Imperfection”

  1. I certainly can relate to this. I hate to part with things that are functioning well, despite their “outdated” appearance or worn look. Consider my 35-year-old iron. You read it right. My mother gave me a tiny General Electric iron (about the length of my open hand) upon my high school graduation as a useful item for my college dorm. I think it probably served more purpose as a craft tool and attempted hair straightening iron than it did as a way to press clothes during those college years, but nevertheless, I hung onto it. That champion little iron survived my husband’s career wearing dress shirts every day and my son’s desire to “wear shirts like Dad,” plus two daughters who loved to wear pretty dresses. So, it has done more than its share of careful pressing. Don’t even get me started on costumes and craft projects! Most things eventually burn off. The iron has been through a lot. Despite offers to gift me something more modern (and larger), I love the way the type has worn from the iron so it only reads “lectric” now. I love the service it has given me and the familiarity I feel every time I drag it out. Plus, it makes me think of Mom. That tiny iron isn’t going anywhere.

    • Oh, I love when something as practical as an iron is cherished! And, at the risk of sounding like someone my age, “they don’t make irons like they used to!” (I’ve gone through a couple of irons in the past year alone.) Hope that “lectric” has many more miles on her! (When she stops working maybe you can use her as a bookend.)

  2. My brother proudly brought me home a coffee grinder that he found at an antique shop. It works perfectly. I’m still trying to figure out how to get over the mental block about cleaning and using it though. But the older stuff always always seems to last longer.

    • It does, doesn’t it, Lindsey?! I also enjoy thinking about the people who might have used it before me. (All good, sweet stories, of course!) It’s neat to look at, and even more fun if you use it! My father-in-law gave me an old coffee grinder once, and here are directions similar to those I used to clean it:
      I didn’t use a vacuum hose on it (my brush isn’t clean enough for food purposes!), but I did wipe it with a damp rag and then put the rice through it. After that, I felt pretty good about using it!


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