By Ingrid Sapona
I was at the drive through at a Tim Horton’s the other day.
The coffee I ordered cost $2.01. Without a thought, I handed the person at the
window a $5. I was kind of surprised at how long it took for her to make
change, but when she handed it to me, I realized why. I got $2 in bills and 99¢
in coins. Ugh – all that change.
I was expecting $3 back – but then I realized I was in the
US. Here in Canada we no longer use pennies. We did away with them in 2013. To
be honest, I didn’t realize it was that long ago, but I just looked it up. In
2012, when the Finance Minister announced we’d be phasing pennies out, I
distinctly remember being convinced it was a bad idea.
I thought that doing away with the penny would start prices
creeping up. Things that used to cost, say, $2.97 at Walmart (they’re big on
prices ending in 7s) would, I figured, immediately increase to $3. Once that
happened, I reckoned we’d soon see the demise of other coins and businesses
rounding prices up accordingly.
But all that hasn’t happened. My Tim Horton’s coffee that
costs $1.81 here in Canada is still $1.81. The only difference is that when you
pay – or make change – you simply round the penny amounts up or down. So, when
I handed her the $5, I expected to get $3 back – not a handful of coins and a
dose of irritation.
As I drove away, I thought about the irrationality of my
petty annoyance. I soon figured out that underlying my reaction was the fact
that, not only have I adjusted to not using pennies, I’ve moved on to the point
of definitely not missing them.
As soon as I realized that, I also understood what emotional
trigger was really at play. You see, we’re just starting the process of
downsizing my mom’s household. After more than five decades in the house I grew
up in, the house is filled with stuff – and memories associated with many items.
Though – or perhaps, because – we’re in the nascent stage of
this endeavor, I’ve tried to take a project management approach. I’ve started
by breaking it down into different types of tasks. For example, upstairs I
thought I’d go closet-by-closet. With the basement – the repository of things
that weren’t put to regular use, not to mention a bunch of things that haven’t
been touched in 40+ years – I’ve begun by separating out things that are
relatively easy to donate, like clothes and books.
I’ve also begun asking friends and others for suggestions
about other ways of clearing out things – short of 1-800-Got Junk. I’ve gotten
some good ideas (check out The Freecycle Network, for example) and referrals to
estate-type agents that will all come in handy.
But, before we get to any of those, we have a lot of sorting
to do. There are a few things in the house that I – or my sisters – have a real
connection to, for whatever reason. Those things I’m sure Mom will give her
blessing to us to take to our own (already full) homes. Beyond those things, however,
there are also a bunch of things that, though not cherished, have some
sentimental value – in some cases simply because they’ve been in the family for
a long time. For me, those items are much harder to deal with…
This is where my epiphany about the penny comes in. As I go
through things in the house, I’m going to try to see them like pennies –
objects that have value and that served us well but that will not be truly
missed once they are gone.