I always thought clothes-eating moths were an old wives’ tale. In all my years of being careless I had skated by, scot-free (or shall I say, hole-free?). My friends never seemed to report moth problems, either.
Because I had internalized the belief that clothing moths didn’t exist, I was cavalier about how I stored my things. All out in the open. You see, unattractive clear plastic bins were a relic of my college days.
But one day I slid open our closet door and saw a moth fly out of it.
A few days later I opened up a drawer to grab a sweater, only to find a few holes sprinkled across the front.
It was official: I had a moth problem.
In retrospect, I had ignored the signs weeks earlier.
Like the holes I saw chewed through a cloth garment bag I had gotten for free. “Oh, it must have just come like that.”
The tear I saw in the collar of a sweater dress. That’s because I stupidly chose to hang it for vanity reasons, which would have stretched the fabric.
The sweater my husband put on one morning only to immediately pull it off, because of the holes dotted all over it.
And when I saw a moth land on my laptop, I didn’t wonder if there might be more where it came from.
It’s funny to look back and think about how none of these incidents were red flags to me.
The problem was right there in front of my face, and yet I couldn’t see it.
I threw away two of my sweaters: my one cashmere and another wool sweater.
I’ve spent over $100 on dry-cleaning.
Forty dollars on moth traps.
I will spend over $150 repairing the holes in the sweater dress, more than the original price I paid for it.
And then more money on preventative measures like cedar blocks and lavender satchels, which may or may not be effective.
Besides the money, there was the anxiety and paranoia. I lay awake at 2am thinking, did I forget to investigate that one obscure corner in the closet for bugs?
I became obsessed with finding the source of the problem. At night my husband would look over at my laptop screen filled with pictures of different moth species and their eggs, and asked me, all concerned, “Do you think you should be looking at that right before bed?”
Yes, I said, without looking away from the screen. “Judging by the wing color, we also have pantry moths, and not just clothing moths.”
But I also found myself afraid to physically confront the issue, in fear of what I might find. I asked my husband to check under the corners of the wool rug. To open all the jars in the pantry. To check inside every single box in the apartment.
Mostly I was angry at myself. If only I had bought a few lavender satchels and stored my sweaters in moth-proof bins or garment bags. I would have spent less money and my sweaters wouldn’t be chewed through like swiss cheese.
The Money Lessons
While a moth issue pales in comparison to actual money issues, I’m surprised by the parallels. By the way I assessed the moths, it felt similar to living paycheck to paycheck care-free until I suddenly discovered that was a problem.
Many of the same lessons can apply to both:
Denial can lead you to make bad decisions.
Prevention is the key; nip a small problem in the bud before it can snowball.
Sometimes all the advice in the world won’t matter; you need to learn things on your own. The hard way.
Opening up a bill (or the corner of a rug) after ignoring it for months can be psychological warfare.
Our problems can seem very very small, until one day they are not.
And most importantly, our experiences and the people around us can shape our belief system. I’d never seen a moth problem with my own eyes. My parents never stored things in any special way. And my friends seemed to be just as lucky as me. I’d gone decades without a problem. Sure, I could have looked up moth incidents on the Internet, but why would I ever think to do that? If you don’t think you have a problem, you’re not compelled to seek out solutions.
So sometimes when you see someone do something seemingly stupid, it’s not because they actually ARE stupid. They’re just operating the only way they know how. For example, why do we expect frugality to be easy when most people never had to be frugal before, and none of their peers are? Comparing prices at the grocery store isn’t natural; it’s something you learn to do.
We’ve all got some kind of financial blindspot, so sometimes what’s obvious to one person isn’t obvious to another at all.
While I’m out a couple hundred bucks, and had a few sleepless nights, there are definitely some positives that came out of this whole experience.
It forced us to do another round of decluttering. My husband threw out about a third of his closet.
Our kitchen pantry had items in there that no one had touched for years. In the trash they went.
If I truly care about making the things I buy last, I will make the effort to store them properly.
And lastly, I’m reminded to be a little gentler on not only myself, but on others, too.
Have you ever dealt with a moth problem? Or denied a problem existed and then had to deal with the aftermath?
Feature Image: Unsplash