Why save the good stuff for later?
It’s a question that’s been asked a lot in recent years. Our culture is very much aware of celebrating in the here and now, not being willing to save anything for another day. I get it, life is short and we never know what tomorrow will bring. We’ve all probably heard those sad tales of people who saved their good stuff and when loved ones came to sort their belongings, they found it stashed in closets, never worn, never used, never enjoyed, maybe still wrapped in the gift bags they came in, all tucked away for later. We feel the sadness in it. We think such a waste—a person could have been enjoying these things but now, it’s too late.
We declare that we don’t want to end up living that way.
I grew up in a time when we saved things for ‘special’. It was the way in our corner of the world. Maybe in yours too. We had clothes set aside for special: church on Sundays, weddings, holidays, graduations, concerts, visiting our aunties and uncles over Sunday Dinner. And the pretty glassware and good dishes were neatly stacked in the china cabinet, coming out only, along with the lacy tablecloths and certain recipes, when something significant was about to happen. Until those special times came along, we lived most of our lives in the 'every day' mode—wearing our everyday clothes and using the everyday dishes. Even the everyday recipes. Which were also chosen because we liked them, but the everyday stuff was more serviceable, durable. There was a definite distinction between the two.
But then there came a time when I felt a shift in our culture. I was then a young woman poring over women's magazines for tips on living a beautiful and productive life. Home/lifestyle writers began talking about not saving up our special things for just a few times a year, but to bring out the good stuff to celebrate the everyday. I remember Alexandra Stoddard in the 1980s writing about how to live our lives more beautifully every day, making our homes lovely and not just for special occasions. Mary Engelbreit’s lovely comment on Goodreads also speaks to this: "Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is the special occasion."
I loved the idea and started bringing out the china teacups to use more regularly. I bought flowers and arranged them in pretty vases, not just on birthdays, but to lift an ordinary day into something a little out of the ordinary.
While there have been folks in history who were extra zealous at keeping the good stuff for later, who ended up never using it, there have also been many people who've found ways to celebrate their everyday life. And there are many of us who know, from chocolate-y experiences, that indulging in a special treat set on a pretty plate can help us get through a rough patch. Which reminds me of an anecdote I read about author Leo Buscaglia who spoke of the day his father came home after losing his business. Leo was shocked to find, instead of a glum sadness in the air, his mom had set out the good dishes and had prepared a wonderful meal. She said this was the time when they needed to do something special.
Now years later, I’ve started musing about it all over again, especially Mary’s quote from a couple of paragraphs earlier. Just as there are two sides to a coin, I came to see there are two sides to this beautiful idea. I agree 100 percent that being alive on this planet, and playing a part in our human history, is truly a wondrous thing. So yes, we ought to celebrate being alive every day. Being alert to the beauty, using the good stuff, and not letting it molder in the cupboard.
But then I ask the question: If we use the 'good china' every day—and I use that term in a general sense—how then do we mark those events and occasions that are truly extraordinary? If we make everything special, eventually nothing remains special. The lines get blurred between the ordinary everyday and the extra special times. What then shall we do when we want to celebrate and mark these truly special events and occasions?
I really do think we should save some things for special. There should be a happy mix of celebrating every day and saving something for the special occasions: the dress, the good dishes, the champagne. Sometimes we come home from a hard day and drinking tea from the best china cup is what saves our sanity. But if we do that every day, the treat of it wears off. I know that from experience. Too much of a good thing turns out to be not so good.
I have come to appreciate what Canadian designer Candice Olson once said, as seen on Goodreads:
“I simply adore getting dressed up for a special occasion.
I feel incredible stepping out in luxurious fabrics and a bit of bling.
That’s also how I feel about special-occasion dining rooms. Because
these aren’t everyday spaces, they contain all sorts of drama
for that once-in-a-while ‘wow’ event.”
Oh yes, I know that feeling of coming into a room that is dressed up for a party. I love creating a room like that...with the special things set out signaling something out of the ordinary is about to begin. And when we catch a whiff of delicious smells of recipes used only for those once-in-a-while occasions, then we know we are in for a 'wow' event. Our spirits are lifted. Our hearts thrill with anticipation.
Life is short. Fleeting. So yes, celebrate by using and doing nice things every day. With family, friends, and occasionally the good dishes. And then, save a few things for the truly special moments in life. It’s what adds the sparkle to our eyes and hearts.
Wishing you, my beautiful friends, a wonderful day!
(Top) Image by Terri Cnudde from Pixabay
How beautifully you've written about both sides of the coin, Brenda. I think it's important to live each day with intention and beauty, but also to save some things for special occasions. I love setting a pretty table with my everyday dishes, and also pulling out the fine china and crystal glassware for grander celebrations. We can have both, I believe, and using William Morris' words of "having nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful" speaks to that.ReplyDelete
I have some beautiful linens given to me by my mother-in-law who never used them. The most remarkable was the set of linen napkins, woven in a long attached and still intact piece of yardage, dating from the early 1900s. I promptly cut them apart, hemmed them, and gave them to my daughters to use at their tables. Not using things at all is a terrible thing, I think.
What a wonderful idea to take that set of linen napkins from the early 1900s and share them out with your daughters to put into good use all these many years later. A lovely thing to pass down. You mention loving to set a pretty table with your everyday dishes - yes, me too! It's so visually pleasing and appetizing as one sits down to a meal. Simple, ordinary, pleasant. Thanks, Lorrie, for joining in the conversation. Much appreciated. xoDelete
Oh, Brenda! I have a love of dishes! There are those that are for the dining room, and there are those that are for our kitchen eating area. I make a point to have at least one meal in the dining room weekly. In fact, I keep the table set or I fear it would become a depository of clutter! If we keep waiting for the “right” moment to use our nicer things, that moment might not ever come, and we will have denied ourselves the pleasure of using those items that we consider most beautiful.ReplyDelete
I like your idea, Nellie, of having at least one meal during the week in the dining room. Something that I love to do -- our dining/living room has a southerly facing window and when the sunshine comes streaming in by late morning, I often set our table for lunch at the dining table. It makes lunch feel more festive as we enjoy the sunshine along with our bowl of soup or egg salad sandwich. Thanks so much for sharing!Delete
What a heartfelt post, Brenda. Lovely thoughts. We definiitely must think of each day as a great gift and a cause for celebration by being and giving our best to others. I love the yellow roses and I really love the china plate as well. So delicate and beautiful! Hope your week is blessed to the gills! Hugs. SusanReplyDelete
Standing ovation for this one Brenda! Wisdom well shared. It reminds me of the Tim Horton's commercial where a lady says 'I treat myself every day!' ...what?!! how is that a 'treat'? lol There is so much to be said for 'both sides of the coin'. It's finding a delightful and respectful balance<3ReplyDelete
Brenda, I so agree with your thoughts. I grew up in a house where Grandma had lovely table cloths and china 'for best'. Some of them I still have and use now and then.....on special occasions. It is the most lovely feel to polish a piece of silver, to iron a beautiful tablecloth, to arrange a table with china that was maybe chosen years ago. Special occasions are just that, special.ReplyDelete
We have a saying in my family - life is too short not to use the pretty dishes. For us special occasions are marked mostly by the number of guests though we do take extra care with tablecloths and flowers. If it is an outside barbeque, I might go crazy with paper decorations as well :-) As always, I enjoyed your beautiful writing and the way you've presented both sides of the argument. Another beautiful post.ReplyDelete
Loved finding you here this morning Brenda! You referred to many people I have so appreciated ! It was fun to see their names pop up!ReplyDelete
I often think about how I miss a dining room to “set the table in;” to bring out the China that I am fortunate to have and do treasure! Our “dining table” is now in the kitchen that opens up into a family room. I do enjoy “dressing it up” for special occasions. My life has through the years become more informal. I hate to say that our dinner meal is often in front of tv as we watch the news!!~ a far cry from the beauty and enjoyment of lovely glasses, silver and China! Still, once and awhile I do pull some teacups or linens out and they do bring joy!!
Thank you for reminding me that I feel grateful to have these collections as when I do gaze at them or bring them out to use, Iremember beautiful family memories and gatherings , how lovely my Mother “made” our table “special.” I feel fortunate!!!
Thank you for all your February postings!!!!!! Hope you are doing well and feeling happy.💗~ Ann from Fairborn, Ohio
LOVE your comment Amalia!!!How special that “yours” is a “family “ thought!!! 🤗I’m going to enjoy that thought!💐ReplyDelete
I have never thought about your conclusion that way, Brenda. I too came from the generation of women that you wrote about. Being older than you it was so much a part of my mother and grandmother's culture. My mother did a lovely job of pretty tables for special occasions, including the food that went on it, but even her everyday dishes and meals were attractive and delicious. And she certainly dressed up for Sunday services with both a hat and gloves or a trip to shop in downtown Nashville when I was a child, as did my aunts. But I have begun this last few years using my good china and silver for many everyday meals since during the pandemic we got out of the habit and energy of having company meals except when family from out of town visit. I missed my good stuff and started using it, Recently on a food podcast I heard that someone did a study rating enjoyability of meals and the highest ratings for the food came when people used heavy sterling silver. And I believe that's true. But your final thoughts are important. And I think that everyday things can be so cozy and comforting in themselves. So I say have both!ReplyDelete
I remember the week many years ago that I read my first Alexander Stoddard book, which was a paperback called Living Beautifully, I believe. It changed my life! I still have it and must get it off the shelf to refresh my memory. You always write posts that have me nodding in agreement, Brenda!
Lovely thoughts, Dewena. I enjoyed the glimpse of your family's life, especially of your mother and grandmother. I am glad for the more casual feel of life's event these days, but I also miss the more formal 'dress up' for special occasions. Perhaps it comes to having a balance and doing what makes one happy and at ease in our own lives. I like the mix of both. I note your comment about the study that discovered the enjoyment of meals was increased when people used heavy sterling silver. I think there is something to it. I know how uncomfortable a too light fork or knife feels in the hand and how satisfying a heavier set feels. It must have something to do with the weight in a well constructed utensil which makes it feel balanced. Thank you so much, Dewena, for taking the time to comment.Delete
I wholeheartedly agree, Brenda!ReplyDelete
I used to hoard my favourite teas in fear of them running out. But sometimes I end up saving them for so long that they lose their freshness and don't taste as good! So now I'm trying to drink my favourite teas and accept the fact that if I can't restock them, I'll find another tea to love!
There's that balance, isn't there, about knowing when to save something for special but not keeping it so long, it's no longer useful. Thanks for sharing, Margie.Delete
There is so much truth in what you've written, Brenda. I agree, that it's important to find something to celebrate in each day, and we mustn't let days slip by without enjoying them. But, I grew up in a time when our best clothes were worn for special occasions and the good dishes were brought out for holidays. It made the holiday SO special, even as a child, I loved seeing the table all shiny with the good silver and my mom's crystal. It's a tradition I continue. Sometimes, I bring out the 'good dishes' for our own personal celebrations, it doesn't have to be an official holiday. I think the difference nowadays is that even big holidays have become so casual these days. So, I try to keep the 'special' in them for my family and grandkids. I know they appreciate it. Great post!ReplyDelete
I was so glad to read your thoughts on this topic, Karen. Thank you!Delete
Yes Brenda I so agree with your thoughts - especially if everything is special then nothing is special. Yet for those dreary days it is nice to drink tea from a special cup...perhaps it is all about balance. As always love reading your posts sweet friend. Hugs!ReplyDelete
I think that is what I came to see, Debbie, a balance is what it's about. As my hubby likes to remind me on occasion, moderation in all things. Thanks so much for your note. xoDelete