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