Don’t put off using the good stuff

Recently, as I was placing squares of blueberry cake on salad plates from our everyday dishes, I realized the proportions were off. We aren’t big dessert eaters and the small portions that I had cut looked tiny and sad surrounded by the empty white of the plates. I made a mental note to search online for some smaller options.

As you can probably imagine, the googles were full of opportunities for me to spend my money. There were solid-color plates, plates with flowers and stripes, round plates, square plates, and even triangular-shaped plates. I was trying to decide between several options when it occurred to me that I may already own just what I was looking for.

In addition to her everyday dishes, my mother had a set of Russel Wright American Modern dishes. They were what we now call mid-century modern: sleek and non-fussy, and the most luscious shade of teal blue called “seafoam.” They were brought out for holidays and celebratory occasions and occupied a special place in the heart of our family. Because I am the only daughter, it was always understood that I would inherit the set when she passed away (sorry, dear brothers, but they are mine).

I have dinner plates, salad plates, cups, saucers, salt and pepper shakers, serving platters, soup bowls, and bread plates. These dishes are beautiful, functional, warm reminders of my childhood… and I seldom use them.

It turns out that the bread plates are the perfect size for desserts.

All this got me thinking: why do we squirrel away the good stuff—dishes, silverware, jewelry, clothes—waiting for a special opportunity in the future to enjoy them? If we love these things shouldn’t we use them more often?

I understand why some items are put aside for special occasions; we think that if we use them regularly, they’d lose their specialness. On the other hand, if there are things that we love and give us pleasure, doesn’t it make sense to enjoy them more frequently?

Set your table with your favorite dishes more often. Wear that necklace you love even if you’re only running errands. Those plush towels you provide your houseguests? Use them (or better yet, buy a set for yourself). Break out that good bottle of wine you’ve been storing before it turns to vinegar.

Don’t put off using the good stuff because, at some point, it will be too late. 

Do you still think you need a special occasion to indulge yourself? Don’t forget that tomorrow is National Dogs in Politics Day. If that doesn’t work for you, certainly National No Excuses Day this Sunday is the perfect day to celebrate with your good stuff. 

Author: Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

137 thoughts on “Don’t put off using the good stuff”

  1. I agree! I feel that way about some of my scrapbook supplies too, like “That paper is too pretty to use,” but what did I buy it for if not to use in my projects? Or that dress or pants? I had a dress that I had only worn once and had to donate it because I lost so much weight it didn’t fit anymore (I mean, the weight loss was a good thing, but why didn’t I wear it more when I did fit in it?). Great post.

  2. I always use the best towels and bedding. The guests get the hand me downs! I’ve been going through kitchenware that I don’t use and donating or gifting. If you don’t use something (because special is so seldom) there’s no point in storing it until the end of time.

  3. I have Lenox Poppies on Blue dishes we registered for our wedding. I only use them when we have company (so not anytime soon) or holidays. I need to start using them just for my husband and me. The problem is then I have our everyday dishes for 8 and the nice dishes for 12 and that is just way too many dishes for two people!!!

    1. I have the same dilemma: we really don’t need so many dishes. But, I’ll never get rid of the Russel Wright and I don’t want to use them every day since white dishes (which are actually the dishes we registered for) are really better for that. I’ve decided to use them more, though, and enjoy the memories. I hope you can enjoy your Lenox – and having company over – soon!

  4. Wonderful advice, and I really love your Mom’s – I mean YOUR – dishes! We’ve been having candle light dinners for the same reason. We both inherited some really nice holders, so we use them.

  5. Those seafoam dishes are beautiful and something different. You are right – we should use the good stuff more. Thanks for the reminder. You are fortunate to have some of your mother’s dishes. My mother’s went to an older sister but I did get a few odds and ends that I treasure.

  6. Hi, Janis –
    Yesterday, on Equipoise Life, Bernie wrote:
    “Use the old good china. Put pizza on it if you want. Gaze out the window and enjoy the colours. Cuddle with whoever is in your bubble. Decorate the door even if no one else sees it. Listen to the leaves rattle in the trees. Smell the change that rain brings to the air and take a deep breath. Life in a trauma Operating Room definitely had an impact on my life. We aren’t guaranteed a certain number of days nor what their quality will be. So I use the china. I stop and watch a butterfly. I thr0w the ball for our crazy dogs. I cuddle my soul mate and recognize how wonderful this feels. “https://equipoiselife.wordpress.com/2020/09/20/naan/#more-15217
    You and Bernie have given us all a critical reminder. Enjoy life today, hug those we love, say I’m sorry and don’t put off important experiences until it’s too late. Important words to live by!
    PS – I LOVE your blue china and expect to be served on it when I come to visit! Oh, and I expect the good towels too! 😀

    1. Thanks to the referral to Bernie’s website… I loved her post and signed up for more. As bad as the last several months have been, I think they could be (if we listen) a good reminder to use the good stuff, have the experiences, and hug those we love TODAY!

      And, of course, dear friend, I will use the blue dishes and provide good towels when you visit 🙂

  7. I have learned to use the good stuff when I want to. What are we saving it for? Things that we love, that bring us joy are meant to be used….

  8. Hi Janis, Malcolm and I came into our marriage with a total of four sets of china and acquired two more after that. We have more glasses than two people need, but one never knows when one might just need to serve 40 glasses of champagne or 2 dozen martinis (which we have done btw). Yes, dishes are kinda a thing in our house. I love your Mom’s set. That color is perfect! Glad you are enjoying them. That is exactly why we have pretty things.

  9. I always think we avoid using what we own that we love because as of grandchildren of the depression we have been told to save because it costs to replace. I think for me that this extends to clothing (which during COVID I think I’ve been recycling the same 5 cheap tee-shirts but that doesn’t count). I’m so concerned with something I love wearing out/getting damaged. I also beat myself up about buying something I love but in general have no place to wear it (think glittery sweater for the holidays that is too hot to wear and for which we generally don’t go to holiday parties- have had it 10 yrs and worn it maybe 3 or 4 times). Forget theatre or concerts these days. I also think we may be so hardened by deferring gratification (such as retiring when we can afford to, hate our current job, and yet stay because it is a known quantity even if that quantity is BAD- my situation) because we don’t think we deserve it. Yet we do and we should look at those old white politicos in DC and know that they will try and make our lives miserable so we might as well live it up.

    Lastly, please post a picture of the cake on the blue plates so we can share it with you. I have always been told by decorators never to use blue plates with food because it doesn’t look good and will detract. However your plates from mom are gorgeous so I’d love to see the final result!

    1. I think you are right about saving the good items for “later” being ingrained in us from when we were young. I’ve pretty much stopped buying fancy clothes because, since I retired seven years ago, I seldom have the opportunity to wear them (which is fine by me 🙂 ). Oh, and right on about politics and DC, I think we can be happier by not paying so much attention (although I’ll absolutely vote).

      The color of the dishes, although beautiful, can be a challenge with certain foods. The decorators are probably right, but they don’t take fond family memories into account 🙂

  10. Janis, Beautiful dishes you have and am glad you’re using them. I use the good stuff based on two thoughts: “if not now, when?” and “you can’t take it with you”.

  11. Janis, absolutely love your dishes and the post. I have second hand store old mismatched china plates that we use for our dessert club nights and family occasions. I have my grandmother’s crystal bowl that gets apple salad every family get together.
    I think, as we age, it’s easier to see that life isn’t about perfect but about savouring. Take care of yourself and enjoy that dessert.

  12. Hi Janis, isn’t it funny how we keep things for the “best times”. Beautiful dinner wear. My Nana was like that we would buy her new items and she would treasure them and still wear or use the old. Even I keep things and don’t use them, more for the reason that I don’t want to break them as I do tend to be clumsy. You aren’t dessert people? What’s wrong with you? 🙂

      1. We don’t usually have dessert though like you partial to something sweet with coffee at a cafe. Maybe all of us using the good stuff should take up creating mosaics? 😉

  13. Beautiful dishes that also have wonderful memories – those are both good things. When we moved cross country I got rid of a couple of sets of dishes but kept my grandmothers which I bring out whenever I feel like it because they just make me smile. I had been using a set on a daily basis for maybe 25 or more years. I liked them but they were getting chipped so I got rid of them during this time at home and ordered a new set. You are so right in reminding us why we are keeping things and not using them. Thank you because I can always use a good reminder. 🙂

    1. I love that her dishes make you smile… so you use them. My everydays are getting a bit chipped too. I’ve looked at those individual piece replacement sites but that almost seems more expensive than just replacing the whole set. I imagine your taste in dishes changed somewhat over 25 years so change now and then is good for that reason too. Now you have new and vintage dishes to enjoy!

  14. I may fall into this trap on occasion, but mostly I’ve gotten rid of what I don’t use and use what I keep. I think the art supply bit applies to me. No reason not to just throw some paint on that canvas – I can always get another one.

  15. Goid advice. I have a a very dainty Royal Dalton China set i use for special occasions, but you are right it is too far and few away. I. Tsking them out.

  16. I love this post! Many years ago I embraced the philosophy of celebrating every day, and that means not saving the ‘good stuff’ for a special occasion. The china you inherited from your mother is beautiful. Enjoy the sweet memories every time you use it. 🙂

  17. I love this sentiment – Yes, it is important to honour the memory of important people or events from the past. Part of this means treating the good lead crystal with extra care. But we must also honour the present moments – what better way than to raise one of granny’s goblets in honour of those at the table?

  18. This resonates for me. My mother always had sets of dishes in her (locked!) china cabinet, and I’m struggling to ever remember her using them. You’re definitely right that we shouldn’t hide the things that give us pleasure. – Marty

  19. Yep…part of the ‘using’ means we’re still living with those long gone…
    You’re right, that blueberry cake slice looks pathetically tiny (but still yummy) – but then I’ve noticed more recent plate services are way larger in diameter than those from even the 1980s!

  20. Janis – what a marvelous post! (and such gorgeous dishes) We’ve been using the good stuff, also. It came as a sort of off-shoot from our former attempt at simplifying life – we thinned out so much that we had to use everything we had. Love your shared wisdom – Cheers – Susan

  21. Your seafoam blue set is beautiful, Janis, and I’ve been in the same mindset for over two decades. We used to keep our wedding china packed up safely and use it only on special occasions. Then when we moved to this house, I was unpacking and thought, why hide these? They represent a special day for us, especially now that it’s been almost 32 years. So why not use them? So we alternate our china with our good everyday dishes that were also a wedding gift. Every day is a gift. 🙂
    Great advice, Lauren

  22. I use my china. I wear my jewelry – often ‘inappropriately’ I’m told – I don’t care. I have no guest anything that I don’t routinely use.

    When my mom passed away several years ago, I heard the wake-up call. No one’s going to care about my stuff the same way I do so I might as well enjoy it to its fullest … or get rid of it and let someone else enjoy it.

    Use those lovely dishes, Janis. You and they both deserve it 💕

  23. Great advice, Janis! I use everything, including my Mother’s good china…we use it every day and it goes in the dishwasher. Is it a pattern I would have chosen, no, but I remember her every time I see it and touch it.
    We all deserve to use and appreciate the “good” things! Life is short.

  24. Your special dishes are beautiful, Janis! What a great reminder to use our good things more often. Years ago I received over the course of many birthdays, Blue Willow dishes, enough for 12 place settings and all their accessories from my then mother-in-law. Instead of hiding them all away (when was I ever going to host a fancy dinner party?), I pulled out special, functional pieces for everyday use. They are durable and beautiful. The rest aren’t easy to get to, but once moved, I will have plenty of cabinet space to keep them handy. Thanks for the motivation and reminder to appreciate the good things we have!

      1. I found some of my mom’s dishes I don’t ever remember her using. They are those small, clear glass buffet plates with little cup indentations. So 60s! I almost tossed them while packing, glad I kept them and will use them for a brunch someday 🙂

  25. I love this post. I’m trying to break myself of the habit of saving the good stuff for special events. I use more of the good dishes + glasses now than I did even a year ago AND I’ve decided to wear some of my better [still comfortable] clothes at home just. because. I. can.

    Those dishes are pretty. I’ve not seen any like them and think you should use them often. I mean, why the heck not?

  26. Perfect advice, Janis. My father always used to encourage my mother to use the good dishes. “Why not?” he would ask, “So that when we die, people will comment on the pristine condition of our dishes?” I say “Use the good stuff” too! Enjoy it while we can.

  27. That is a good reminder to all of us Janis.
    Sometimes it is the time and effort involved in washing and storing those delicate chinaware that puts me off. If it is an easy maintenance thing, I like to use it more often.

    1. That’s true for more delicate items, for sure. I can’t imagine using real silverware that would need to be polished regularly. Honestly, I have no idea whether my (not so delicate) Russel Wright set is dishwasher-safe or not (and they certainly aren’t immune to drops of chips).

  28. Hi Janis! YES! Today is a GREAT day to live! I agree that we have been conditioned to “save” the things that are special to us, “just in case” or “only for special occasions!” Crazy huh? I think if we are honest at our age it is time to start enjoying some of the things that we have gathered around us rather than putting it off. Maybe that is one of the gifts of this pandemic. We only have some many days/years left on this planet. Let’s make the most of them! ~Kathy

  29. I absolutely agree you should use the good stuff….NOW!!! I started doing that a few years ago and not just on weekends, but every single day. Some items may or may not have $$ value, but the fact I love the items and they make me happy is reason enough for me!

  30. yes yes and absolutely yes. We have “good” dinner sets that we use every Saturday night when I cook something special & keep the “really good” set for Christmas. I’m beginning to use some of my vintage china too & love the ritual of making a cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon & drinking it from a delicate china cup. That seafoam set is beautiful.

    1. I guess our definition of “good stuff” is bound to change as we move along through life. If we hold onto things we don’t really like or are not our style just because they belonged to an ancestor, it’s probably best to pass them on to someone who will appreciate them. I was happy to get rid of my grandmother’s dish set because “Fairy Dell” (can you imagine?) wasn’t a pattern that I liked, nor was delicate china something I was interested in taking care of. Fortunately, my mother’s dishes are so very me.

  31. My grandparents were from Germany, and they were firm believers in “saving the best” for later. They had beautiful dishes that they kept unused, except for maybe once or twice a year on the holidays. Otherwise, they ate off of cheap dishes from Kresge’s. Even after they died, when we were cleaning out their basement, we found boxes of lovely things from the old country, carefully packed away and never used. It might have been a culture thing, I don’t know. But I do know that I try to use my nice things on a regular basis, because that is what they are for! I loved this post!

    1. Haha! Don’t you think “the good stuff” can change over the years? I don’t know how old you are but when I was younger, I probably put certain items (a favorite necklace, a special blouse) “for later.” I think the art of celebrating every day is a philosophy that transcends age.

      1. I suppose that’s a good point – although I’m relatively ‘good stuff’ free in that regard as well…maybe I just already learned this lesson (or need better stuff 🤭🤣)

  32. It’s especially true for the “fine china” or “fine glasswear” – in this house, it sits taking up space in the high cupboards, and never used – the stonewear is easier, handier – lots of excuses, but you are right. Right as to clothing too. I bought clothing, saved it and now, having worked from home almost a decade now, the time is lost for wearing those outfits and it makes me feel sad. I always liked author Erma Bombeck as did my mom and one day she read this poem in the newspaper or a magazine and she cut it out and gave it to me hoping I would see the light:
    https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/49262-if-i-had-my-life-to-live-over-someone-asked

    1. I don’t think there is anything wrong about not wanting to use “fine” anything if it doesn’t fit our lifestyle. If we are keeping items for “special occasions” maybe we should create more of those occasions (even if we are the only one who is invited). If we truly can’t see ourselves ever using or wearing the items, give them to someone who would find them a better fit.

      My mother also was a Bombeck fan and I think I remember reading that poem (possible passed to me by my mother). Thanks you so much for sharing it. Such great words of wisdom that we all would do well to embrace.

      1. You have the right attitude Janis and as I grow older I realize I will have to change the channel on my attitude about saving things for another time – we should all have learned this year how precious life is especially if we ever took our life and existence for granted.

        I read your post and knew I had to share this Bombeck poem. My mom was always passing words of wisdom along, whether her own or someone else’s.

  33. Amen! Your contemplations and decisions make total sense, yet we are all guilty of saving things for later or a special occasion. Personal examples: I have a few beautiful pearl necklaces and an anklet that are unique and fancy. But, I NEVER wear them. When do we ever attend weddings anymore as nomads? Or visit a fancy restaurant?

    A second example is when we do have something to celebrate – like an anniversary – and postpone the treat of a special meal, only to never actually go out and buy it. Don’t wait for tomorrow with what you can do today! It’s now or never. Carpe diem. So many expressions remind us of your wise words, Janis! I love those blue dishes by the way. Whenever we visit again, I’m going to request a meal on then. Or, at least a dessert. 🙂

    1. I can think of at least three things I put off (just “because”) that were completely derailed by the virus. Although I don’t want to spend a lot of time regretting my inaction, I hope I can learn from it.

      Don’t wait for a wedding or fancy event to wear your special jewelry, create a special occasion in your little house above the garage 🙂

      And, yes, I look forward to serving you a meal on my lovely dishes!

  34. Your seafoam plates are lovely! Ikm a firm believer in using what you love, especially now! We moved to Ireland last year and bought a super small house because we had to use cash only. With this house, we have no room for unnecessary things, but we also decided to only keep the stuff that we really enjoy using. Why keep things you don’t use? That adds nothing to life. I totally agree with you, use the china you love, drink that nice wine, etc. Especially in these times of uncertainty.

    1. A small house in Ireland sounds lovely! We’ve lived in our current house long enough to have acquired too many unnecessary items. I’m so happy to know that you have embraced the use it now philosophy. Life is short and it’s important to celebrate regularly. That you for your comment!

  35. Such a good reminder. I had planned to use our good china last Thanksgiving but then things didn’t go as planned and it was just too much work. Plus, those dishes aren’t handy so I can’t just pull them out. I gave up my china cabinet so my husband could display his sports memorabilia!! I did recently decide I need to wear earrings and other jewelry more, even if I’m home all day. I kind of miss “dressing up”.

    1. Using the good stuff doesn’t need to be all or nothing. Maybe (for example) the salad plates from your set could be stored somewhere more convenient and therefore be used more often. Just a thought. I imagine that my full set of Russel Wright won’t be used very often, but those bread plates and the soup bowls are just the right size! And, good for you for wearing your jewelry around the house… why not?!

  36. Janis, I love those dishes, and this is a great reminder. When I was in my twenties, my grandmother gave me a set of four pretty side plates that she had inherited from her mother. They were all that was left of the original set. My grandma said to use them; she didn’t believe in putting things away and saving them for later. And so I did. I ate my toast on them every morning, and appreciated them and thought of my grandma. Sadly, I ended up breaking the plates one by one. However, I still have the pieces of those plates which have travelled with me through eight or nine moves. I should either repair those plates, or smash them and use the shards in a mosaic piece.

    Jude

  37. Hi Janis, This post really resonates with me. I am definitely a saver of the good stuff. My favourite socks, my candles and of course our good plates. Your seafoam dishes are gorgeous. You remind me of that good bottle of wine. We bought champagne on the day our daughters were born. I hope the champagne is still good since we have not opened the bottles. You are right, every day is a good day to celebrate.

      1. You are right, Janis, we did have plans such as on their wedding day or their 21st birthday. I don’t know whether the champagne is still good. More stories about that specific champagne. Maybe a future post. Thanks for the inspiration and sharing your wisdom.🙂

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