I am a gypsy at heart, could pack up and move in a heartbeat (okay realistically maybe two days) and I really don’t have a lot of stuff. I mean I have stuff – enough stuff – to live comfortably and make a nice home but I am no packrat. My basement is filled with Christmas decorations, photo albums and old movies. And my boyfriend’s stuff.
You see, I made a very conscious decision to “desentamentalize” (yes, I made up that word and it’s a good one) a few years back. Before that I was madly in love with any old thing that brought forth a good memory. Then, after my 4th move in six years, I decided my heart could hold the memories and (almost) everything else I could liquidate. And I purged.
Now I have a couple of plates that came from Russia with my grandparents in 1924. They were only allowed one small trunk so yeah, these plates are pretty special. I have a few of my parents’ wedding gifts; things I grew up with and always loved. But just a few. Like one pink coffee set and some Torquay pottery. I have a few things that came from my son and a few things that I just like. But there’s not a lot of clutter in my home and I don’t spend any time at all dusting knick knacks.
The other thing I don’t have is “good dishes” and “good china”. I have dishes and china (my parents’ wedding china) and silver and some nice wineglasses but they are not “good”. And what I mean by that is – I use them all the time.
I know so many people who save the good stuff for special occasions – holidays, birthdays, other unique celebrations. But why not celebrate every single day? Or maybe every week-end? Or maybe just Tuesdays and Thursdays? Who cares? Get those old wedding gifts out of storage and use them. That is, if they make you happy. If they drum up bad memories or you really can’t stand Aunt Mildred’s choice of china, then by all means keep the good stuff locked up (better yet get rid of it). But if drinking that glass of cheap wine out of cut crystal makes you happier than drinking it out of a chipped coffee mug, then do it. Whenever you feel like it. Even oh-my-goodness … every day.
Which leads to …
Stop worrying about breaking stuff.
I used to do this. A lot. Worry about using the good stuff because I didn’t want it to get broken. I mean Holy Crap whatever would I do if I lost a tea cup or a serving platter?
Stupid. The truth is if I lost a teacup or a serving platter (I am somewhat clumsy) I would either replace it or learn to live without it. And I would rather enjoy my stuff frequently without worry than keep it locked away out of fear.
Case in point – one Christmas when my son was about 7, we were unpacking ornaments, preparing to decorate the tree. My mother had recently gifted me with her collection of antique baubles, some I had grown up with and some that she had grown up with (my Grandmother’s). Not only were these treasures irreplaceable, they held huge sentimental value to me. I was terrified that my boy would accidentally drop one.
Guess what? He did. It was my second favorite growing up – a dark blue ball with a frosted white church (my favorite was dark pink with a frosty Santa and sleigh). The ornament shattered and so did I. And then I screamed a string of blistering accusations at my poor son, who stood there helplessly clutching the hook with rivers of tears flooding his little face.
And then it hit me. The ornament, precious as it was, was just a thing. But my baby was a living, breathing, sobbing, remorseful child and my reaction to this accident was killing him. I stopped my screaming immediately and scooped him into my arms. We sat on the sofa for a good fifteen minutes while I cuddled him, wiped away his tears and assured him that I knew he didn’t do it on purpose, I knew it was a special treasure but I also knew we had many more and I knew he was far more important than a thing.
Two funny things happened afterwards. We continued to unwrap the decorations and lo and behold, we came across another perfectly intact dark blue ball with a frosty white church. Now, I swear that we only had one when I was growing up (my mother doesn’t remember) so where this new (old) one came from is to this day a mystery. But it adorns our tree every year. And every year when we unpack ornaments my son (now 21) frets about potentially breaking the “special” ones. And I remind him that if they break, they break. Things typically don’t last forever. What’s important is that those things brought us joy and helped us make marvelous memories.
The other thing that happened took place the Christmas morning immediately following the incident. While we opened gifts I always indulged in a festive cocktail – champagne and orange juice. That year I was using one of my two (working towards a set) $100 crystal wine glasses. Honestly, why I had decided to work towards a set of hundred dollar wine glasses still escapes me but I inadvertently elbowed it off the kitchen counter (told you I was clumsy) and it smashed on the ceramic tiles. I hardly flinched.
“Oops!” I smiled as my husband rushed in broom in hand and my son waited for the inevitable tantrum.
It did not arrive. Because the ornament had taught me a valuable lesson. And I wasn’t about to ruin Christmas morning because of a broken thing.
Funny thing – a few months later I was hosting a birthday party for a friend and I gave her the remaining $100 wine glass to enjoy (somewhat ceremonially). Alas it too met its doom that night (I’m not the only clumsy one) and she was mortified. Again, I didn’t even flinch. “Just a thing,” I assured her. “Now let’s get you another glass!”
I never did complete that set. Now I buy $7 wine glasses. And if they break, they break. But they sure do provide tons of happiness while in service!
So don’t live in fear. Bust out the good stuff and enjoy it whenever you want. Why the heck not?
As for me, it’s time I go dress for dinner. Let’s see … Friday night movie in front of the television? Hmmm … I think I’ll wear sequins.