Day 194 Too good to use

I received an email from Cindy recently with a list of topics she thought would be good to address on my blog. The one I chose for today is an issue I am sure we have all come across during our decluttering efforts. This is one of those dilemma decluttering issues. Here is some examples Cindy had to share with us…

The trouble with owning something “too good to use”

  1. One on my friends started using her “good” dishes after hearing this story: A woman who had married a widower was using the good dishes of the previous, now deceased wife. She (the first wife) had never used the dishes, died without using them, as they were “too good.” The second wife decided she wasn’t going to let that happen to her.
  2. At our house, I have wine glasses that are too good to use. (All Gifts) I probably have 60 Waterford wine, champagne, water, sherry, even brandy crystal glasses. I HATE using them. They have to be hand washed and EVERY time we use them, one gets broken. At $75 each, I feel so angry at the person who broken them, which puts a damper on my party hosting. My solution? My Mom bought me a dozen plain, sturdy glasses from the restaurant supply store. The Waterford stays in the china cabinet where it looks pretty (I guess, if you’re into that kind of thing, and my husband is) and it’s behind glass doors, so it all stays clean. We look at the Waterford, and use the cheap glasses.
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I have a couple of examples of this myself…
  1. When I was a little girl my godmother used to send me a china teacup and saucer for my birthday. I thought she meant for me to use them so I did. Years later she asked me about them and I told her they had all been broken over the years. She was very disappointed as she had expected me save them for when I was married I suppose. I made no apologies I liked them, I used them and they met their demise having been used for what they were intended. If I still had them now I may be sentimentally tied to them causing a decluttering dilemma.
  2. Like Cindy I have a china cabinet cluttered with a selection of crystal glasses that very rarely get used. The wine glasses have been used over the years but the port glasses and decanter are just a waste of space really. We tend to use the less expensive glasses instead. Most of the crystal pieces were wedding presents but luckily not from anyone who would know if I got rid of them.

Unfortunately for Cindy not only does her second example fall into the “too good to be used” category but they were also a gift from someone who would notice if they suddenly were no longer in her possession.  If it were me I think I would enjoy using them for what they were intended and let fate do it’s own decluttering.

That being said I have decided to practice what I preach and put  all the cheaper glasses I have aside for my children for when they leave home and just use the good ones in future. Should they get broken then c’est la vie.

I received this comment from Calico Ginger this morning after she read this post and I thought it worth adding in case people don’t read the comments.

Well, I say use the “good” stuff for these reasons:
1. we all need as much beauty in our lives as possible
2. if you have kids, it teaches them to be careful – if you only use plastic/cheap stuff they never learn that
3. every breakage is an opportunity to a) make do with less or b) replace with something even more beautiful.

ITEM 194 OF 365 LESS THINGS

More of my daughter’s childhood stuff she has decided she doesn’t need to keep

Bridget's Doll


Continue reading with these posts:

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  • Day 93 Your views on decluttering Today I just wanted to point out that just below the photo for each days Post there is a tiny word "comments", if you click on that you have the opportunity to leave feedback,  share your […]
  • Day 106 Giving back Today's item is a great example of giving back. My mother-in-law gave me this bead spinner because she knows I do a lot of beading and she thought I would find it useful. I think she may […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.

Comments

  1. Hmmm, I’m sure you’ve hit on a sensitive topic here. What to do?

    My wedding china is in a sealed up box in a storage cupboard. Hasn’t been unpacked for 3 years and before that I almost never used it. I have my mother’s and grandmother’s tea cups. I use those regularly but there are a lot of them. Goblets? I use my mom’s cheap ones because they all match and the good ones sit in the china cabinet–six of them, unmatching.

    Yeah, what to do?

    • Hi Willow,
      yes exactly, what to do! It is almost like you have to preverse history or save a precious work of art with some of these objects. Ahhh the responsibility, who needs it.

  2. Love this post! Folklore says that when something breaks (something special) it has outlived its purpose in this “life” and it is time to move on for the owner. For instance, if a necklace breaks, folklore would say that it isn’t meant to be worn. Instead, the pieces are meant to be sent away or distributed amongst friends to bless them! I’m all for using the “nice” stuff, but we never really bought “nice” stuff to begin with. We have a few “nice” bowls and platters, though. (Tell the truth, I’d rather just be rid of them, but the husband’s family friends gave them to us for our wedding and I can’t pry them out of his hands, even though those people aren’t exactly close to him. Luckily he’s not opposed to using them at least.)

    • Hi Carrie B,
      that is another issue for Cindy, her husband is more attached to these items than she is. It just creates another layer of forced attachment doesn’t it? As you can see though most of the examples talked about by those commenting are once again objects given to them by someone else.

  3. Oh how I understand Cindy’s dilemma. In my case, it’s a number of tea cups and saucers and a few other dish type items that my mother is hanging on to. I wish I could convince her to get rid of them as I don’t want them once she is gone. She might as well sell them and have the money to use for things she needs. We HAD 3 sets of china but I was able to show her how little we needed them and we sold them all. Was that ever a wonderful thing. We have a set of gold rimmed, etched water glasses and a pitcher that I would also like to get rid of. Ah well. I just have to take a deep breath and remember that not everyone is as excited about decluttering as me.

    • Hi Deb J,
      it is a problem but like you say what else can you do. You can’t decide for someone else. I suppose so long as it is only a few things it’s not so bad, if it was a house full of usless junk it would be a whole other situation.

  4. Calico ginger :

    Well, I say use the “good” stuff for these reasons:
    1. we all need as much beauty in our lives as possible
    2. if you have kids, it teaches them to be careful – if you only use plastic/cheap stuff they never learn that
    3. every breakage is an opportunity to a) make do with less or b) replace with something even more beautiful.
    I have 3 dinner services – one for winter, one for summer and one for gala ocassions – to me they are not “clutter” – they are an expression of who I really am. Of course if you don’t actually like the “good” stuff – ditch it!

  5. Nearly ten years ago I “got real” about the way I actually preferred to live and sold or gave away a silver tea set, a gold-rimmed set of Noritake for 12, silver flatware for 12, endless crystal and silver serving pieces, etc. It was a relief. Chucked the china cabinet while I was at it, too. Give me plain white porcelain and stoneware, and inexpensive all-purpose wine glasses!

    • Hi Meg,
      I think what you are saying is the general consensus when it comes to being too good to use. We should decide that we are good enough to use it or get rid of it.

  6. Hi Colleen,

    I have really been enjoying your blog, which has inspired me to purge my whole house of energy-sapping clutter over the past month…

    This post hit home with me. My (British) Grandmother was always and forever giving me gifts, such as silver and crystal pieces, sets of china (not to mention figurines, artwork, clothes, jewellery… I could go on here). Anyway I sold/donated it all. Every last piece. Now my mother is trying to unload her “fancy” things off onto me and I know it’s disappointing/frustrating her when I repeatedly decline. My poor sister-in-law ends up with it all.

    You’re right, it is all such a burden!!

    • Hi Lauren M,
      It is a pleasure to welcome you to my blog. Thank you for leaving a comment. It sounds like you have the right attitude. If you don’t appreciate it for what it is give it/sell it to someone who will. You also seem to have conquered the issue of not excepting things from others that you don’t want as well. I would say you have mastered the art of decluttering already, good job!

  7. Calico ginger, I like your comment about teaching your children to be careful. Good thought, that.

  8. People are so much more important than stuff.

    One of my most favourite possessions, is a Christmas tray that my daughter chipped when she was a preschooler. My husband tried to repair it, complete with a new touch of point, and while it doesn’t necessarily match, it is precious. It reminds me of the fleeting childhood years (she is 14 now) and of the man who loved me enough to try and repair my dish.

    Almost every Christmas Eve, something breaks and I actually take pride in it, because it means my house was full of people I adore celebrating together. Breakage is all in how you look at it.

    • Hi Christy,
      what a fabulous attitude you have. What is a little broken dish between friends. I remember washing the dishes when I was a child and we would break things on a regular basis. My kids however have rearly broken anything and it is a real shame sometimes because you get stuck with the same boring old dishes for years.

  9. “I wish I could convince her to get rid of them as I don’t want them once she is gone”
    My parents ( 89 year old) have quite a lot of beautiful items they do not use and they kee them for me ! my mother have a ring with diamonds I would LOVE to wear, it is in a safe and she told me, ( I am an only child), last week ” you won’t have it till I die”

    “I just have to take a deep breath and remember that not everyone is as excited about decluttering as me.”
    Yes, i have to learn how to be more respectful.

    As for me, i am a mix of both : i got rid of plain items and use the good ones but not the very good ones. :-))
    Life is a long way !

    • Bonjour Nicole 86,
      I understand how you feel. What a shame to put a beautiful ring in a safe and never wear it. One thing about being left things when people die, you are not obliged to keep them.

      Je comprends comment vous sentez. Quel dommage mettre un bel anneau dans un coffre-fort et le porter jamais. Une chose d’être quitté des choses quand les gens meurent, vous n’êtes pas obligés de les garder.

  10. What a dilemma!!! My Mom has, for years, been trying to get rid of all of her ‘stuff’ onto her daughters, daughter-in-law and granddaughters. However, NONE of us want her ‘stuff’!!! So she finally gave up trying and is now getting rid of her ‘stuff’. She’s 81 years old and doesn’t want us to have to deal with all her ‘stuff’ (sterling silver, china, figurines) after she is ‘gone’, so she is melting down the silver, giving away figurines, china, etc. AMEN to that! I’m a minimalist, and over the years (like almost 20) my minimalism has rubbed off on my family, too. I’ve never ‘pushed’ minimalism onto anyone, they’ve just seen how it works for me, and decided within their own hearts that maybe there is something about this. It is a PROCESS. A life long process. Just take baby steps and enjoy the journey! 😉

    • Hi Annie,
      thank you for your comment. It is good that your lifestyle is rubbing of on to others around you. The more people on board with this the better it will be for the world around us all. I am glad your Mom is clearing her clutter before it is too late and that she has given up trying to give it to you.

  11. I guess I was lucky that I married young. We received all essential, usable items. I have never had “good” china, crystal or silver, so no guilt about using/damaging the “good stuff”.
    My mom has good china and good silver. She acquired the place settings over the years. She has never used it at all. Most of the pieces are in their origional wrappings. The silver is in it’s wooden box, also never used. It seems like such a waste to have all these pretty things tucked away.

    • Hi Carrie,
      I also married young and I hadn’t left home until I that day and yet still I recieved more wine glasses for wedding gifts than anything else. No towels, no sheets, no cutlery luckily someone bought us a complete set of saucepans that I am still using today 23 years later.
      My mother has a lot of china and crystal to pass on to my siblings and I but I will address that issue when it happens.

  12. A long time ago, I used to be of the “save the good stuff” mindset too. Then one day, I realized, too many people I know have stuff sitting around that they are afraid to use. What’s the point? Now I say, use it, or get rid of it so someone else can. What’s the point of storing and cleaning and tip toeing around guilt? Which is really what all that stuff is guilt if you use it and it gets damaged, guilt if you don’t use it and it sits there collecting dust. Life is too short!

  13. I just hauled my china hutch to the thrift store as a donation! We are on the same path this week.

    I took a couple of days off work and removed everything from my kitchen cabinets and that old china hutch that I always disliked. It took two days, but all I put back into the kitchen cabinets was what I love and use. Everything else plus china hutch is gone!

    Got rid of about a quarter of the total amount of kitchen stuff. Man it feels so good. The house looks bigger too.

    • Hi Erin S,
      nice to hear from you again. It is a wonderful feeling isn’t it, no more responsibility for precious objects that you aren’t game to use. And ahhhhh the space isn’t that nice. All of a sudden you have a bigger house and you didn’t even have to move.

  14. My china cabinet is built in soI can’t ‘get rid of it’ but I keep my teapot and teacups there in plain sight so it’s easy to grab one when I want a cuppa. Now I’m thinking about pulling out the beautiful goblets and drinking my daily water from them! I was surprised you used the word cuppa, I didn’t think American’s used that colloquial term.

    Calico Ginger, I see that I reversed your name in my other comment–so sorry!

    • Hi Willow,
      I like your idea of using your beautiful goblets as water glasses for every day use. And why not!
      I will go in and find that comment to Calico Ginger and fix the mistake for you.

  15. I got rid of an inherited “nice” set of dinnerware that we rarely used. I’m still keeping porcelain that my grandma painted but I’ll gladly give them (and the silver!) to some other family member who wants them. For now they are stored in the attic. (The tiny coffee cups are adorable and they would make a sweet table setting for my DD’s birthdays 😀 )

    Mostly my “too good to use” stuff was clothing. It was a nice designer wool suit that I didn’t want to get dirty because I didn’t want to have to dry-clean it. I wore it funerals. But then I started to wear a black simple dress for funerals (that I also wore otherwise..) so I didn’t need it for that either. And some dresses I never wore because I’m not a fancy dresser generally. Those are all out of my life now. As are the fancy shoes I never wore.

    • Hi Cat’s Meow,
      My mother gives her good china to the grandchildren for their birthdays and I think they are happy to have it as they are just starting out. I am also happy about this as it won’t be coming to me when she passes.

      Unfortunately there are always those items of clothing that you need just for special occasions. I learned a long time ago to read the cleaning label before buying clothes because I don’t like paying for drycleaning either. If an item was really inexpensive and requires drycleaning I just ignore that and clean it in the washing machine on a delicate setting. Cleaning labels often exagerate the requirements just to protect the manufacturer.

  16. I like using the good stuff. Like someone else said we got married young and so needed to use the china & glassware and the like that we were given as presents. A lot of it is still in use, every day, nearly 17 years later. My kids use it, our guests use it. We make no distinction. I like it 🙂

    I personally think that nothing can be too ‘good’ to use on my nearest and dearest. What or who else am I saving these things for otherwise? What/who deserves to be ‘for best’ if they aren’t?

    • Hi Lesley,
      I think the too good to use thing is just about the hight cost of purchasing the item in the first place and fear of it getting broken. For me though I would rather see them used and enjoyed instead of sitting in a cabinet that quite frankly would rarely get looked in. I like your thoughts on who else better to use it on – like you say no one and already have your best at your side everyday.

  17. Hi Colleen, Day 194 Too Good To Use what a great blog topic, maybe you should revist this point now and see how many of the commenters have actually came to grips with their good stuff. I personally love to use what I have and I have used everything I used to have. Sure they may get broken along the way but at least you will eventually leave this world having experienced the finer things in your life. As one beautiful thing fades into the background (as in crystal or china meeting a hard floor) then rejoice in the fact that you used it, it served it’s purpose and it has decided to move on. I use my long since departed Nanna’s cup & saucer everyday, as she did for about 25 years, I have had it for the past 19yrs, although it’s old it’s beautiful and if it gets broken then i’ll certainly hope it’s on it’s way back to my Nanna, I’m sure she’ll enjoy a good cuppa!
    Enjoy the things you have, I believe the honour you show things is using them!
    Dizzy raising my beautiful teacup to you all 🙂

  18. Sorry Colleen I meant to say that i’m really loving reading back over your journey, you have inspired so many and I am grateful that I was site hopping one day and found yours.

    I love your archives so many great tips & thought provoking topics!
    You rock:)
    Dizzy x

    • Hi Dizzy,
      thank you for those kind words. It has been a pleasure to be part of all my wonderful readers lives and help them make a difference. Not only in helping them declutter their homes but in helping them see alternatives to the consumerist lifestyle we had all become accustomed to.