Do you own anything that’s “too good to use”? I bet you do. I started this post by asking my mother. The first thing she said was, “Yes, and do you know what a mistake that was?” WhatÂ I think is really interesting about this story is that it took my Mom less thanÂ a second to think of an answer and that the item in question was given to her as a wedding gift 49 years ago. You’ll be surprised what it was. Here’s what she said:
“Yes, and you know what a mistake that was? When we were first married, we were given a twin blanket that was ‘too good to use.’ We were sharing a twin bed then and could have used it from day one, but we didn’t. Then we got a queen bed, and since the blanket was a twin, it didn’t fitÂ and was still ‘too good to use.’ I think about 10 years ago, it was the junk blanket that Ken (my father) used in the back of the truck.”
Wow! From “too good to use” to junky blanket in the back of a truck. What a waste of a perfectly “too good” blanket.
One of us grandkids gave my grandmother a sort of wine goblet with a half dozen rose-shaped soaps in it. The whole thing was wrapped in plastic. Those rose-shaped soaps never got used, and when my Grandmother died, the soaps were still sitting there, wrapped in now-dusty plastic. Why? I know she wanted to enjoy looking at them, but it would have made more sense to enjoy looking at them for a year and then enjoy using them for another year. Why were rose-shaped soaps ‘too good to use’?
Perhaps you have a beautiful necklace that you think is ‘too good to use’ except on very special occasions. If you really love it, and ifÂ it’s not so special that the guards from the insurance company are following you around when it’s on your neck, then why not wear it to work or church? Are you really going to enjoy it more if you only wear it once a year versus once a month? Or even everyday? I have a beautiful and expensive necklace, and it’s rare that I don’t wear it. It amazes me that after five years of almost daily wearing,Â I stillÂ get regular compliments on it.
When you have something that you treasure and you don’t use it, you’re not honoring that item, nor are you honoring yourself. It’s not too good to be used; that’s why it was made, and you certainly deserve to use something “too good.” What do you own that’s creating clutter by being “too good to use”?
Today’s Declutter Item
Still on a roll when it comes to decluttering with my daughter. Today we have some 3rd birthday cards who we can’t identify the giver of (gone to recycling), an old jazz ballet costume (thrift shop), 2 baseball sun visors (surprised she was willing to part with the Yankees one), Â these will go to a baseball fan helper at the thrift shop,Â her baby music toy which has perished and broken from old age and one crazy looking rag doll she made some time ago (both binned).
Something I Am Grateful For Today
Â Having a nice dinner with a friend and to make it even better my daughter cooked for us. A great little girls night in. Hubby is out of town and Liam was out with friends.
“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast
It may be small but my husband was talked into buying a super expensive tube of hair gel last time he got his hair cut. Needless to say I wasn’t thrilled. He used it a few times and then bought a cheap bottle and put the other away because he wanted to save it. I found it under the counter while working on the “use up your toiletries” exercise. I convinced him to use it up and really enjoy it….and then never buy it again 🙂
This is exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about Elizabeth. It’s not just things like china, which might get broken, but silly, tiny things that we buy and then waste because they’re “too good.”
Our “good” china and silver utensil sets that we got for our wedding 24 years ago. They are used at most twice a year. What a waste of someone’s money.
When we were running low on teaspoons because my son kept taking them and not bringing them back (they were hidden deep in his closet), I finally went and got the “good” teaspoons in exasperation and used them approximately three or four times before my discomfort got the better of my and my husband went out and bought new spoons for us to use.
Is this the epitome of our consumerism culture or what? Add to that “too good to use” column all of the expensive teacups and saucers that I think are “too beautiful for every day use.” Instead, I use the cracked mug my husband got as a handout at work and let the teacups collect dust. Why am I not “good enough” to use my “good” things?
I think china, crystal, and silver are the biggest categories of “too good to use.” That’s why I didn’t use them as example in the post. I understand that you don’t want your silver teaspoons to disappear, but not use use them at all? I told this story sometime last year, but a friend of mine met a woman who used the “good china” every day. It had belonged to the her husband’s deceased wife. In the first wife’s life, she never used the china because it was “too good.” She died without EVER using the china. What was she waiting for? The second wife vowed that wouldn’t happen to her, and she used it every day.
Colleen Madsen says
Chelle are those teacups more valuable to you than say, your children? I bet you said no to that real quick. Well then you are just a valuable as your children and are worthy or using beautiful things everyday. So ditch that cracked cup and start treating yourself like a valuable human being.
In the last couple of months, someone recommended a book, which I thought was called Consume Less, but that doesn’t seem to be right. It had to do, in part, with how much recycling ends up not being recycled. If this rings a bell with you, could you let me know the correct title?
Not sure if it’s the book you’re thinking of, but “From Cradle to Grave” covers that quite a bit.
Colleen Madsen says
this was showing up to be your first comment. If that is true let me say a very warm welcome to you from 365 Less Things. And thank you for trying to help Cindy out.
I’ve commented before (as Katie), but with a different e-mail and alias (e-mail was hit with a virus so I had to shut it down). Thanks anyway, it really says a lot that you welcome each new commenter!
Colleen Madsen says
My pleasure Aurelia,
and poo to those people who insist on sending viruses through the internet.
Cindy this is SO true. I read it years ago and decided I would try not to do this. So we have used our wedding china since day 1 and 18 years and 3 small children later, we still have quite a lot of original pieces left! And having chosen something classic we’ve been able to replace the broken bits. Similarly I use vases I’ve been given and enjoy looking at them.
The one thing I need to deal with is an embroidered tablecloth that was originally my granny’s. It is slightly unfinished and I don’t have the skill to tackle it. And I’m not sure how to look after it once it is completed. There *are* things that are nice to hand down the generations. Maybe I’ll turn it into a wall hanging!
My friend’s German mother uses tableclothes, cloth napkins, and candles at every meal. Inevitably, the tablecloth will get stained. She does her best to get it out then keeps on using it. To her, it’s just a sign that it’s being used for its purpose.
Ditto with the china. I love our china, but don’t get it out as much as I should because it is a hassle to wash it by hand when you have a crowd. I know that when I give a gift, I judge the enjoyment it gives to the receiver by how much they use it. If it just sits around, it wasn’t the best gift for them.
Are you sure you have to handwash it? We are supposed to handwash our crystal, but even our best dishes can be machine washed.
Grandma’s water jug and matching glasses have been on the top shelf of my cupboard, almost hidden from view for over 20 years! It’s so delicate that I’m scared to death that I’ll break it…..I don’t remember her ever using it either though. This is all so silly. I DESERVE to drink water out of a nice glass!!
Tracey, you DO deserve it. Your pitcher and glasses, and by extension, your Grandma, are not being honored by being used AND unseen. I feel confident that you rarely break your dishes, so use ’em!
Deb J says
Oh my! In our house it is the pitcher and glasses and a bowl and saucer that were all handpainted and given to Mom at her wedding 65 years ago. They sit on a shelf in the curio cabinet. We also have a heart shaped glass baking dish with heart shaped lid and 7-8 teacup & saucer sets. None of them are used. They are all “for show.” Do you want to guess what will happen to them when my mother passes? Sold to the highest bidder. I won’t have room for them, I didn’t know the people who gave some of them to Mom & the rest I also have no sentimental attachment to them. We also have a Belgian lace tablecloth that I have never seen used. I have seen it in one picture from 56 years ago. We have never had a table big enough for it.
Colleen, is anyone else having the problem that they are not getting the followup comments? I have checked to get them and subscribed to them and I’m getting nothing. I’m not sure how to remedy it. Any ideas?
Oh Deb J, you and your Mom surely have different ideas about “stuff.” Stuff is meant to be used; that’s why it was made.
Deb J says
You have that right Cindy. But, everyone is different and I’m trying to remember that and not get too uptight about all the “stuff.”
Colleen Madsen says
Hi Deb J,
I will get my tech man onto that when he gets home. You are the first person to mention it.
Candi @ min hus says
This post definitely rings a bell and is one of the lessons decluttering has taught me. And we learn this lesson early! I started saving the good stuff when I was a kid. I mean, c’mon, you don’t wanna waste that 6″ high, lifelike cabbage patch kids soap on ordinary baths! So it was never used. Or the fancy schmancy peach bubble bath powder (which just got thrown out a few years ago still half-full). Since then I’ve been reminding myself to use the good stuff darnit!
Indeed. Especially something like soap that, unlike a never used piece of cookware, literally won’t last forever. What’s the point of not using it? None! Nice soap is nice to have, so use it.
Not guilty! 😀
I’m the one ruining her new shoes because I have to wear them even though it’s pouring. :-/
I have become a bit better, but I’m definitely not having anything “too good to use”.
I have boots to wear in the rain, but I’m glad you’re not leaving anything behind as being “too good.” You might want to think about the concept of keeping things in nice condition and caring for you items, though! : )
I’m working on that, Cindy. Haven’t ruined any shoes for a whole year! 🙂
lol sanna, me too! when I was 6, my new shiny black shoes on the bike outside led to the first accident ever and 3 stitches on my knee. and I can hear my mum saying: “dont ruin your new shoes”. well, actually she still does say: “Now you will learn to treat your things properly, right?”
Colleen Madsen says
Your mum is right. There is a difference between making use of the good stuff and not taking care of it properly. I would be nagging you like your mum. Especially if I paid for it in the first place. Paying for things turns me into a monster. 😆
well, let me explain the circle on an example. lets take shoes, out of current happenings: I get a new pair of shoes from my mum, usually she is the one suggesting I need them. she keeps nagging why I dont wear them so often (usually its the first blister that makes the circle longer in the beginning). Then I wear them –> happy mum, happy me. (BUT in her eyes I don’t take care of things properly). I still wear them –> In her eyes I am not taking care of those shoes properly and therefore of myself. I still wear them –> She keeps nagging I should get myself some new shoes, because I look like a homeless. I wear those shoes until I really get the FULL potential out of them –> next time my mum sees that, she gets me a new pair of shoes.
just today a new circle of winter boots started. thank god, I learned to take care of shoes in the meantime (you bet my mum will still be reminding me) and thank god, she understands my need for quality shoes…
Not guilty either! I am more than ever convinced of using our treasures while I have been helping to go through my ma in law’s house (she has moved into a nursing home). Instead of using her things they’ve been packed away and she has used old cracked things. I know that it’s probably a lot to do with growing up with very little and not having a lot of money to replace things, so she liked to keep her bits and pieces for special use, but what a shame that now after all these years those items are being donated to family for them to have the pleasure of using them. Of course the other reason that some of the special china and glasses weren’t used could be that pa in law was a bit rough on the washing up 🙂
Maybe Pa-in-Law was hoping ot break his way out of doing dishes!
My mother was the Queen of this, so I learnt my lesson through her. The other day the kids and I had a lovely afternoon tea using my beautiful, fragile teacups and saucers. I’ve let them handle them since they were very little and none of them have been broken or chipped. And if they are, well, it’s only stuff!
For my grandmas birthday one year her daughters bought her some pretty china. They helped her put it into a pretty curio cabinet. On Friday nights I would stay at her house (best place ever). When my mom come to pick me up she was surprised to see us eating sandwiches off the plates, she said mom those dishes are for special occasions, grandma said everyday is a special occasion at my age.
I love it! Well said Grandma! That reminds me of my elderly neighbor. One day I asked how he was and he said, “Above ground.” That’s the same kind of acknowledgement that every day is precious.
I experienced that a few months ago! I had a very nice shirt, fancy fabric with silk, bought at a thrift store, that I very rarely wore because it needs to be hand washed (found out afterward!). I pondered about giving it back to a thrift store or ignoring the hand wash label. Well, it survived the washing machine and I now wear it very often 🙂 Her previous owner probably never wore it for the same reason… If it is too good to use, then it should be too good to buy!
Found a beautiful cashmere sweater at the thrift store a few weeks ago. It looked like new, and was priced $4.50. I looked at the label: dry cleaning. I passed. This one would not have survived my washing machine, and was definitely too good for me to buy.
Good Point Natalie. I was so pleased to have purchased a lined jacket at the thrift store recently that was “wash on cool, line dry.” Well, I always wash on cold, and I’d be happy to line dry you, cute little jacket.
The sister of a friend accidentally shrunk a wool sweater, so she sent it to my friend, thinking her eldest daughter might be able to wear it. It was just a tad too big, so my friend washed it to shrink it up a little bit more. Now it fits the youngest child! Oops, so much for that plan.
I’m working on this and mostly have it licked. I now wear my cashmere sweaters every day during the winter–my motto is ‘wear it like it’s a sweatshirt’. Also the tea cups are offered to guests to USE–they can choose the one they want. Now that I think about it though–I don’t use the silverware from my grandma but I think it’s mostly because I don’t want to handwash it. Probably the thing that’s hardest for me to ‘use’ up is the beautiful expensive yarns I’ve handspun.
This is not a problem in my home, I really don’t have room to keep things we don’t use. I thought really hard and I can’t think of anything. Things too good to use = clutter to me..
Steve Edge in his Do Lecture talks about having a party every day and using the best stuff every day, otherwise what’s the point of living.
Colleen Madsen says
thank you for dropping and and welcome to 365 Less Things. I have featured that video here on my blog before. It is great isn’t it and always worth another look.
Sabrina from Italy says
When we married (just 1 and a half year ago) we made a small wedding list, and we put only not expensive stuff on it. I had some plates and glasses before (I had been living in my apartment for a few years) but we wanted to have more than 4 pieces of the same set 😛 So now we have a complete set of 12 pieces (plates, bowls, water and wine glasses, cutlery) that we can use without any fear they break. We use them anytime we have someone over for dinner.
But I have a small set of 3 “nice bath foam” bottles, that I received for a birthday a few years ago and they were so nice I decided to put them on display in the bathroom for a while. The problem is I keep receiving bath soap bottles as presents every now and then (usually just when the previous one is about to finish) and I haven’t got to using the “nice” ones yet, even if I’d love to. I decided that they will be the next to go!
Oh the guilt! I was doing really well with this, & had come to the decision all by myself that ‘stuff’ was meant to be used. Specifically, my husband’s grandmother’s teaset that we inherited. So, out with our Target set & in with the good stuff. As my sister( & occasionally my niece) are the only ones who insist on drinking tea from a proper tea cup, I thought this a good deal. Until…my niece left the cup & saucer too close to the edge of the bench where my typical toddler grabbed the saucer & pulled it down. Needless, to say the cup was left in the hands of the universe & my tiled floors. It smashed & I gasped. Shortly after, my husband requested that we not use the tea set as it is the only thing he has from his grandmother. I gasped again…& kept my secret. He is not a sentimental man AT ALL. So I couldn’t bring myself to be honest. Now, it’s been so long I feel like I can’t divulge the truth. And…I still believe we should be using it. I’m actually OK with the fact that it got broken, because I had that squared away when I decided to use it. But, since it wasn’t rightfully mine & since his rare declaration of sentiment I just can’t face the truth being out in the open. I’m still practising the using up of “good stuff” though, & my Mum has a house full of stuff that my sister & I will inherit – we are not telling her that what we don’t want will be sold & what I want will be well utilised in my house in her honour.
I knew at an early age that I was never gonna be someone who needs “good china”. Thus I’ve never had anything other than simple white Corelle everyday-use plates, bowl, etc & they work so very well on your average Tuesday as they do for Thanksgiving dinner.
No one has ever come to my home & gasped in horror to not find a china cabinet full of “good china”. Nor as anyone eaten a holiday meal on my everyday-use Corelle & said the meal was less than tasty because of my choice of plates.
Boy can I relate to the “too good to use” concept. As a kid, I rationed my use of “fancy stationery” (which was, of course, from the Hello Kitty store), never sharpened my best pencils (Hello Kitty, again) and saved my best stickers (you know, the puffy or glittery ones). I’ve still got most of this stuff and hope that my daughter will be interested in it when she’s a little older. As an adult, I’ve pretty much dropped the fear of using things up or ruining them. After all, people are for loving and THINGS are for USING!
Wow you’ve kept it all for your daughter!
Colleen Madsen says
I love this comment Melissa. Hopefully you will teach your daughter to use her stuff happily no matter how good it is. You are so right “people are for loving and things are for using.”
My mother broke me of this habit. She loves coffee from a percolator and has a glass one, but won’t use it because she’s afraid it will get broken and then she won’t have it to use anymore… I tried to point out the flaw in that reasoning. After watching her put things away, not using them because she was afraid they’d get broken/damaged showed me just how crazy it is to “save” things for someday rather than enjoy them today.
Colleen – seeing your daughters stuff makes me see a little more of how you got started. (as I came along ‘later’ to your progress, I do sometimes think, pft she has nothing to declutter, she has no ‘junk’ etc).
The only ‘too good’ items I can think of… is a Hermes scarf – which I plan to mount on the wall. Yes, it might fade, or get ruined, but at least in the process I will see it daily, which I don’t now. I don’t have too good linens, or crockery, or even jewellry. And the few ‘good’ dresses I have I make sure I wear to get good ‘cost per wear’ out of them. I’m really trying to ponder if there is anything else in the ‘too good’ pile? I do have two pairs of shoes which are the newer, good-er pairs – they get worn for more dressy occasions, whereas the worn pairs for day to day. Eventually the old will die, and the new become the older/only pair.
Colleen Madsen says
Oh yes Snosie, there is still plenty of stuff around her to get rid of and it isn’t all Bridget’s that’s for sure.
Colleen Madsen says
I actually think that there is nothing in my house that I consider too good to use. It isn’t that I don’t have some nice things I just tend to use everything I want to use regardless of value or fragility. This post does have me looking around to see if there is something stashed away that could be utilised more often. A couple of items do come to mind that are good but probably don’t get used much because they just never seem to be the right thing for the job. Perhaps it is time I really considered sending them on their way.
I will not use anything with a chip in it , out it goes.
I read somewhere that it’s very bad feng shui to do so, since then nothing stays in my home that is chipped or cracked.
My late mum used to store all her “too good to use” stuff and I never saw the point in it. She never got round to using it, what a waste.
I used to think like my mum but came to realise that you only pass this way once and can’t take it with you so enjoy your “good stuff”.
If it gets broken what’s the big deal. “You” are a very special person and deserve the “best”.
Eve, what a brilliant idea! I’m going to break everything that has a chip or crack in it from now on. I must say that since I took over the washing up (we don’t have a dishwasher) things don’t get chipped as much as when my husband did it.
Colleen Madsen says
Absolutely Eve, I’m with on this all the way. Some things are made to simply display and look at like art and photos but beautiful utilitarian things should be used and enjoyed for what they are.
‘Too good to use’ was invented by my mother!!! It drives me mad but that is the era she was brought up in, save all the good stuff for visitors! She has changed quite a bit over the years but still puts things away for good. I feel we girls might be changing her ways though, everytime she gets a gift or whatever and says ‘I’ll keep this for good’ we remind her that if she doesn’t use it we’ll eventually bury it with her, she is 5ft 2in and if we send every ‘treasure’ with her she’ll be in a sea container sized coffin!! She laughs at that and says ‘Yeah you’re right I can’t take it with me so I may as well enjoy it!’ Now that is what I like to hear!
Just found this hope it helps Chelle.
I have a somewhat different take on this subject. I believe that not all objects need to be used to be appreciated (after all, do we not all have at least one piece of art in our homes?) even if they COULD be used.
Some things in my home which could be used aren’t used because I enjoy seeing them more than using them. One example is a pitcher and glasses which were given to my mother by her father. They are beautiful – and fragile. I enjoy seeing them in my glass-doored china cabinet. I would not enjoy having half the set missing. I don’t need to use them – I have enough everyday glasses to use that are quite attractive also – so I keep them for their aesthetic value, much like having an interesting ornament or a beautiful painting.
I understand the point being made – but remember the statement “have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”: beautiful is okay too.
Colleen Madsen says
That is a fair enough assessment Jo. I for one have plenty of pieces of art in my home. And perhaps if I was sentimental about other utilitarian object I might be more precious with them too but I have long since divorced myself from that habit. Not that I really had anything sentimental that was worth being precious over. Yet I still have fond memories of all my loved ones who have passed.
My mother has offered for me to take some of the lovely china and crystal from her cabinet but I decided that I didn’t want things to become precious over. And I don’t need stuff to remind me of how much a love her or loved her once she is gone.
I started using my perfume (expensive) every day. It has been over a year and I haven’t run out. Why was I saving it only for “special occassions”? Every day is a special occassion when you have a special fragrance. Who cares if it is “expensive”. Not if you enjoy it. Now I enjoy it every day. I’ll worry when it runs out and I consider replacing it. Maybe I’ll choose something new.
Colleen Madsen says
Great attitude Eileen. Everyday is a special day when you make it so.
Ingrid D says
I once saw a wall in front of an older home – it appeared to be a work in progress – cemented in were pieces of pottery, ceramics, porcelain, spoons etc – you get the idea. If, and I do say IF one were artistically inclined and felt comfortable playing with cement and things – this would be a cool project and one could still sit and look at the now public art and reminisce about where these pieces all came from.
I would think a planter box etc would be nice to use for something like that?
Aside from that – I have moved so many times in my life, and twice in 15 months (and am about to do it again) – I can’t wait to sell most of my stuff! Including all those pretty frocks that are never worn (I can’t wear an evening gown at the office or to clean house, that would be hazardous! lol -so it will have to go)
Great blog, glad I subscribed – love all the comments, too!
Colleen Madsen says
Hi Ingrid and welcome to 365 Less Things. I like the sound of that wall. My daughter had a friend and the splash back behind the stove in their house was done like this with old silver ware broken china etc. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to clean though being in the position is was. I think I could sit there for hours checking out all the bits and pieces in it. I also remember a piece of art at our local gallery not so long back was made of all bits of half melted plastic items, Tupperware etc and I had great fun trying to identify everything.
Good luck with your next move, I con’t imagine having to move that often. It certainly would be inspiration to live a minimalist lifestyle though. I imagine you would look very glamourous at the office or cleaning house in your pretty frocks but then people might think you were rather eccentric so as you say probably not a good idea. I hope you do well selling them.
We used to have a few pieces of beautiful flowery crockery in our house growing up. About a year before my father died I asked him where that teaset came from. He said that it was a wedding present. I assume that us children were responsible for the decrease in number of the individual pieces as I don’t remember seeing nearly enough to make up a whole teaset! There wasn’t many pieces left! They weren’t afraid to use their beautiful stuff even with small children.
Colleen Madsen says
Good for them LenaC, good for them.