Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Much too good for use

"Now everything must be washed in hot water and soap, because of the children's dirty hands,' said Mrs. Williams, 'and when it is thoroughly dry it must be wrapped in baize and locked up in the strong-room. It is much too good for use." (The Letter of Marque, 1988, Patrick O'Brian)...much too good for use. Where have we heard that before? Do you have china or fabric or napkins or some other heirloom that is "too good" to use? When my grandmother died I received a stack of hand embroidered pillowcases. They must have been 30 years old. They had never been used - they were Too Nice. I promptly washed them and used them. I swore I wasn't going to be like my grandmother, who had nice things but never used them, but I look around me and I see the signs. I work at home, so I don't wear my nicer clothes around the house. Oh no - those are for going out only. Why? I can't dress nicely for just me?
If I were to make a New Year's Resolution, this would be it. No Hoarding. If I have it, use it. I have stacks of beautiful fabric that I don't sew - why? Because it is Too Nice. So who am I saving it for? It's mine. I can do whatever I want with it. No one is going to punish me if I use it for something different that what I originally bought it for. If I don't use it, it will just sit there gathering dust and taking up space (and eventually be sold at my children's mega yard sale for $5.)
These traits run in families. When my son was little, he would only eat half of something and ask to "save it for later".
I used to collect cookbooks, but I found that I only really used about 25 of them, and they were getting out of control, so one day I went through them all and took all of the books that I was sure I would never use and gave them to my brother. He kept some and then happily released the rest into the wild by selling them on half.com. Now someone else is happy with them and I have more shelf space. (I am resisting the urge to fill it back up.) The remaining books I try to use all the time. I try to keep them clean, but I make myself not fret if they accidentally get a splash or a mark on them. That's part of being used; they are mine to use. (The splashes will be seen by my descendants as historical.)
I have to do the same with my closet. It isn't that I don't wear some of my clothes because I don't like them or they don't suit me. I don't wear them - the nicest clothes - because they are Too Nice. I don't sew my favorite fabrics because they are Too Nice. What if I wore clothes I loved every day that were made out of my favorite fabrics? Wouldn't that make me happier to treat myself like I deserved the nice things that I have? I don't have to save them for anyone else. I am not alone in my hoarding. Gretchen Rubin wrote that she saves her new underwear.
When I read that I had that cold shock of recognition. "I do that too!', I thought. And I have to stop that now.
So in the kitchen, I will try to use up all the good stuff every day. In the sewing room I am going to try to use my favorite fabrics FIRST. Because what am I saving it for? Today is all we have, really.
Happy Sewing!


Toby Wollin said...

When my father died, we found, in his dresser drawer, 3 pairs of carefully repaired socks(the man knew how to darn)and 32 (that is right, thirty-two) pairs of beautiful wool socks which he had been keeping a) because he'd gotten them at a bargain price and "you never know" and b) because they were 'too nice'. OMG - we also found a dozen beautiful white shirts, still in the wrappers and on and on and on. If we can't dress up for ourselves, who CAN we dress up for?

Karen said...

My entire family suffers from "too good to use" disease. I inherited a ginormous box of linens from my great grandmother on down, and after sitting on them for at least 10 years myself, I divvied them up between friends with instructions that if they did not use them, they had to give them back. So far, I've had no returns.

I finally brought myself to take scissors to a beautiful embroidered tablecloth that was stained and turned it into a short-sleeved summer top. I feel so good wearing it, knowing that it's not just disentegrating in a box somewhere.

This past year I tried to bring that attitude to my fabric stash, with not quite as much success. After all, I accumulated that; it's not like using up someone else's good stuff. But I'm working on it.

You are so not alone.

snow said...

Wow, I loved your blog today. I bought my mother a beautiful pajama set when I first had a job. She proceeded to put it in her closet for a special time, in case she ever needed to go to a hospital. I felt like telling her they give you a blue gowns there but it didn't matter. Today the pj set sits in the back of a closet in my home. It looks brand new because it is.
Being "Much to good to use" is obviously a recurrent theme in many homes. Lately I've started to realize that I've done the same thing with fabric, the good china, the hundreds of cookbooks I've collected, and on and on. Before you know it our things will outlive us without ever being enjoyed. So thank you for bringing this "much to good to use" blog to us. I will plan to use what I have and enjoy it all. What better lesson can we teach our children then to live life instead of saving it for that special day......that may never come.

snow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

This is a very interesting post! While I don't suffer from this syndrome it is interesting to read about...hopefully you are getting ready to cut into some of that good fabric soon! :)

The Slapdash Sewist said...

This is definitely something I have to fight within myself, too. I have Too Good To Use fabrics, but luckily I don't own any china, LOL. I am glad to hear I'm not the only one who hoards new underwear for a while. I have finally gotten to the point where I buy new underwear, throw away the same number of old underwear as soon as I bring the new ones home, and wear the new ones. It shouldn't have been such a struggle to get here!

Lindsay T said...

This is not something I suffer from, as we moved quite a bit when I was a kid and packing constantly forces you to be realistic about your possessions. Ann of Gorgeous Things wrote a post in 2008, I believe, about getting over the fear of cutting into precious fabric. It's worth reading.

Madame Marron... said...

Tonight we eat on the good china--my favorite plates, the ones I hardly ever get out. Thanks for reminding me to do that.