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Use The Good Stuff

A few years ago, I read this excerpt from one of Erma Bombeck’s columns, when she discovered she was dying from cancer — it was titled “If I Had to Live My Life Over”:

“… I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage. I would have talked less and listened more. I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded. I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace. … I would have sat on the lawn with my kids, even if it meant grass stains.”

It hit home. As I write this, I’m looking at a bottle of perfume — one that I love — that was a Mother’s Day gift in 2005. I’ve used about a quarter of it. I’m not sure if I’m waiting for the queen to visit, an invitation to the presidential inauguration ball, or just some romantic date with my husband. But for some reason, I hesitate to use it, as though it’s a precious commodity; that once it’s gone, it’s gone.

That’s true, to some degree. But I can just get more perfume, probably as another Mother’s Day gift. If I love it so much, why don’t I just use it?

Do you have something in your life like this? For your wedding, did you register for special china in addition to your everyday dishes? How about certain lotions, or soaps, or articles of clothing? Do you have eleven categories of towel types, like Monica does in Friends?

Maybe you’re in the depths of early childhood rearing, like me. You’re up to your elbows in poop and snot, and you lost count the amount of times you’ve picked up the same blocks off the same carpet. Your day is peppered with breakfast, lunch, dinner, nap times, quiet times, time outs, and story time. If you hear Dora’s map yell “I’m the map!” one more time, you might scream.

The liturgy of our ordinary everydayness can be mind-numbing. It’s easy to forget about that good perfume, the bone china, the silk skirt. There’s spit-up to contend with.

Let’s make this season of our lives, whatever it is for you, more special with those special things we’re saving. Break out the good china for tonight’s homemade pizza. Let your family know they’re special with these special things, and don’t worry about the messes they’ll make. Bring out the “fancy guest” towels for your family. Because why not?

Enjoy the little things in life, and make them even more special by using the good stuff. Don’t wait for that perfect moment — it’s already right here.

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. charla

    that was such an amazing post! thank you so much.. it really hit home. we all need reminders that life is passing us by!

  2. Susan

    Perfect, just perfect. I will burn those candles that are sitting collecting dust, I will wear perfume everyday – not just the special days. I will set my dinner table carefully and make it special even when I am serving left overs. Thank you!
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..How Are You in Your Skin? =-.

  3. Paula (Belgium)

    Indeed, very true. Don’t postpone life. Don’t postpone joy.

  4. Tammy

    I really love this post. You have put words to things often spinning through my head. : )

  5. kristiina

    “You’re up to your elbows in poop and snot, and you lost count the amount of times you’ve picked up the same blocks off the same carpet. Your day is peppered with breakfast, lunch, dinner, nap times, quiet times, time outs, and story time. If you hear Dora’s map yell “I’m the map!” one more time, you might scream.”

    My life to a ‘T’! Nicely put…and the lesson here is so important. Thank you for another AWESOME post 🙂


  6. Tina@RideOnToys

    I tend to do that with my clothes for some crazy reason. I buy a sweater that I love and “save” it for the “special” events. And just what specifies a special event? Who knows…it’s time to make use of them. Thanks for the insight!
    .-= Tina@RideOnToys´s last blog ..7 Important Scooter Safety Tips For Your Children =-.

  7. Laura

    LOL…I have a half used bottle of perfume that is even older than that! I don’t know what I’m saving it for either.

  8. ami

    Guilty as charged! Here’s our partial inventory: Beautiful dining room table covered in homework piles and dust, wedding china and crystal ‘safe’ in the china cabinet. Gas fireplace safely shut up to save energy. ‘Special’ stationery kept safe – from what, I wonder? – in drawer. Kids’ dress clothes kept clean – and unworn – in the closet.

    What are we waiting for? It’s time to start using the good stuff. THANKS for the reminder.
    .-= ami´s last blog ..Don’t over-romanticize your calling. Do what you love – at whatever level you can =-.

    • Melinda

      Me, too! Not watching Dinosaur Train, but weepy. Yesterday tears were strolling down my face while listening to “100 Years” in the car, and today this line.

      Also, my six-year-old informed me last night that he was going to tell his teacher today that she is his fiancee.

      It’s all going by way too fast.

    • Lisa

      I’m all teary here too, but we’re watching Hello Kitty 🙂

      LOVE the post, thanks for the reminder to cherish this time.

    • Krystal

      Teary-eyed, here, too. And pregnant with #1.

    • Laura

      That line got me too. Totally started bawling as I sit here folding laundry while my little one plays & the baby naps. 4 & 1 and I always get weepy thinking of when they will be adults and am I going to regret not doing more with them now?

  9. Becka

    This was so timely for me. I’m a person who thrives on the company of friends but I’ve been putting off having anyone over since we’ve (finally) been in the process (over the past year) of changing the floors, painting, updating our decor, that I just keep saying to myself “Well, as soon as this is all finished I can have people over again.” This updating is so long overdue (in my opinion) that I’m worried (obsessed) thinking my friends will secretly judge me for keeping my house pretty much the same since we bought it in 2003. Meanwhile, as I wait for everything to get finished and “perfect” I’m missing out on all of the company I could be having, who probably couldn’t care less about my upgrades or lack there of. I know in my heart this is what’s missing in my life. I’m letting go. I’m going to have that company that I long for. Thank you so much for posting this. It really opened my eyes and reminded me that floors and paint don’t really matter. People do.

  10. Amanda @ Mommy's Idea Book

    I totally agree. We’ve actually eaten pizza on crystal plates and instant pudding out of crystal bowls, because I decided “we might as well use them for something fun.” Love this post!
    .-= Amanda @ Mommy’s Idea Book´s last blog ..Instilling Biblical Values in Our Children =-.

  11. kel

    my grandmother learned that ‘things that are too good to be used everyday are not too good to be destroyed when the house burned down”. It changed her life, and she passed it on!

  12. Elena@Five Finger Discounts

    Awesome post! I do this all the time. Why? I don’t know. I need to just use and ENJOY all the wonderful things that I am saving for “a special day”. Today IS a special day….thanks for reminding me:)

  13. JT

    I HAVE that special occasion perfume – and it’s been sitting on my dresser for years because I never know what occasions are special enough for it 🙂

    We bought pretty plates (not even real China, mind you) for the house and I wanted to use it “for company” (you know, the special people) and my partner said we’re special too. He’s right of course. So we now have beautiful everyday plates.

    Love this: Enjoy the little things in life. And make them more special by using the good stuff. Don’t wait for that perfect moment — it’s right here.

    You are so right. I’m going to use our special everything this weekend. Tonight! Thank you.
    .-= JT´s last blog ..Clean slate meets open book =-.

  14. Anitra

    We got “special” plates when we married… mostly because the set we had already been given (4 place settings) was discontinued. We break out the “special” dinnerware any time there are more than 3-4 adults eating here (up to 8 place settings), and we anticipate it will become our everyday set once we get up to 2 (or more!) kids old enough to handle non-plastic dishes.

    We never saw the point to getting china.

    I will admit that there is some clothing I tend to save for “special” occasions (both mine & my daughter’s). Certainly, there’s nowhere appropriate for me to wear a formal dress right now, but everything else? There’s no reason not to wear my “nice” shirts (even if they get dirty) or to keep “nice” dresses hung up and unworn by my daughter.

  15. Emily

    I was lucky enough to read Erma bombeck as a teenager – such an amazing mother!

    I actually remember watching my stepmother hoard things for “special” times and I never understood it. Why own things you don’t use? Why not use the good things all the time so that you enjoy your life?

    My wardrobe has suffered a bit in the 4 months I’ve been a mommy, but I’m working on it.

    ps – i love that the “anonymous” poster photos are tiny chuck taylors. swoon.
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..Photoshop Thursday! =-.

  16. Adrianne

    LOL the Dora bit made me laugh (I hate that stupid map). this is so true, part of my reasoning for moving to italy now instead of waiting til what most would consider more rational. Great post for why we should live for now instead of saving life for later.
    .-= Adrianne´s last blog ..One year ago =-.

  17. Eren

    My mother always wanted us to be able to use our manners if we were ever to eat dinner with the president so three or four times a year she would set the table with all of the forks, china, and glasses you would use for a fancy dinner. Although I have never eaten dinner at the White House, I feel blessed that she was not stingy with her “good things” and I learned an appreciation for them.

    Loved this piece!
    .-= Eren´s last blog ..Friday Favorites: Redecorating Edition =-.

  18. mindy

    Amen….I’ve been having these thoughts alot lately!

  19. Suzette

    So true. I had to laugh when you mentioned Dora’s map! I’m putting on a skirt tonight for when my husband comes home from work…just because. Thanks!
    .-= Suzette ´s last blog ..Simplicity- Eliminating the Visual Clutter =-.

  20. Erin

    This is something that I’ve been having a hard time with lately. Maybe we’ll drink our homemade soda out of our wine glasses tonight! Why not? They’re just collecting dust anyway.
    And I’m so putting perfume on today.

  21. Krystal

    I got some gold-plated silverware for a wedding gift. I am SO going to start using it.
    .-= Krystal´s last blog ..Happy 5th birthday Logan! =-.

  22. Melanie at Parenting Ink

    Thank you for these reminders. Today I wore my “special” earrings and had comments from a ton of people. It made me smile.
    I also believe in telling the people whom you love how you feel BEFORE it’s too late. My mom taught me this. Earlier this year, she called me just to say, “I think you already know this, but it’s worth saying. You and your sister are my life’s greatest accomplishments.”
    What a gift that my mother shared with me, and how important that she didn’t wait till a special occasion to do so!
    .-= Melanie at Parenting Ink´s last blog ..Mama Doesn’t Like Hitler =-.

    • Kika

      That is beautiful – your mom making sure you really know how much she loves and likes you!!!

  23. Laura

    I just came to this realization in the last year or two. I used to want to keep things like candles or pretty paper because I didn’t want to not have them anymore! Now, as I tried to both unclutter and enjoy my life more, I find that using them can make an ordinary day: special!
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..1 Happy Things for Me A Day =-.

  24. KD

    I am a girlie girl stuck in the body of a mom to three kids age 5 and under. I have no problems using perfume every day. 🙂

    When you asked “What “thing” are you saving for something special?” I immediately said “me.” I’m saving myself for something. Although, as you mentioned, I am exhausted from the toys-snot-poop-feeding-school-repeat business, there is definitely part of me that I am not releasing for full use. Maybe I’m afraid of what (or who?) is hiding there. Maybe I’m afraid that I will fail, fall, hurt, or just “not be good enough” (also known as “not perfect.” ahem). Somehow I have to put it all out there on the table ~ with the fine china, of course!
    .-= KD´s last blog ..Did you hear the news? =-.

  25. Carla

    Until about 6 months, I was “saving” my good scrapbook items; my favourite papers, embellishments, stickers, etc. I realized that there was nothing more special than our regular day-to-day and if I saved it until something special came along then it would probably be outdated and I’d want something current.

  26. laura

    thank you for this!!! i read this at the perfect time… covered in puke from my youngest and snot from my oldest 🙂

  27. Tsh

    I love the thought of all these households all over the world using china with their pizza tonight. And all these women wearing skirts and perfume today, just because.

    Way to go, everyone. 🙂

  28. Bonnie

    I was once much more guilty of saving things “for good.” I would even buy a new pair of shoes and continue to wear the old ones because I couldn’t stand to take the newness off the new ones. What broke me of this pattern (mostly) was cleaning out my grandmother’s house after she died 8 years ago. She always saved things for some later, future, more special time rather than enjoying them in the present. Sadly, she died with many of those treasures untouched, in their original boxes. I know she always took care of others before herself, and I think she felt unworthy of the pleasures we get from little luxuries. I keep two of her untouched treasures in my own home and use them daily, as a reminder to live in the now.

  29. Chris

    What a great reminder. I’ve always been guilty of this, even as a child. I still have my favorite stickers from my childhood that I always saved… for what I still don’t know. It’s a small step, but I’ve been letting my daughter use them 🙂 And lately I’ve been willing to dress her in her nicer clothes even if we’re just running errands. I actually got rid of half my lounge pants in the last garage sale so I’ll start wearing the clothes I really like again too. What am I saving them for? A day without fingerpaint? I don’t see any of those in my future for a few more years!

    • pt

      Yes!! I have a whole collection of stickers from childhood I was saving-I always wanted to use them, but was saving them. Now I encourage my daughter to USE them!! Another thing that shadows my childhood and would like to steer my kids away from? stress!! I constantly try to teach them how to make light of things for fear they’ll grow up and be a stressor like me! It’s becoming clearer to me everyday to make the most of life today! Tomorrow is never guaranteed and after today you have one less day to dappreciate today’s moments. There will never be another day exactly like today.

  30. Sandi

    Love this post. We have a whole cupboard full of things we’re “saving” for no reason. It’s true, I can’t replace them, but I will remember the memories more than the things so thank you for the reminder.

  31. Alisha

    Wow. Hit the nail right on the head. I am hugely guilty of not inviting people to my house because it’s less than perfect. I have 3 kids and I homeschool, I mean, seriously, what do they expect. LOL more importantly, what do *I* expect! And I have a lot of trouble seeing my personal worth, seeing a reason to dress up, to make the time, etc.

    This is sort-of one of my New Year’s Resolutions. To cull out what doesn’t make me happy and use what we have that I love.

  32. Luschka

    My great grandmother died a few years ago and left me a lot of glassware, serving dishes and so on that she had been given as gifts and never used, always waiting for the ‘right’ occasion. She died with all the stuff still wrapped up. I took it over, and kept it nicely wrapped up and unused in a display cabinet, till one day when we were moving and I realised this stuff was just a burden on me, really. I loved it and wanted to keep it safe, but fear of anything happening to it was waying me down. SO, I hosted a dinner party and used it and ENJOYED it. Over the years, one or two items have cracked, broken, chipped and it always makes me sad, but I have had JOY from it – and really isnt that the point of ‘stuff’?
    .-= Luschka´s last blog ..The Doula Path (Part 2) =-.

  33. Windi Padia

    Love your website. I am in the poop, puke, snot, dirt, dora phase. this post hit home.
    .-= Windi Padia ´s last blog ..Baby Girl =-.

  34. Pat

    I loved this post! I have been spring house cleaning for a month now and my rule is: if I haven’t used it in the last 2 years, offer it up to someone else / donate it to goodwill, so someone else can use it. I hadn’t thought about all the things I don’t use often enough! Thanks for the hint! 🙂

  35. Michelle

    A few days late but I was looking online today, considering a purchase of some flatware for a Mother’s Day lunch we are having this weekend and because our ever growing family (baby #4 is 7 weeks old) needs a few more forks. I wanted to order something vintage and as I was browsing I had the “aha” of WHY DON’T WE JUST USE MY GRANDMOTHER’S SILVER EVERYDAY? Duh. Maybe it is years of sleep deprivation. I am washing that up today and popping it in the drawer! All thanks to you.

  36. Rosie Girl

    This post really spoke to me. I was raised with the idea of saving, saving, saving everything for a later time. A later time that usually never happens. I attribute it to the Depression era effects on my family. As I have finally faced this funny quirk of mine as an adult and have been able to move forward and USE my stuff with a more carefree attitude, I wanted to share this post with my audience at Rosie Girl Dreams. Thank you so much for such a perfect post. Truly a great read!
    .-= Rosie Girl´s last blog ..Sharing Saturday ~ 2010.05.22 ~ California State Parks Foundation =-.

  37. R. Short

    As late as I am, I couldn’t help but post.

    If you never same something in the first place, it doesn’t have the chance to become special. If you wear that wonderful perfume every day–it becomes part of the everyday. Maybe at 22 I am too young to understand. Or maybe I am missing the point entirely.

    I remember as a child I had some pokemon stickers I never used because they were so special to me. It made me smile to find them as an adult and remember how much I enjoyed saving them. I still refuse to use them! I will keep them and perhaps the people who clean my apartment after my demise will see them and realize they are special and meant much to me… and that my life didn’t amount to just the things I was saving.

    Though, I don’t save things in my adulthood, unless the pokemon stickers still count when I no longer have the desire to stick them to anything. I have a body spray I like, and I wear it regularly. I have a silver-lined tea cup that I like… and I use it all the time. While I like these things very much, they do not seem so special. They are just the things that comprise my everyday experience.

    It doesn’t seem to enrich my daily life so much as it serves to make the special little things more humdrum.

  38. Emma @

    Awesome post! Every now and then I dress up in my best outfit, do my hair and make up and just act as though I am going somewhere although all I have to do for the day is change diapers, feed the baby or clean up the house. It just makes you feel so much better about your chores when you look good and feel good ! What an awesome post!! De-cluttering is also so freeing!

  39. Rita

    I recently came to this conclusion in my own life. It was the china inherited from my grand mother as a wedding gift. This china I remember eating off of at every family gathering growing up, but had only used twice in ten years of marriage. It was also the special candles that we save to be used with that china.
    My son asks often when and if we can use these things. It hit me the other day that using them was the exact reason they were given to me.
    So, that last dinner with friends, yes we used the china. And at that special 5th birthday dinner we lit those candle sticks. I’m thankful to have these items, but if I want them to mean something to my family like they mean to me, they must be more than a decoration. It is the moments and reasons and time we linger over them that we will remember and then make these “things” worth being a part of making that memory special.

  40. Alissa

    I can’t believe this post was first from 2009… because in my brain this is “something I’m working on after readying a great column that Tsh wrote.” So, apparently, I’ve been WORKING ON this concept for over 5 years. Hmmm… I’m pretty sure I just pulled out some bubble bath that I’ve had since the column first ran.
    But, I do know that I wear the “nice” sweaters on weekends with my kids and I don’t save my favorite earrings and jewelry for a special occasion anymore. I wear them on Tuesdays (or whenever) because they are my favorites and I’m worth it, and my family and friends are worth sharing beautiful stuff with as well.
    Baby steps apparently.

  41. Maggie

    Yes, yes, it’s one of my personal missions to use the good stuff up. I have always been a store it away kinda girl, but now I realize how foolish that is. What on earth am I waiting for?

  42. Kim McCulley

    Oh, how I love this! I have many beautiful serving dishes and china teapots and teacups. I love to host dinners and tea parties for friends, family, sometimes just the 3 of us still living here at home. The grands think it’s very special to drink from the pretty cups! I’m happy to know they have the memories and will always know Grammy thought they so special that she used her most beautiful things. So far, not one thing has been broken in use!

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