‘If you’re not going to lose it, then go ahead and use it’
I remember one time back when I was young and single here in New York City. I was just sitting down to dinner, blissfully alone in my apartment up on 93rd Street. (There’s a great story about how I got this apartment, called “Horowitz Plays the Bedroom”, that you might want to read, but not just yet.)
Anyway. My buzzer rang, and, since I had no doorman, I stuck my head out the window to check out who was down there. Seeing that it was a friend, I put my key in a sock and threw it out the window so he could let himself in and come on up. He comes in and I offer him a glass of wine. Whereupon he looks at my table, where there is a placemat, cloth napkin, pretty plate, nice wineglass, the whole nine yards — and asks (panting; it was five steep flights up), “Oh. Sorry. Are you expecting company?”
When I explained that, no, dinner was just me, and yes, I did in fact do this sort of thing every night — every night I wasn’t out, that is — he looked baffled. “All this — just for you?!?”
Sure, I said. Who better to do nice things for?
This story came to mind because there’s been a lot of buzz lately about living simpler lives and giving things away. I don’t know if Marie Kondo actually started it all — there have no doubt been what the Times calls “gurus of tidiness” since the days ladies cluttered their caves with way too many pretty rocks — but apparently this trend shows no signs of abating.
Now actually, I do enjoy a good possessions purge myself. In fact, you can find some pretty good tips about what clothing to keep — or not — in “Just Because It Fits, Doesn’t Mean You Should Wear It”.
So no, this is not an anti-Kondo diatribe. What I’d like to do today is urge you to use — and enjoy — what you don’t purge. If you get rid of something because it doesn’t “spark joy”, then, conversely, the stuff you keep should. And that crystal wine glass or cashmere sweater or engraved stationery can’t do much joy-sparking if you don’t use it.
Case in point: after The Dude’s Mom died, we found a stash of pristine stationery — boxes of it that she had never even opened, much less used. And not even her daughters could get joy out of it — it was monogrammed.
On the other hand, I have a good friend who wears her much-loved and recently-departed mother’s pearls every single day. They are valuable pearls, real heirlooms that another kind of woman would store in a vault. But no, she wears them. And no, she is not a fancy New York City socialite. She is a landscaper and garden designer out on Long Island. And she wears those pearls with her teeshirts, work pants and boots, goldarnit.
Now my Mom is not the pearl-wearing or pearl-leaving kind, unless you count pearls of wisdom. Which brings me to “What are you saving it for, the Maypole Dance?” , a saying she’d deploy when she’d notice someone (like her own mother) saving something for good. When was this time that was “good” enough supposed to arrive, she’d ask? Next week? A year from now? I remember in particular a mink hat my Gramma was “saving”. It was too “nice” even for church, but my mother finally convinced her to wear it to brunch at my Uncle Ronald’s. (Incidentally, I myself practice what Mom preaches. The photo at the top of this post shows me wearing my “good” Ogilvy ten-years-of-service Concord watch — and not much else.)
So, in closing, let me urge you, a la the “gurus of tidiness”, to go ahead and lose the things that don’t “spark joy”. But if you’re not going to lose it, then by all means use it. Eat your Chinese takeout on your best china. Wear the Burberry cashmere sweater while streaming Netflix on your couch.
Oh, and do break out that monogrammed stationery — even if you just use it to jot down your list of things you want to get rid of.
New York City. April 2019