Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Use/enjoy it. Nothing lasts forever.

Use it! Enjoy it! Because it's beautiful, and because...

This is the time of year when we all start breaking out our winter/holiday finery, including tablecloths, decorations and even special furniture.  This last weekend I bid in another online auction and got this gorgeous mahogany dining room table for $200. (Thanksgiving on my mind! It has TWO leaves and can expand to 120 inches!) 

I know many people who have dining room tables like this in their formal dining room, and rarely use them. Which seems like a shame to me. I think the things we buy should be used and enjoyed. That's why we don't have a breakfast area, and instead eat all our meals at the one dining room table, thereby visiting with it almost every day. It's gorgeous, so why not look at it every time we sit down to a meal?

I remember going to an antique store several years ago which featured toys for sale -- in their original boxes, unopened. Apparently that is the gold standard for buying these kinds of things -- toys like Barbie dolls and stuffed animals are highest priced in their original wrappings, unused.

How sad that we relegate such things to uselessness in order to keep their value. It's one thing to take care of what you own to make sure it lasts a long time, but entirely another to never enjoy it or never use it for the purpose for which it was intended...gee, and I thought formal dining rooms people rarely went into was sad.

About 18 years ago, my mother found an antique sideboard at a junk store, liked it and purchased it for me at the bargain basement price of $100. Upon doing a little online research, we discovered that it was a one-of-a-kind Brown-Saltman piece from the 1930's and was probably worth between $4,000 - $10,000. She was thrilled. I was dismayed. The insurance company was helpful in putting together a policy for it. Which meant, as a struggling single mom and beginning teacher, I was now in possession of a piece of furniture that needed its own insurance policy. I felt a little sick.

For months I worried about the piece, not putting anything on it, not allowing the kids within a mile of it. I was almost afraid of it, yet at the same time resentful -- how had I unluckily come into possession of something which clearly demanded so much respect as to not be touched or used?

And then my best friend visited and told me I needed to use it and enjoy it. She said that was what it was created for. And if an accident happened -- it got scuffed, dented or scratched -- well, nothing lasts for ever, she said.  


The message is the same, whether it's home furnishings or something even more intricate yet also temporary: the sand mandalas the Buddhist monks spend months creating, only to to pause for one moment at it's completion and behold its beauty before sweeping it away, forever gone. The message is clear: Use it!  Enjoy it! Because nothing lasts forever. And an unused toy wrapped in a box is worth nothing, because it's never fulfilled it's purpose of being played with and loved by a child. I don't care what the auction house says.  

The fact is, if it's a creation made by man or even in nature, it has a life expectancy. Give it a life worth living by using it, for heaven's sake.

Nothing lasts forever.


  1. I love this! Hopefully, it won't surprise you how much I agree. Do you still have the sideboard? I've always thought one of the very most interesting/lovely things about New England antiques is that they are worth more with "marks of use". Not abuse, but use. It makes sense, given New England's love and reverence for yesterday. I love it when pieces live and have souls.
    Your new table looks gorgeous. What a find! You're having great luck!

    1. Yes, I have heard that if you refinish a piece to perfection you actually diminish its value. Same philosophy as the New Englanders have, I think! I still have the sideboard and am a lot more relaxed about it now, thankfully. And since the kids are grown I don't really have to worry about much in terms of damage. I should have figured we'd both love those classic old things that, yes, DO have souls and stories to tell.

  2. I so agree. I use my good stuff even if it's only for display. But a lot of thinkgs I have get put to use for events I host. Love using that platter we got in Italy for appetizers. I am in the process of cleaning out closets & such & have so much junk that we don't need OR use. Can't wait to have that garage sale!

    1. I love special occasion pieces too, because they always bring a smile when you unpack them to use. But judging by the shape this table was in, I am guessing it was rarely used, if ever. It's going to get a lot more use here. You're smart to be cleaning out closets and downsizing, I agree, it's amazing how much we amass that we never end up using! You'll have a great garage sale!

    2. Totally agree. I inherited my grandmothers set of 8 dining chairs with caned seats. A couple of them had to be recaned and when the guy that did them told me the set was worth at least $10,000 I was floored. But we've used them every day for the past 10 years and although I thought it was kind of cool that they were worth so much it didn't hamper me from using them..

    3. That is so wise. Unused or used, someday it will be gone. You may as well enjoy it now and let it be used for what it was intended -- sitting around it, enjoying a meal with people you care about!

  3. I couldn't agree more. Nothing lasts forever, including the people that stress out over the stuff. I know people that didn't allow children to play with the gorgeous custom made dollhouse, Madame Alexandra dolls 40 years later still in boxes. The little girl that owned them never had children so it all sits in the attic. It's seems very depressing to me. Life should be enjoyed!

  4. Kathleen I totally agree. For some reason with dolls it hits me the hardest...a doll that's never been cradled by a child, carried around, etc. seems so very sad. To sit in someone's attic in its original box is just so opposite of it's purpose for being made.