Thursday, November 05, 2009

Saving the best for last: why I've stopped stashing for the day that never comes

India wrote in The Sunday Times last week: "How nice it is that the concept of “for best” should since have become extinct". She was referring to dinner parties, but it's a conversation that my sister and I have been having for a few years now.

When I moved to America I had to pack up my London flat. Eight years of living there whilst working in fashion and beauty journalism meant that every cupboard, shelf and cubby hole was crammed with lovely stuff. Not that I ever used any of it. No, I was saving it all for best.

Those lovely Wolfords? Nah, I'll wear the scratchy cheapo ones instead in case I ladder them. That delicious Ormonde Jayne bath oil? Oh no, that's for dates & special parties. Silk lingerie? For boyfriends only. The linen sheets I inherited from my great aunt? I can't even think why I didn't use them. It's not like I was saving them for my trousseau.

Lil'sis really takes the biscuit on this front: her bathroom cupboards and shelves are packed four deep with expensive goodies: largesse handed over by my mother and me but every time I stay with her, I see the Herbal Essence in the shower rack and the supermarket hand lotion by the basin. She got cross when I told her I was writing this piece: "Nooo, please don't. Everyone laughs at me as it is about those shelves."

I pointed out that if this encouraged her to actually use the lovely products daily instead of waiting for a mythical event to make it worthwhile, it could only be A Good Thing.

Our reluctance to use the beautiful things we have stashed away stems from our growing up years when my parents spent every available cent on school fees & on mortgage payments. There wasn't any cash for luxuries and we eeked out anything wonderful that we were given, keeping it as a bulwark against the quotidian grind. That habit has stayed with us both, although it's no longer necessary.

When I packed up the flat I was horrified at the amount of unused loveliness gathering dust whilst I spent money on the cheap stuff, and vowed that I would start using everything I had been given. After all, I could see no prospect of getting through it in this decade.

I quickly realised how much nicer daily life can be when you are using a jasmine scented hand cream rather than Atrixo, that I felt so much better wearing a cashmere sweater or a frock to walk the dog instead of schlumpfing up to the Heath in holey leggings (they'll only get muddy, I used to reason).

After all, what on earth were we waiting for? Why can't today be made just as wonderful as the prospect of tomorrow?