Two weeks ago I went into the hospital to have surgery on one foot. Knowing I was going to be both anesthetized and possibly on full display for the nursing staff, I made a conscious decision to put on my good underwear that morning. We all have a set like this: the pretty lace bra and matching undies kept “for good” underneath the stack of comfortable but slightly stodgy stuff that gets you through the day-to-day. Indeed, I received a compliment on this tasteful choice in the recovery room, and I was glad I’d gone for it. When I fully came to, however, I realized that it was also slightly sad that I saved the good stuff for surgery, rather than declaring every day a good excuse to wear the things that make me feel prettier, and a little more celebratory as well.
It called to mind a good laugh I had with a saleswoman at the kitchen store where I’d gone to buy a new saucepan a few weeks ago. After recommending a good but fairly expensive brand, she confessed that she had the same pan at home—but used it only when she was cooking “for good.” Most days, she just used the thirty-year-old pan she received as a newlywed. We bonded over the silly thought that the pan would wear out if she used it more often, rather than getting full use of her money by using it every day—and having the pleasure of it as well.
Using our best things, whether the fine china or our best coat, is a profound pleasure. Why do we feel we have to wait for special occasions to use them? After all, holidays only come along once a month or less, and the pleasure that our best plates and favorite outfits offers to our daily lives is good reason to incorporate more of the good stuff into our routines. While frugality often serves us well, it doesn’t in this particular instance. After all, good things seldom come cheap: using them often actually reduces the cost over time (this is the timeless wisdom of the French woman in a Chanel suit). Further, many good things virtually never wear out. Not your china, your good saucepan, or your favorite gold bracelet.
Perishable items are also on this list. I used to have a terrible time using my good stationery, and I’ll confess that my inner Yankee carefully weighed the importance of each occasion before sending out one of the good notes stashed in my desk. Eventually, though, I realized that the cards gave the recipient real enjoyment, and that it was a small price to pay for spreading that kind of happiness around. And you know what? I didn’t go bankrupt via stationery after all. It was possible to send it all out, and to replace it all as well.
Starting tomorrow, I gently challenge you to wear your best matching underwear, your favorite outfit, and to make your dinner on your best china plate. I guarantee that the uplift you get from doing this will give you greater pleasure in even the ordinary routines of the day. When you catch sight of yourself in the mirror, or look down at your place during dinner, the momentary thrill of seeing something you love will add a real zest to your life. Each day is a gift that can be created in its entirety by the choices we make, so remember not to save that saucepan just for good.