I've read through and tried out several decluttering books and programs: Flylady, Marie Kondo, and most recently, the Uncluttered course, by Joshua Becker. These have all been immensely useful. I view my downsizing process as a sort of onion: I peel away a layer, discard what isn't useful, and keep what is. I try to creatively re-purpose things. For example, I have a beautiful lidded Wedgwood powder jar, that, until recently, held my java jig coffee filters.
So I peel away a layer, and then I live with what's left for awhile. Sometimes it's a day, sometimes it's a month. Then I find I'm ready to remove the next layer off the onion. Sometimes it's easy, and sometimes I get stuck. When that happens, I will walk into a room at random, and think, 'what bothers me in here?' I might pull open a drawer and purge three small things, or I might sort out half a closet.
This weekend, I tackled a kitchen shelf full of china serving pieces. It's a shelf hidden deep at the back of a seldom-used lower cabinet - but it's been nagging at me for a few weeks. I went through the things, and this morning, I sent in an 'offer to buy' to Replacements.com. I struggled a bit with this decision, so I'm going through my thought process here...
As of this writing, I have three beautiful china sets: a set of Wedgwood 'Angela' for six, a set of white-and-lavender Wedgwood Queensware for twelve, and 'Winter Greetings', by Lenox, also for twelve.
I have enough fine china to have thirty people over for a four-course fancy meal.
I have a lifelong love of china dishes. My grandmother used to let my sister and me play with an antique toy china tea set, whenever we visited. When we got our own sets for birthday one year, I was beyond thrilled.
All of my china sets were gifts: my grandmother bought me the Queensware set. She bought me the white Angela set on a visit home to England. The Christmas china was something I saw, loved, and my family gradually gifted me with pieces over about five years. A few years ago, my mom gave me the lavender-and-white Queensware tea service, shown in the photo below.
My grandmother and my mother both, have at least 3-4 fine china sets each, that they never use. There are, literally, entire sets - plural - of Wedgwood and Lenox that nobody in the family has ever eaten off of. NOBODY. It's mostly tucked away, out of sight, in cabinets, for a day that has yet to come. There are enough dishes that we could probably have a state dinner for 200 people, and everyone would have their own, beautiful place setting of dinner plate, salad plate, and soup bowl. At the very least.
I don't understand this, and yet I do, this love of collecting china...
1. It's beautiful. My mom has a set that is gold-rimmed, with little violets, that I used to take out of the cabinet (when she wasn't around), and sigh over, as a kid. I suggested, on a recent trip home, that she should get it out and use it, and enjoy it. She looked at me like I'd grown a second head.
It's being saved, 'for good'.
2. It's ladylike, in every sense of the word: fine china symbolizes an advance in social status. My grandmother can trace her lineage back to the late 1400s, and just about everyone worked as housemaids, gardeners, shepherds, and farmers. My grandma was always a freethinker who was eager to break out of the constraints of 'class' and even gender, that surrounded her, growing up in rural England in the 1930's and 40's.
Is there anything more ladylike than sipping tea or coffee out of an exquisite little cup?
As I sat and thought about this, I realized.. if you want to "move up" in this world, there are a couple of things that have to happen, for you to have truly 'advanced', socially:
1. You use that fancy china. Live it. It means acknowledging that you 'deserve' to use that china.
2. This means you have to have to be willing to spend the time on it: transferring the food from pan to serving dish to table. And having to care for the china - washing up, and drying by hand, because it isn't microwave or dishwasher safe.
In England, that 'social advance' used to mean having someone to do it for you.
Now I've lived in places without a dishwasher, and I don't mind spending the time washing and drying my china plates and cups. I get a kick out of having my meals on fancy dishes.
But I resent taking perfectly hot, just-cooked food, out of their pans, putting it into the 'middleman' dish that cools it slightly, then putting it onto my plate. Luuuukewarm. Yech.
Then having to wash a set of pans AND a set of dishes that don't include what I ate off/out of.
And the tea services? I am an avid coffee and tea drinker, but unless I take that extra step of heating up the teapot, it just makes my beverage cooler, before it ever gets into my mouth.
My conclusions about fancy china:
If you have beautiful china that makes you feel happier, posher, or your food more appetizing, USE IT EVERY CHANCE YOU GET.
Keep what is useful. Figure out what is not, or why it is not, and then go from there. Can you repurpose it? No? Then let it go, so someone else can enjoy scooping their now-lukewarm casserole out of that lidded dish.
So them's my two cents. What about you? Have you found things like this in your home?