A few years ago, I had a pair of cheap pearl earrings that kept falling apart. I glued them together repeatedly until I got tired of it. So I asked Mike for a pair of nice pearl earrings for my birthday; this was while we were engaged and of course he had to buy me romantic gifts. We had a happy morning in London’s Hatton Garden (a jewellery district) picking out earrings from the shop where he had bought my engagement ring.
Here they are, the earrings on the left.
But what are the huge pearls on the right, you ask?
It seems bizarre to me now, but sometime after receiving the real pearls, I went out and bought a set of costume ones for ‘everyday’ wear. I had been spooked by the clerk at the jewellery store, who warned me not to wear the pearls while styling my hair or using hairspray, which would damage them. I nodded solemnly and, I guess, obediently bought a pair of cheap pearls. I kept the real ones for special occasions.
Recently, moving and having a baby and sorting my possessions has changed my view of many of my belongings. I suddenly asked myself why, having a set of pearls which were genuine, beautiful, attached to happy memories and a gift from my beloved, I was wearing a cheap pair all the time? But isn’t this what I often do? I do it with perfume (keep the good stuff for special occasions), with clothes (keep the nice jeans for special wear and the icky ones for everyday), dishes, even notebooks and all manner of household goods.
Much of the clutter in my life comes from these types of duplicates: the nice version that is too nice to use often, and the everyday version. Of many things, I have double what I need.
The sad upshot of this habit is not only the clutter, but that the good things aren’t enjoyed. They may be preserved; maybe 60 years from now my pearl earrings would still be in pristine condition, since they only got a few wearings per year. Yet this struck me, recently, as absurd, and even as a denial of their whole purpose, which was as a loving gift meant to be worn and enjoyed. If, when I die, my children sort through my jewellery and discard ‘Mom’s old worn-out earrings’, surely that is a better fate for a gift than to become a burdensome heirloom, perfect because seldom worn.
I swapped my earrings and I now wear the real pearl ones constantly. (Although I don’t spray them with hairspray.) Every time I put them on, I feel loved and special.
I am also trying, not only to ‘use the nice things’ elsewhere in the house, but to be on guard against the impulse to duplicate my possessions just to protect the good things. If they really are good things, then used often is exactly what they should be.