Don’t keep your nicest stuff for special occasions. Here’s why you should use it every day

Sort It: There’s little point or joy to be found in simply declaring something to be ‘good’

“It’s about celebrating the small rituals of daily life by using beautiful things we love,” says designer Helen James.

“It’s about celebrating the small rituals of daily life by using beautiful things we love,” says designer Helen James.

 

Living within the confines of our own four walls for the last 15 months has exposed the ridiculousness of the “good room”. What’s the point of a room that only gets used for special occasions? Declaring something as “good” and trying to preserve it denies us the pleasure of enjoying it. If ever there was a time to enjoy the good things in life, it’s right now, so let’s start putting all of our “good” stuff to good use.

Put the ‘good room’ to good use

Over the last 15 months, we have been forced to use every inch of our homes. Rooms that were for special occasions or out of bounds except for the occasional guest have found a purpose, in many cases unlocking untapped potential in our homes.

Before the pandemic, many people lived in homes where they felt they had run out of space – but there was unused space being wasted, the “good room” being the biggest offender. The “good” room is often the nicest room in the house with the best furniture and most luxurious finishes. However, infrequent use means that over time, it is destined to become more of a time capsule than a desirable space. Or, worse, a junk room packed with stuff.

But with a bit of reconfiguration and clearing out, people found they had all the space they needed without having to extend. 

Using these good rooms has not only revitalised homes but the occupants too. I met a neighbour who turned her good room into a work room for her daughter’s small business during the first lockdown. The business is now thriving. 

Show us your shed

Use your good things every day. 

And it’s not just our good rooms that should be put to good use. What about all our other good things such as crockery, glasses, cutlery and even clothes? There’s a lot of joy to be had from using these items every day. What’s the point of having a set of beautiful china that lives in the back of a cupboard only to end up in a charity shop?

This is precisely the ethos behind the Considered collection of homewares by Helen James for Dunnes Stores. “All of the items in the collection are meant to be used every day,” says James. “It’s about celebrating the small rituals of daily life by using beautiful things we love.” 

Our environment has a significant impact on our wellbeing, on how we feel, and how we interact with other people. If your environment is oppressive, or restrained, it can have a detrimental effect on your day-to-day life. So creating an environment that makes you happy is an investment in your home and yourself. 

“I believe there is real value in eating off a beautiful plate and sitting down to dinner at a table that’s beautifully set with a beautiful tablecloth,” says James. Creating an environment where you are surrounded by things that you love is really comforting. Using your good items turns otherwise mundane tasks into moments of joy. If something is good, use it and enjoy it, and if it’s not good, why do you have it?

Buy things you love

The other downside to having good things for occasional use is that we inevitably have not-so-good things for everyday use. This encourages an accumulation of stuff because we are doubling up on everything. 

Believe it or not, stuff causes stress – the stress that comes with wanting it, the stress of looking after it, and the stress of trying to store it.

“Buy things you love and spend money on things you are going to use every single day,” says James. Often buying inferior products is a false economy. It’s always better to go for the best quality you can afford. 

If we only bought what we loved, we would likely buy less, have less stuff and a happier home. Buying things you don’t care about as a stopgap solution is precisely how our homes become overloaded. If you buy well, things will last, so there is no need to put off investing in something you love.

 Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant; @optimisedesign

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