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Friday, January 6, 2012

The Lure of Perfection and Making Do: My Mother's Scarves

Like many other bloggers, I sometimes have the urge to buy one perfect item--and be done with it. I first had a glimpse of this orientation many years ago, when I dined with a person who is somewhat famous: I'm sure she doesn't remember me and, in fact, took no notice of me at the dinner. All I recall, other than her indifference, was her pronouncement that for the past few years, she had bought a single Armani suit each year. And that was all. So impressive! Since she was pregnant when I met her, and wearing borrowed maternity clothing, I couldn't gauge the success of her choice.

But whenever I think this is the way to go, something happens to make me reconsider.

We recently took a family trip to Florida. We rendezvoused with Miss Em's friend Mr C in Pensacola, where he left his car and joined us for the journey. Miss Em put some of her stuff in the trunk of the car, so Mr C could bring it to school for her in January. A few days later, Mr C got a phone call: someone had thrown a rock through the window of his car! My first thought (after condolences to the car owner, of course): oh no! All of Miss Em's expensive new items are in her expensive new backpack!

As it happens, the vandal just wanted to make a mess and everything was safe in the trunk. And I also remembered that homeowner's insurance would cover any stolen items anyway.

Still, owning expensive items can be stressful. I loved the fact that if my young children spilled grape juice on their thrifted outfits, I could remain nonchalant about the whole thing. I know if I did buy that Hermes scarf (about to go up in price, by the way) I would worry about losing it, spilling something on it, etc etc.

My mother gave Miss Em and me a few pieces of jewelry that belonged to my grandmother and great-aunt. I asked my mother if she had any scarves she wanted to get rid of. As it happened, she had a whole pile of lovelies from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She bought them many years ago when she attended some lectures there. I don't think she's worn the scarves for 20 years. She was happy to give some to me. She may, in fact, have gotten the scarves at a discount, since my father's cousin does research at the museum.

So, my mother decluttered. Miss Em and I got some pretty scarves: ecological and economical at the same time.

And I can still save up for the perfect one.

Do you make do or go for perfection?


Anonymous said...

How wonderful to come into a stash of these scarves! I'd love to see a photo of one or two of them. And it is a relief about Miss Em's belongings.

Shelley said...

A collection of pretty scarves sounds great! I've just discovered that half of mine have been relegated to the attic by *someone* else in this house... Will make do with the ones on hand until I have another reason to go up in the freezing loft.

You've put your finger on some of the things that make me limit how much I'm prepared to spend for an item. Also, I still make clothing purchase mistakes and return policies are getting ever more restrictive. Sometimes when one item is so perfect, all else that one owns looks shabby or insufficient in comparison. It feels somehow 'imbalanced' to have one very expensive item when all others are not and I don't have the pocketbook to replace everything! I've been trying to gradually upgrade my clothes, mostly by discarding the worst, but also by being more selective about what I buy.

Also, I think of 'perfection' as being sort of like 'control' illusion more than reality.

Duchesse said...

Perfection is quite a high standard (and carries its own set of anxieties), but "making do" so lifeless and limp. There is room in between for *pleasing*. I am referring to a certain level of "good enough" that has not a whiff of settling. Example: I am pleased by my Garnet Hill sheets. They are not Pratesi but I don't need that level of luxury to be happy.

As for being worried by losing good things, take reasonable precautions and then stop worrying. Probably nothing will happen and, if it should, very few material objects are truly irreplaceable.

If you cannot enjoy your possessions, why have them?

Anonymous said...

Thinking that I'm "making do" makes me feel wounded in some way. I prefer to hit a certain level of comforting and call it good. I, too, fear owning truly expensive things for the same reasons you've mentioned. Apparently I have a dollar amount in my mind whether I realize it or not, and my heels dig in when an item gets close to that amount. I do this for clothing and for antiques, both of which I love. I'll spend money...but not after a certain amount. After that certain amount, I fear I'll break it, a cat will knock it over, a cat will tear holes in it, I'll snag it on my way out the door...etc. So I've had to find my comfort level, to be sure!

Frugal Scholar said...

@Terri--They ARE pretty and I am so glad to be putting them to use. Thanks for commenting. I've once again started reading your blog--I guess I drifted away. I had a very difficult semester last fall.

@Shelley--Scarves make other things look better for some reason. Don't worry--I don't think I'll ever bite the bullet and buy a super$$ one.

@Duchesse--That's just it--I DO worry and as a result prefer to keep to things that are not super-expensive or fragile.

@BG--Great point about comfort level! Thanks.