I learned some whacky lessons from my great aunt Becky, but my favorite is how to live life with fun and decadence. In her younger years, she lived through the depression. But those tough years never stopped her. Instead, she worked hard, became a nurse, and in spite of the financial hardships, still learned to live life filled with joy.
Aunt Becky had one problem. She was addicted to the ‘finer’ things in life. Between her and Uncle David, they managed to work hard, save money, invest wisely, and spend those earnings on living life with fun and decadence.
It wasn’t until Aunt Becky’s death that I had any clue as to her definition of ‘finer things’. Although she didn’t have many, she did have sterling silver pieces, etched crystal, and bought sturdy, Duncan Fife furniture.
Aunt Becky didn’t just collect these items. She USED them. Breakfast may have been just a simple poached egg and a piece of toast, but she plated it on her finest china. When it was available and affordable, Aunt Becky would make a fruit salad and serve it in a crystal glass – then eat it with a silver spoon.
Was she spoiled? Not at all. This personal verion of ‘spoiling’ was a private matter. She didn’t expect others to cater to her. Instead, she worked hard for what she had. In life, she was a generous and genuine woman who knew not only the art of self-care, but sincerely appreciated how hard people had to work to obtain anything.
Fun and Decadence on a Shoestring
One story that has been handed down is a perfect example of Aunt Becky’s appreciation for hard work. For her birthday one year, her housekeeper indulged Aunt Becky with a brand-new bar of soap every day for a week and washed and ironed her sheets for each of those days.
First, you have to consider that in the 40s, a nursing salary was an average of $2,100 annually, which roughly breaks down to $1.00 per hour. Housekeepers weren’t paid much, either. At best, they may have made the minimum wage of 25-cent per hour. That comes out to be $2.00 per day.
Every dime they made was precious resources for their families, so having a housekeeper in the first place was expensive and having one who was so thoughtful and generous was a double blessing for Aunt Becky.
Generosity? Yes. Her housekeeper was generous with both her time and money. When was the last time you washed, lined dried, and ironed your sheets? There is a considerable amount of time to do this – believe me, I have done it. And then to have all the other household responsibilities on top of that? Yes. This woman did her share when it came to spoiling Aunt Becky.
Aunt Becky’s response? ‘She could have purchased me a Paul Revere sterling silver tea service for eight – and it wouldn’t have been remotely as precious to me or near as much fun as a new bar of soap and ironed sheets!’
How to Be an Aunt Becky
You may believe you need copious amounts of money to live life with fun and decadence. In truth, you only need a bit of creative spirit.
Elevate Your Appreciation Level
Take a look around you. Notice everything you have. Do you see it as mismatched, shabby, and in need of a good cleaning? Let me tell you what you missed.
You HAVE things. You have a home and furniture to sit on. There is food in your pantry, plates to eat off of, and clothes to wear. In 2020, there were over 500,000 homeless people, and 37.2 million people living in poverty. The very idea that you are surrounded by walls, a floor, and furniture is a good reason to feel decadent.
Instead of seeing the negative side of your material possessions, see them in a new light. Be grateful for what you do have, instead of wishing for what you don’t.
Use your Good China
Nothing says elegance and decadence like eating from delicate china dishes. This simple act can shift the atmosphere of the table from ordinary to a celebration.
It doesn’t have to be Flora Danica from Royal Copenhagen. It can be your wedding china, great-grandmother’s formal dinnerware, or a flea market find that you fell in love with.
You also don’t have to reserve it for holidays and special occasions. There is nothing better to celebrate than your family. Make them feel special and set the dinner table with your good china this weekend.
Having quiet time and an opportunity to spend time with a friend is often a luxury in itself. Life has become so busy that whittling out even a half hour can be difficult.
If it is quiet and alone time you need, make it a point to schedule at least a half hour each week and schedule a personal Afternoon Tea. When you do, don’t just toss a few cookies on a napkin and grab a plastic cup.
Instead, use a china plate and teacup, or a crystal goblet. It may mean doing a bit of extra laundry, but go ahead and use a linen napkin, as well.
If you don’t have these items, then there is an easy solution. I recently stopped into a few flea markets. Many of the booths had boxes and boxes of silver plate serving pieces. The shelves were filled with some beautiful china pieces.
Granted, some were expensive. But others were a few dollars, and although not a ‘named’ piece, they were equally beautiful. The owner of one flea market mentioned that silver plate and china pieces were no longer popular, and therefore harder to sell. Booth owners are having to cut the prices in order to move inventory.
You don’t have to buy a place setting for twelve. Just consider one (or two) special cups, a simple silver serving tray, and maybe a stemmed crystal goblet or two. Use them for your afternoon tea. You can also buy mismatched sets of china and crystal stemware and anchor it with a small silver serving piece.
Line the serving piece with a paper doily and use good linen napkins. The next time you have a friend over for coffee, treat them to a bit of fun and decadence!
Do Something You’ve Always Wanted to Do – But Had Excuses Why You Couldn’t
There are days we dream of something we want, places we want to go, or things we want to see or do. Accomplishing it would be the epitome of how we live life with fun and decadent. But a split second after our eyes light up, our smiles disappear because we don’t have time, can’t afford it, it isn’t a necessity, or give ourselves at least 10 more reasons why not.
Yes. There are things that would truly be fun and decadent yet aren’t even close to being practical. I confess to having a secret dream of having a small yacht to put in the pond. I mean, wouldn’t that be the coolest guest house? Personally, I think Uncles Hub and Garth in Secondhand Lions had the right idea.
However, not only can I not afford it, but a) the pond isn’t large enough to hold it, b) we would have to tear down fences and cut trees to get it to the pond, and c) I have no desire to add another house to clean to my list.
A great way to live life with fun and decadence? Yes. Practical and reasonable? Not so much. There does have to be a balance, but within reason there are ways to stretch your limits and spend a little extra to live life with fun and decadence.
There’s a Piggy Bank for That
Some things, such as a cruise, means learning how to save your money. Aunt Dot taught me years ago to save my dimes. I kept a separate piggy bank, and each time I got one back in change, I dropped it through the slot.
Fast forward many years – saving all our change has become an ingrained habit for us. This practice has not only allowed us to purchase something a bit more expensive than we felt we could normally afford, but it has also saved our bacon and paid our bills.
Saving change is a great way to live life with fun and decadence. But before you go spending the house note, be sure your finances are in order first. Living with the guilt and repercussions later aren’t worth a few moments of enjoyment. And if you will allow me a moment of a paraphrased cliché, “Been there, done that, and had to return the tee shirt.”
Spending a few dollars here on a silver tray or pulling out the china and setting the table there is one thing. Overspending and blowing the budget is a completely different thing. And the tee shirt isn’t worth it, either.
Live Life with Fun and Decadence
There are many ways you can live life with fun and decadence, and yet not break the bank in the process. Some things are frugal and as simple as using the good china. If you are having a date night, dress up and wear Grandma’s pearls. Add flowers in a vase to dinner – or even to your afternoon tea setting.
If you are a crafter, save your money and buy that yarn, loom, or other craft item you have always wanted to use, or a ‘beginner’s kit for a craft you want to learn. And if you love going the extra mile for family night, scrap enough plyboard and paint to create a life-size version of your favorite board game. Use family members and friends as the playing pieces.
The trick to knowing how to live life with fun and decadence is first knowing what that means to you, and secondly putting it into practice. It doesn’t have to be done every day. But just adding it at least once a month may just lift your spirits to new heights.
Even if it doesn’t mean parking a yacht in your back yard. I don’t think even Aunt Becky would have been that whacky…