Restraint must enter

Such beautiful dishes at the Grand Bazaar in Is.tanbul! It was impossible to choose -- so I didn't!  May 2008

Such beautiful dishes at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul!
It was impossible to choose — so I didn’t.  May 2008

“An element of abstention, of restraint, must enter into all finer joys.”
Vida D. Scudder

I think one of the nicest things we can do for ourselves is learning to enjoy things without wanting to own them.  This is trickier with some things than with others, of course, and what appeals to the eyes may vary from person to person.  But I find that “shopping” for things I like but don’t need, and have absolutely no room for, is excellent training in appreciating what belongs to others.  When I know there is no way I will be buying something, that eliminates the decision making and frees me up to really see what I’m looking at, unencumbered by price or other practical considerations.

Museums can serve this purpose, but for sheer variety of colors, styles and bling, you can’t beat a good shop.  And many specialty shops are excellent places to develop the skill of just saying no to ownership.  Jewelry stores, furniture stores and very pricey clothing stores often fall into this category, giving us ideas and inspiration without costing a cent.

For me, looking at china is great practice in restrained shopping.  There are so many fabulous patterns, with new ones coming out all the time, and the entire spectrum of colors is represented.  Since I don’t have room for more china than I already have, there is no question of buying any of it, so it’s a perfect purchase-free joy to look at dishes to my heart’s content.

(It’s ironic that, as I write this, I am awaiting delivery of service for ten from the west coast, but that’s a topic for another post…)

What do you love to look at while shopping, with no intention of buying?  Start with something delightful that you find it easy to say “no” to, and then move into more difficult exercises in impulse denial.  It’s fun – and good for the soul AND the wallet!

One year ago today

Pleasure eternally new


  1. HarryS

    What an eye popper!

    What food for my soul!

    • Thanks Harry, the Grand Bazaar had so many beautiful things to see. I could have spent an entire day wandering around there. The great thing about being on vacation thousands of miles from home is that one can’t buy very much because of weight limits on luggage! 🙂

  2. Judy from Pennsylvania

    My husband and I are regularly entertained by going to do “looking” in some of the wonderfully stocked antique stores within an easy drive from our home. We stroll through the displays and let our eyes delight in seeing the fine workmanship and the patina of furniture that was made decades ago. We appreciate the pretty antique glassware and dishes and we smile when we see that a duplicate of one of our wedding presents is now on that shelf too. Could that many years have gone by already? Then we see toys from our childhood and for a brief moment we re-live the pleasure that they brought to young playtimes. Oh, and the books. The books stop us and beg to be looked through because every so often there’s a gem that has to be taken from the shelf and explored. (Mmm, the smell of old books is right up there with the smell of fresh crayons, new leather shoes and hot chocolate. Love the smell of old books.) After a couple of hours and a couple of stores we head back home again, contented with having seen interesting things that we’ve never seen before, and also things that are beloved touchstones to the past.

    All that enjoyable entertainment, all for free! If you’ve never explored Pennsylvania’s antique stores, you need to come and see some of them. The ones around Adamstown are especially rich with treasures, but there are good ones all through the state. Each one is its own little museum.

    • Thanks Judy, Jeff and I are definitely planning to get up to Pennsylvania as soon as we can. As I was reading your post, I was thinking exactly what you said at the end – that antique stores are like museums that have a lot more things packed into a small space, and we’re allowed to touch them and take in their scents instead of looking at them through a glass case. I too love to see toys or books I remember from childhood; it’s amazing how much is stored on our brain’s “hard drive” that we have totally forgotten about until we see an object that brings it all rushing back. I just love finding one of those old metal jack-in-the-box toys, and turning the handle to hear the plinky music.

      As much as I love digital media, I do think we are losing something of the multi-sensory experience and appeal of the objects they are replacing. Not just the smell of old books and the feel of their thinker, coarser pages, but also other components of increasingly obsolete media. I remember the smell of the powder paints we used to mix up in school for art; the smell of the chemicals in the photography darkroom, and the excitement of submerging a piece of photographic paper into the tray and watching the image magically appear. I remember learning to thread the film into the developing tank, which had to be done in utter darkness (not even a safety light could be used) and thus was done totally by touch, avoiding fingerprints. I came to know those old 35mm film rolls very well! I even sometimes miss the quiet scratches and pops in the “white space” between tracks on a phonograph record. And don’t get me started on old letters and postcards, and their postmarks and stamps! Thanks for giving me a mini-vacation to an antique mall, which brought back lots of other memories.

  3. raynard

    Julia, this reminds me of my time over in Turkey.( I wonder did they finally”get the hang of making a sandwich without gutting the inside of a roll “like a fish” I digress,Just came back from a class. Please not the “call me some time when you got no class joke lol” We are suppose to get “a dusting of snow today ( is that like putting powder on a donut?) working on my valentine’s cake( maybe heart shaped red velvet cake plan “A”) Does veal or lamb marinated in hawaiian marinade sound”yum yum? Time for “my “Smokey& The Bandit/Cannonball Run to NJ. Be blessed

    • Hi Raynard, I’m not much for veal, lamb, or Hawaiian marinade, but Jeff and Matt would be. Did you like Turkey? I was surprised how much I enjoyed it on a short visit. Our cruise stopped in Istanbul and Kusadasi (Ephesus) and we liked both places. The people were very friendly and welcoming, and the sights quite interesting. I’d like to go back and see the Asian side of Istanbul, especially since that would be my first time to set foot in Asia. Michael just posted a link to the Northwest Garden Show in Seattle, and it looks like they have the same theme as PHL. So you can get a sneak preview at that link. I hope your dusting of snow is the vanishing kind!

  4. Carolyn

    I love to check out the tea pots and, I say, no more room . I probably could find a place of one more. I haven’t bought a new one in a long time. I just love tea pots and also tea cups. How is Jeff, I need an up date. I am doing okay but my vision is terrible right now. I have to wait one month before I see the other doctor, who will be doing the other surgery. I haven’t been doing well with all of this, but I will try to keep the faith. You all take care and love to all.

    • Hi Carolyn, I am so sorry to hear about your vision problems. I was thinking by now the one eye would be better. I know it must be terribly frustrating not to be able to see well after enduring the surgery. Did they say when it should be getting better?

      Jeff is doing OK. He starts back on chemo Tuesday, the same Folfiri regimen as before except they are substituting cetuximab for the Avastin. The re-staging scans showed no cancer in the liver or colon, but worse in the lungs; three new tumors. So it’s good they are starting back. Still no work on when Matt’s surgery will be; his cardiologist told me Thursday that they surgeon still needs to review the case more. We’ll keep you posted and hope you will do the same for us. Love and prayers for you and Terry.

      • Carolyn

        Thanks for the update on Jeff. Sorry to hear about the lungs, hope the chemo will help and hope that his side effects will not be bad. My vision will not get better until they do the second surgery on the eye.Not sure when that will be. My next appointment to check the eye is not until March 3rd. The second surgery will be done by another doctor. I will keep you posted as you will on Jeff. Tell Matt I am thinking about him and he is also in my prayers. Let me know when the date is for him. Love to all.

        • Hi Carolyn, I’m so sorry to hear your vision won’t be getting better for awhile; that must be so frustrating. I appreciate your visiting with us here despite your eye problems. We will keep you in prayers as I know you will be for us. Love to you and Terry!

  5. Can you believe it…I passed up a shoe sale today!!~/… i don’t need another pair but would find room for one pair!
    I can also admire china or other colorful dishes with out wanting to buy them.
    But red shoes is another story…I have to work on that temptation!
    I enjoy browsing in antique shops with out buying.

    • Yes, antique stores are the ultimate fun place to browse without buying. Not surprisingly, the older I get, the better I like them! 🙂 At least with red shoes you have a pre-limited selection. If you were equally fond of black shoes, you’d be in trouble…

  6. Oh shoot!…didn’t mean to post the above post…just correcting couple of words, hit the wrong key…
    I hope Jeff responses well to the chemo with out the side affects of last time. And for Matt’s heart surgery. Blessings to you and family.

    • I corrected them for you (I think) – see if it meets your approval – I can always change or delete it, if not! Thanks so much for your kind wishes and also for the sweet card you sent!

  7. Sheila

    Good Sunday morning, Julia. It is Sunday, isn’t it? 🙂 Well, what a difference ten days has made. Now we go back to Garden City with so many thoughts, so many memories and a joyful heart for the man that was! The church was filled with so many that wanted to pay their respects and we heard repeatedly how our dad changed lives, befriended so many, gave opportunities, gifted all in one way or another.
    Dr. Robert L. Vann
    March 17, 1922 – February 1, 2014

    I have missed being here. Your prayers, and those of others, certainly were felt.
    Thinking of y’all, Sheila

    • Hi Sheila, you and your family have been on my mind so often lately. I appreciated reading Dr. Vann’s Memorial page, as well as the obituary in the Winston-Salem paper. I am so happy to know that you had a lovely memorial service for him. Thanks for letting us know him through your sharing of his life here. We have missed you here too! We’ll keep you in prayers as you adjust to this new chapter of your lives.

  8. That will be a great thing to learn – “to enjoy things without wanting to own them.” I love looking at the types of dresses I would not like to wear, the ornaments and the other accessories I never like to use. There is great joy in being a mere beholder.

    • So true! I do like looking at evening gowns I would have absolutely no need for. It’s a bit like playing with Barbie dolls. I remember going shopping with Amy and her daughter, looking for a prom dress. I had way more fun watching Kat try on dresses than it would have been to try them on myself. Perhaps it has to do with my age, but when I’m out shopping, the most important question that comes to mind (aside from price) is: how much maintenance or storage space will this require? Put to that test, most things are more fun to a beholder than to an owner!

  9. Mmmmmmm, still thinking about what I can just window shop for.
    Thats a great photo too Julia, it’s just a riot of colour. Turkey seems so exotic but now I’m not sure I’d feel safe traveling there.
    Oh I know, I can window shop thru a book store for hours. I usually start at the home decor books, then the section where staff reviews and recommends a book, then over to the greeting cards and wrap and finally the magazines. I can easily resist the hard cover books because enjoy pocket books for their portability and savings. I probably will end up with a magazine or coffee but that’s usually after a couple of hours….free entertainment 😀

    • Yes, bookstores are the ultimate fun place to shop. Then I can go to the library where I can take home anything I want for free (as long as I bring it back). For portability you can’t beat a Kindle Paperwhite (you can get hundreds and hundreds of books on them and lots of them are free or next to nothing if you catch them on promotions) but for home libraries I still love hardcovers with colorful dust jackets. I never thought I’d want to use an e-reader but I love being able to highlight and save portions of the text, search for words or characters, look up words I don’t know with just a touch, report annoying typos so they can be corrected, and adjust the type size and screen brightness for different circumstances. There are definite advantages to e books. But nothing can replace the traditional print versions in my heart, and I hope there will always be bookstores and libraries to browse through.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

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