Day 2. Perfectionism: Learn More About Yourself

Your dishes may be chipped. You may burn the meat. You don’t like your dining table. There’s always something about a dinner party that is not perfect. But you learn to take your eyes off of yourself and the things that are not perfect in your mind.

Grow up! Decide that you are going to deal with “image” in a new way.

If you struggle in this area, you may want to pick up a copy of my new book, The Reluctant Entertainer. I take an in-depth look at perfectionism and challenge you in a fresh way that will change your life as I write about the pitfalls of perfectionism, and then how to overcome it.

Back to dishes.

Think about your dishes.

Are you a perfectionist when it comes to dishes being chipped, perfectly matching, the latest “fad” or color, owning yet another set (when you already own 6 sets!). I actually think we can learn a lot about ourselves by just looking at our dishes.

For casual entertaining, I use my everyday Williams-Sonoma white dishes. Yes, they are chipped, partly from having 3 children plus a zillion of their friends using them, and I’ve had them for years. (For more formal entertaining I have another set of white wedding dishes.)

I’ve learned NOT to stress about what set of dishes I am using.

People are not coming to dinner to see my dishes.

Would you share about your dishes, flaws and all? Or the areas of perfectionism that you struggle with when it comes to entertaining?

For more 31 Days Series, visit these other amazing bloggers all month long:

Chatting at the Sky, Nesting Place, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam, My First Kitchen, Life With My 3 Boybarians, Remodeling This Life, The Inspired Room

50 comments on “Day 2. Perfectionism: Learn More About Yourself”

  1. My casual dining dishes are either faded and scratched, or Corelle. I’m embarrassed about both!

  2. I love dishes, but with the frequent moving there is only so much stuff I want to have (and have to unpack!). I have an every day set, a Christmas set (that we use as our every day during the holiday season), and a fine china set. I bought extra salad plates.dessert forks to go with my finer china so that when I host showers or coffees I have them on hand and only need to buy napkins. I have also found that I don’t need those things to entertain- paper plates have worked just fine!

  3. Instinctively, I am a dish hoarder. I love dishes of all kinds and I love mixing and matching them to make a beautiful tablescape. However, before I was married and able to accumulate massive amounts of dishes, a chef once told me that food looks best on plain white dishes and nobody should serve food on anything else. Quite a statement. I half listened to him. I definitely have my go-to white dishes but I threw in ONE set of blue and brown dishes for a little change now and then. I also have white wedding china with simple black accents. And truth be told, I usually enjoy my food more on my white dishes.

  4. Sandy,
    Thank you, this speaks to my heart.
    Currently, we have two sets of very sturdy restaurant dishes, purchased through a restaurant supplier.
    You’re right! it’s not about the dishes. I do/did suffer from perfectionism, BUT you and your blog have been gently pulling me out of that darkness for the last two years.
    Thank you!

  5. The everyday dishes are a set of stoneware picked up at Target (mix and match patterns) about twelve, maybe fifteen years ago, in blue and white. Six years ago my mom moved, and gave me her good china – which she bought at Boston Store over fifty years ago, waiting patiently until it went on deep discount, then asking her cousin to buy it with her employee discount. It’s white, with an all over pattern of violets. Just for fun, I’ve four plates and mugs for winter – cobalt blue with raised white snowflakes.

    Is there a typo in the last sentences? Shouldn’t it read “I’ve learned NOT to stress about what set of dishes I am using”?

  6. Here are my everyday dishes… ;).
    I’m sending you a link to read a post that I wrote about them, if you want.

    Warning: It’s a very winding -bunny-trail- sort of post, but as you’ll read I was washing my charming dishes when this post came to mind and I thought I’d write the post in the same “thought pattern” as I was thinking about it.

  7. Love it :: people are not coming to dinner to see your dishes!

    How funny, but true, I never say, “I wonder what dishes they will be using.”

    My heart longs to open our home more, because I have 4 girls that I want to practice hospitality. Growing up, our home was frequently filled with family. Now we live far from family, so our friends are our family. But, my sweet husband is not so much of a ‘gatherer’, and so I am trying to find ways to ‘gather’ without pushing him over the edge!

    Stopping by all the 31 days girls today on a Saturday! Enjoyed spending time with you today!

  8. Ahh, dishes. Well I’ve had the same Corelle Ivy dishes since we got married I think, if not it’s been a long time which shows you that they really are tough because I bang them around all the time and not a chip in them. Those get used daily.
    I also have some very nice snowman dishes for Christmas time that I love.
    I’m working on adding some Fiesta ware dishes as I only have 4 sets right now and there are already 5 of us in the family so I either need to get more or get rid of them because I don’t use them.
    Then there are the all white dishes that I use for dinner parties and such.
    And last but not least I have a beautiful rose china set for 8 that is packed in a box right now because I have no where to store them.
    A little obsessive? Yeah.
    Have a fabulous day my friend.

  9. My everyday dishes are ones that belonged to my grandmother. Not only are they a treasured keepsake, but they are simple, pretty, and my favorite color… cream. While a couple of them have broken and have chips in them, I love the fact that they belonged to her. I have fond memories of sitting around her table as a little girl using the plates that my family now uses. The neat thing is, a few years ago, my sister found a set of the exact dishes that a friend of hers was selling (they too, had belonged to her grandmother). My sister bought them and now we both are using the same patterned dishes.

    This post has made me remember a set of dishes we received as a wedding gift. I packed them away years ago when I received my grandmother’s dishes but now I think I am going to add them to the mix.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  10. Hi Sandy…I thought about your statement that we can actually learn about ourselves by looking at our dishes..then I thought about my dishes and you are right! The dishes we received from our wedding were the same ones that my sister had picked out for herself 5 years earlier. In thinking back (38 years ago!), I thought of how insecure I was at that stage in my life and of course, it was easy to model myself after my big sister as I had often done during my growing up years. As the years moved along, I have bought a set of white Pfaltzgraft everyday dishes and I have loved serving my family and friends with these dishes. Details such as colored or seasonal accent plates, patterned napkins and table decorations can all be creatively added… fun! I love my white plates, chips and all! And, they creatively reflect who I am now. Thanks Sandy!

  11. After 15 years I replaced my Dansk everyday dishes (they’d whittled down, the pattern is no longer produced, and were too expensive for our budget to replace on with ones from Bed, Bath & Beyond that kept getting major chips. Later, I felt incredibly blessed when I discovered a complete set of dishes while shopping at Goodwill.

    Packed in our china cabinet, we have the dishes I picked out for our wedding, but because they have to be hand-washed (they have a gold rim), and are so expensive to replace, I rarely get them out. With a silver rim he Goodwill set I found looks beautiful for everyday and looks better for our style of entertaining.

    Reading this post has inspired me to call my mom to thank her for the Christmas pieces she has bought for us – one major piece a year – that go with our “good” wedding china.

  12. I retired my everyday dishes I received at my wedding about 10 years ago. It was great timing because they became our children’s move out dishes. Each one of our three children used those dishes in their first apartment along with what was left of the old silverware. I bought a new set of dishes 10 years ago when we moved to a new home and I love them. Nothing fancy just a set of dishes with a blue/green pattern with half of the pattern containing a flower motif for me. I still like them! I have less bowls and none of the matching glasses that cost a fortune at the time. They have some scratches but no chips yet…


  13. I love this series! Thank you for doing it. Actually I am perfectly good with whatever dishes seem to fit the occasion – chipped or not. My problem is that I love all the preparations and planning what plates, glasses etc etc – it’s the food part that totally trips me up. I’m afraid no one will like what I prepare.

    One fall I invited 4 couples over for a “Autumn Soup Dinner”. I had been encouraged by the magazine articles that say ‘friends don’t come for the food, you can serve a simple soup dinner even…’ I had made salad and pumpkin muffins and had appetizers. But once we finished our soup one of the men of the group seriously blurted out, “Where’s the meat??” I was so embarrassed when his wife poked him and said ‘that’s it’. Apparently some people DO come for the food.

  14. I really am so excited about this series!!

    I come from a strange background and in our home, we didn’t host many events, unless they were just family get togethers. Now, being an adult, I am very nervous about my home, the serving pieces I have, etc. This strange background included being raised by a single dad and he just doesn’t see importance in a well-decorated, put together home so I don’t have some of the history that others have, in seeing their mothers make their childhood home perfect, cozy, and happy. That’s fine, I’ve been reading The Nester (she’s obviously made it when she’s not addressed by her name but now {capital T} The {capital N} Nester – and who doesn’t love her?) for several years and some of the other bloggers and I’m beginning to realize that decorating is very personal, that there isn’t a “right way” to hang pictures, plates, forks or any other miscellaneousness in our homes.

    Growing up, my dad was told that I was a perfectionist in a parent-teacher conference. He came home and told me how funny that was! My husband also found that so humorous, because I’m a mess, cluttery, want to start projects but don’t and the list goes on and on.

    We are participating in a monthly get together with friends – 3 other couples called Dinner for 8 and we share in the hosting. We change homes and hosts provide dinner and the night’s activities (games, discussion, etc.) I’m feeling pretty stretched here. The thing is… I really would like to be more hospitable and host more, have more people over, etc.

    And… I just won your book from the giveaway that Emily at Chatting at the Sky had going on. I am so excited about getting my hands on it! Looking forward to reading it and hoping that I can get over some of the perfectionism, leaving that behind and enjoy life and friendships and the joys that can come from sharing life with those friends. I had is on my wishlist for as long as it’s been out and I was planning on asking for it for Christmas. Now I don’t have to!

  15. I love this, my dishes are chipped, my house is always in some stage of disarray, but I’ve learned that I’ll never be perfect so if I’m waiting for that, life is going to pass me by. Keep encouraging, Sandy, you are doing a fabulous job!!!

  16. Thanks Sandy.
    I have not entertained for over a year, due to my elderly father with alzhiemers living with me. I have had some friends over for an impromtu meal.
    I also have had to turn down lovely invitations for fun dinners, because I cannot afford $31./hr for a caregiver to just go out and have fun.
    My life is boring. I love my Dad, I love my son, I love my dog. My life revolves around Dad’s happiness, his care, my pretty dog having lovely puppies.
    I have been freezing the garden harvest, and that’s my life.

    • Anna – I get your life. Not many understand unless they walk in your shoes. A day of awake time is a long day of hard work and much patience. The sleep hours you fill with “catch up” although nothing is ever caught up…. I haven’t entertained since my twins were born (16 1/2 years ago) and my 3rd (17 1/2 years ago)… all dx’d with autism and one dually diagnosed with profound mental retardation; my life revolves around keeping my boys safe, clean, fed, clothed and as happy as possible at all times. No one comes over nor do we get any invites. Caregivers are $32 an hour for one of my sons. I enjoy reading blogs with the 31 days to… but truth be told – I feel as though they are from earth and I am from a different planet. My plates? It doesn’t matter – they are mix and match – chipped – cracked and then some. I couldn’t ever throw them away… the $ going out is for them… Autism stole my life away and that of three individuals who are my heroes. I feel your pain Anna.

    • Suzanne,
      While I certainly do not “get your life” as I have never had to deal with what you have 24/7, I wanted you to know that your post touched me in a very special way. I believe that God gives special needs children to people with an incredible capacity for love and patience that most of us will never understand. I struggle with adequate words to communicate my desire to reach out and be your friend. Because I have typed and erased at least 6 times now, I will give you the best that I have. I prayed just now that God will cover you with His grace and that you will have peace and joy as you do what many of us never could. I have suffered the tragedy of losing a child to suicide and so I know that when there is nothing else left there is always God and His faithfulness. I pray your day is blessed in a special way today and that you will sense His presence.

    • Anna, hopefully you got my “personal”reply on Sat. It just seems more intimate to email you back that way. Love you, girl!

  17. My “good” casual dishes are Lenox Butler’s Pantry and 50% of them are chipped…my “cheap” casual dishes are the Canopy line from Wal-mart and they look just like the white ones from Pottery Barn and were only $34.96 per 16 piece set. I have dropped, clanged, banged, and everything else you can do to them and not chipped a one…needless to say, I’m in love…Oh, and my wedding china, is flawless because I never use it and if I do break down, I wash it all by hand…and just for the record, if we have more than 16 people, we eat on paper plates…my favorite!

  18. I’ll definitely be hanging out here for the month of October. I want to have parties, and sometimes I do, and the second I commit to hosting one I panic. I panic that I will say the wrong thing or forget something important. Then I worry that I’ve invited too many people and it’ll be crowded and boring. Then I start wondering if anyone will come. I hate the marathon cleaning I must do for three days or so before the event for fear of people seeing a mess. I have no idea why I stress myself out this way. I do not have this problem having just a couple of friends over. Anyway, bookmarking you now and hoping to learn some things. We are going to have a little Halloween party sometime near the end of the month!

  19. This is so fun! When having people over my casual dishes are paper plates :) and if I want to go all out I put out my corelle….And we have well water that has slightly discolored my corelle dishes. I LOVE LOVE your blog and am putting your book on my Christmas list. I have struggled with the imperfections of my house for years and it has crippled my ability to host well or at all. Thank you for being so transparent!

  20. My dishes are Fred Meyer cafeware (restaurant type) and since I only owned enough for 4 I bought plain glass plates at BB & B to make a service for 8.

  21. I recently replaced the everyday white dishes I had for 13 years (Crate and Barrel – bought for my first real apartment in 1996!) with new white dishes from Waterford. Foolishly, I chose bone china for my everyday dishes. And I hate chips, just hate them! Honestly, I am a little skittish about entertaining because I’m worried about the dishes! Stupid perfectionism, I know. But I have your book and am reading through it, trying to implement a few things at a time.

    This month, I am having not one but two parties at my house! Truly all because of what I’ve read on your blog and others like them (Melissa’s and Nester’s, especially!)

    I think I’m going to write a book on how blogging has changed my life!

  22. I’m enjoying all of your posts and ideas. I love to have friends in…in fact, we both enjoy company. Plus, I LOVE dishes. I have an idea I’m working on right now…I am gathering antique platters…I buy them at estate sales, antique shops, etc. I have to really like it and it can’t be more than 8-10 dollars. I’m working my way to 16….I’m at 12 right now…the grandsons like having a platter to fill and with guests it’s a conversation starter. You can set a beautiful table with varied platters instead of plates.

  23. Our everyday dishes are Pfaltzgraft’s Yorktown pattern. It was very popular in the 70’s and they are in great shape. We have service for 16 and only 1 plate has a very minor chip in it. Our good china belonged to my late MIL and she didn’t use it anymore and gave it to us. It’s white with a Grecian key border in silver. We have 3 other sets of dishes which I decided to donate and will be packing tomorrow. We are scaling down on a lot of material things and find it very freeing. Our company is a mixture of old and new friends with family thrown in and I’ve found that if I’m comfortable while entertaining, they are too!

  24. My dining set is actually three or four sets all mixed together. I love it. And I think when I get low I’m going to go second hand shopping for new bits. I don’t have a formal set.

  25. Im on my way RIGHT NOW over to get your book! I am so thrilled to have stumbled upon your site, I need to glean from your many words of wisdom!

  26. I have only one set of dishes… a plain white pfaltzgraff pattern, a few pieces were from my wedding, the rest added to by surplus store and outlet store markdowns that were in my pattern (and a few Corelle white bowls after the kids broke my other ones!) I own three large and 3 small china plates and a matching tea pot my mother gave me as gifts… she gives me a couple pieces at a time. My kids like to get those out for special meals with just the 5 of us. (The two youngest have to eat off the dessert plates! LOL)

  27. That’s funny, because I’ve never really thought about my chipped plates! :) I have one set of dishes that I LOVE but having three kids and an ancient dishwasher they’ve become chipped to pieces. I never really think about when I set them out even when we have people over.

    If I have people who come over and then judge me due to my chipped plates, then I don’t need them over to begin with! :)

  28. I have the most beautiful dishes but they are packed away in boxes. You see, we are living in a temporary home and there’s not much space. So I have my white dishes that are similar to yours that we are using everyday now. And do you know? I’ve almost forgotten about all the dishes packed away…

  29. All the women in my family used their good china, crystal, and silver everyday. Therefore, I have always loved a beautiful table and collecting dishes. So I have collected dishes for years and now have over ten sets and many that set 24 guests. Everyone has their different ideas of fun and I really like having them. In addition, I use them so that my daughters will hopefully keep some of the sets and use them with fond memories of growing up. Hey, we all have out hopes! LOL! I can’t wait to get your book!

  30. In the past I’ve compared my “serving” dishes to other people’s when I go to their houses, but I’ve learned to enjoy what I have (I only have one set of dishes at the moment).

  31. I am a recovering perfectionist of sorts. THe more important thing is people not the stuff!!
    Getting together and making a memory is so much more of whta life should be about. I am loving this series :)

  32. I have my chipped, blue and white, pfaltzgraph dishes in my china cabinet and I love them! I did by some clear glass plates for holiday dinner table accessorizing, but for everything else, it’s blue and white, with chips!

  33. Suzanne,
    While I certainly do not “get your life” as I have never had to deal with what you have 24/7, I wanted you to know that your post touched me in a very special way. I believe that God gives special needs children to people with an incredible capacity for love and patience that most of us will never understand. I struggle with adequate words to communicate my desire to reach out and be your friend. Because I have typed and erased at least 6 times now, I will give you the best that I have. I prayed just now that God will cover you with His grace and that you will have peace and joy as you do what many of us never could. I have suffered the tragedy of losing a child to suicide and so I know that when there is nothing else left there is always God and His faithfulness. I pray your day is blessed in a special way today and that you will sense His presence.

  34. I have a beautiful set of dishes from Potterybarn that are so nice that I’m afraid to use them. LOL. We’ve had them 4 yrs and never used them once. Sad, I know. They are a plain white beach theme and we always thought they’d be great for the beach house we want to buy down the road. Everytime I see them in the cupboard I say that I will use them for the next dinner party at our house. I think I’m going to break them in one by one and start eating off them tonight for dinner. I’ll still baby them and wash them by hand but they are for more than decoration so this post made me realize how silly I’ve been. It’s kind of like buying candles that look and smell pretty but they never get used. Life is too short to keep practical, usable items as decoration only.

  35. I only have one set of dishes – casual, black that my hubby picked out when we registered five and half years ago at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It was one of our first major disagreements – not registering for fancy dishes. But at this point in life, while I would love to have beautiful dishes (and struggle with being jealous of brides who got them and so much more at their weddings!), I know I need to get over it and just enjoy where I am in life.

  36. First let me say, our current dishes are a mix of our wedding dishes (purchased 13 years ago) and I have never liked them – they were a compromise…but clearly they have not bothered me that much as I still have them…chips and all. They are slowly breaking and mismatched with some dishes my mom gave me – they coordinate at least. I do break our the china for nice occasions – that means even the kids birthdays. I am not tied to my dishes – they are meant to be used. I have a friend who recently told me “these look like the kind of dishes someone leaves at the potluck and no one claims.” Um, they are not that bad, but I am not trying to prove anything with my dishes.

    I am commenting backwards here Sandy…but this is a GREAT series!

  37. Company.. Ahha! Yep it’s non stop.. The children are grown with children of their own. It’s a constant flow of kids, adults & dogs. Over the years I have entertained often and enjoyed it. But in recent years it seems I don’t have the “What it Takes”. I strive for “Dinner at the Walton’s” and end up with the “Simpson’s”. People seem to love to come to our home, but I find it stressful and tiring. For example: The Plan! 6 guests, the table is dressed perfectly! Adorable dishes, linen napkins, and the candles lit..Guests arrive!..Before the night is over it’s, paper plates, (sticky fingers?) just grab a tea-towel, catch that dog, the candles are out, flowers moved, I’m now serving 22 all talking at once. And our home is full of laughter and love. Humm! The best laid plans!…Memories are made and no one cares if the rolls are burnt. Yes I am, Truly Blessed! But so tired… Let’s have dinner!!

  38. I’m just now wandering through your posts on reluctant entertaining – yes, that’s because I’m so reluctant and didn’t want to feel convicted. I find often that my perfectionism is more centered around me being concerned with having 4 children ages 10 and under – what they will do, what I will do with them, what families do I invite – ones with kids, ones without – what about the ones where their youngest is the age of my oldest – what do I have for the older kids to do so they don’t feel like they’re babysitting mine? How do us grown-ups enjoy the time while dealing with the disagreements that seem to inevitably happen between the kids? Would love it if you would address some of how you/others handle this aspect. Sometimes, as much as I hate it, I almost feel it would be easier to hire a babysitter to watch the kids somewhere else while my husband and I could spend time building relationships with others – but then that’s under false pretenses as well. Argh.

  39. I, too, have wedding china with a gold rim. Because I only use them a few times a year, I don’t feel that putting them through the dishwasher is going to hurt them at all. Almost twenty-five years later, they still look like new. Just don’t put them in the microwave!

  40. Pingback: Day 11. Stress-Free Entertaining: Forget it! We Have Kids! — Reluctant Entertainer

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  44. WOW…..As I read your post, I thought of my grandmother’s house, always bustling with people coming in and out……I can picture it exactly in my mind’s eye. I also laughed because it sounds like you have a great sense of humor, as she did (a wonderful Irish sense of humor). The real WOW came at the end, because her name was DELLA!!!!!
    Enjoy your family and friends, as she once said: you’re worth a million bucks to me!

  45. I have been married for twenty-five years and for twenty-five years we have eaten off of Pfaltzgraff Yorktowne. Many have been replaced, of course, since we do not eat off of broken dishes. (Our cat, however, has a glued-together saucer for her food.) Many of the pieces are chipped but I don’t pay much attention. When we have guests, I sometimes remember to look for unchipped pieces for their place settings, but usually not. My children are grown, but they and their friends have many happy memories that took place while eating off of this dinnerware pattern. I have a few tablecloth and napkin combinations to use with them (I do like to set a pretty table) but I am not much into change. (Or spending money on things I don’t need.)

  46. I know this is an old post, but I would really like to know how you store and keep track of ten sets of dishes. I like them a lot but have not allowed myself to have that many sets, but I can serve 16+ with each of my three sets. (My everyday, my china, and my mother’s china.) It doesn’t all fit in a china cabinet and so they aren’t used as much as I’d like. How do you store and organize that many?

    We all have to make choices. I could easily find 10 patterns, each very different, that I’d like to have. (In fact, I could actually name several right off the top of my head!) I do not want that much stuff, however. But please do not think I am judging you. As I said, we all have to make choices. Our home has thousands of books!

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