Minimize – isn’t that the mantra of our day. We need to minimize the amount of “stuff” we have in our lives. We accumulate material things, filling our homes with things that are completely unnecessary…right? We are shamed for collecting, shamed for connecting to things.
I am in complete agreement that buying things you really don’t need can get out of hand, so I understand the argument for minimizing, cleaning out, detaching ourselves from material possessions and really focusing on what’s important in life, like the actual living and experiencing, but, I think there are some exceptions.
Some things I own actually bring me happiness. In all honesty, it’s hard for me to turn down a great flea market find or pass on a great family heirloom, and who would turn down a thoughtful gift, but most of the time it’s not the actual thing that brings me joy, it’s the reminder I get every time I look at it. I am reminded of the occasion, the giver, the history behind that certain something, and it actually warms my heart.
Before my grandmother passed in April of 2017, she gifted a few treasures to me; a red candy dish that was from my step-grandfather’s family, a rabbit statue from her garden, and a pair of old binoculars, to name a few. These things are taking up space in my house, sitting on shelves, collecting dust, serving no real purpose at all. But, I find purpose in them even if I don’t use them, because when I look at them I see my step-grandfather, I see my grandmother, I recall memories, and I am reminded of their love for me. Is that worth the clutter?
Some treasures I have actually do serve a purpose. Every time I look at my kitchen my grandmother is there, placing her arm around my shoulder, giving me a gentle nudge and telling me she approves and is in fact delighted that I repurposed the warm wood shutters that once hung in her cozy interior family room windows as my kitchen island back panel and as shelving.
The shutters, made from old tobacco barn boards collected from a barn in Western Massachusetts, lived a full life even before my grandmother used them as decoration in her home, but for me, vivid memories of her race through my head on a daily basis every time I look at them. I hear conversations shared in her cozy family room, I remember our warm embraces, and I recall moments of honesty and laugher. When my grandmother’s home was sold, no one wanted the shutters – no one but me. Necessary, unnecessary…who’s to say, but for me they serve a purpose in my life that goes far beyond the physical.
I’m not going to lie – sometimes I get sick of the “stuff” I’ve accumulated, and I want to be free of it all; that’s usually when I find myself unloading my car at the Salvation Army. Not going to lie again, when I get rid of some things I feel a strange sense of betrayal as well as a healthy dose of disgust; was it all just a waste of hard-earned cash?
Attachment to things is not ideal, but a healthy attachment to memories, well, who can blame anyone for that. I’d like to think that someday in the very distant future, when I am very old and very gray, I will have less because I will need less. Yet, somehow, I know that I might need at least a few things around me that bring me comfort; that’s called me knowing me.
In the end, I know I can’t take anything with me, but who could deny an old lady in the final season of her life, the comfort of her memories, whatever form they may come in. Right now, I am happily comforted by my clutter; comfortably reliving my memories in the company of a few dusty treasured things.