We’ve all been told to rid ourselves from the masses of stuff that clutter our lives. If it doesn’t bring you joy, blah, blah, blah… I’ve done the seasonal disorder thing and have given away bags of clothing I haven’t worn in a year, or items that just make me look fat. I’ve cleaned out the storage room and done the spring cleaning routine to divest of the kids’ old art projects, tacky gifts from house guests and an abundance of mismatched towels, beach and otherwise.
But the rest of the stuff – I like. I find myself at a particular point in my life where stuff is around, it’s appreciated and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. I have spent years accumulating trinkets, clothing, furniture, jewelry and artwork and masses of time adjusting, curating, and admiring my objects. Now is the time to appreciate it, revel in it and most importantly, not feel guilty about it.
I’m feeling good about the careful acquisitions I’ve made over time and how the sum total effect expresses my inner clutter. I won’t go so far to say that everything has its meaning or place, but the net effect is an artful array of color and texture that tells stories of travels and ideas, of friends and experiences I’ve witnessed and promulgated.
If I have to do the ‘joy’ test for every object, there will certainly be some items that fail, and there are a few areas where I have a severe lack of self-control. The endless stream of black pants and black sweaters are a testament to overindulgence, though they each convey a separate mood and style. Am I feeling swingy and free today or more sleek and sophisticated? It all really has to do with my hair, but that’s another story.
Plants are another obsession and since they are living things, it’s hard for me to allow one to pass easily out of my life, even ones I don’t like. I still have plants my father gave me when I moved out of state, about thirty-five years ago.
My greatest and best collection though is by far is our masks. Now totaling fifty and counting, they come from all corners of the world, bringing character and personality into our home, waking up the walls in conversation. They each have a story and a tradition, and I’ve gotten better at labeling the origin of each on the back as I am hanging them. You’d be surprised how much a mask from southeast Asia resembles one from South America or Africa. We have a really crazy one with orange hair and beans for teeth that you’d never guess was from Lithuania.
These items, objects, precious objects, still bring me joy. They round out our home and reflect a worldly, bohemian side. Though some may call their possessions emotional dead weight, I see them as buoyant cushions, providing a sense of place and home. If any were associated with less than joyful feelings, I would rid myself of them immediately. There are only benefits of keeping pleasing items that recall travel and vacations, gifts and people from our past. There is a poignant boost in maintaining the furniture from my husband’s grandmother, the chandelier from a travel buddy, the gum ball machine, now filled with the sea shells from many sandy shores, a gift from my best friend in high school for my 18th birthday. These are irreplaceable objects, and disposing of them would be like ripping a little piece of my heart out and hoping it doesn’t bleed.
It’s true, there is too much of it. But that may be cost of growing old.
What can I liquidate? My papers? No. My collection of trinkets? Doubtful. Some old clothes? Perhaps.
While I relish my belongings and am addicted to beautiful things, I do see the wisdom in relieving some of the burden that comes with all this stuff. It would clear my head some days, it would make cleaning easier for sure and simplify storage issues. But in this moment, this precious moment in time when the scales are balanced and room abounds, I’ll hold on to my mementos, my hundreds of postcards from around the world, my jewelry and some seldom worn but much adored shoes and the like, for now, for this moment, or at least until our next recycling day.