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    The Story of My Stuff

    01.14.2014 / ARCHIVES

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    Last week, during our entire-week-of-snow-days, I did what any snowbound, stir-crazy lady would do: I attempted to purge the entire house of excess in one fell swoop. It didn’t work out as planned, largely due to my own laziness and also in part due to minor protests from the other co-habitants of our home. As it stands, sentimental husbands and irrational toddlers are not fantastic purging partners. Who knew?

    Still, I made progress in my head, mentally taking stock of everything I would rid our home of were it my sole decision: DVDs and shoes and sporting goods for people do not “sport.” Folks, there is a wetsuit and surfboard in my garage, smack dab in the middle of a suburban Midwestern neighborhood with no ocean within a one million mile range. (To be fair, it was acquired in Los Angeles during a particularly heavy beach-visiting season, but still, it is time.)

    But the worst of it is this: the objects. As a stylist, I have justified the collecting of objects that serve approximately zero purpose: paperweights and decorative journals and patterned accessories, various ephemera that is grabbed from a shelf on a whim as I say to myself, “I could totally use this in a shoot someday.”

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    And I generally do. But then it sits there, collecting dust and eventually selling for 50 cents at my next garage sale. But before it makes it to the garage sale, it moves from room to room in random boxes, preparing space for more clutter and things and stuff that are not adding any shred of value to my life.

    I want the cycle to end. I want my home’s objects to reflect meaning and purpose and story. I want to look up and see souvenirs from the happiest moments of my life. I want to write from journals I unearthed in Barcelona, not Target. I want to sit on a footstool discovered in Sweden, not Ikea. I want to wrap myself in scarves I brought home from Ethiopia, not H&M.

    I want my home to be so edited that I’ll pick an item at random, and this item will have a story about someone or somewhere or something that shaped me: the typewriter my husband gifted me for Christmas, the book that changed my perspective on adoption, the (glorious) fur coat worn by my grandmother, mildly scented with her signature perfume.

    It’s possible. It will take a lot of purging, but more so a lot of will power, specifically when I’m navigating the aisles of Target or fighting the distracting clearance deals online.

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    I used to shop solely at vintage/thrift stores and wore a lot of hand-me-downs growing up, so it wasn’t rare for me to don items that told many, many stories. And I miss that. I miss that the stories of my clothing held tales of womens rights and gender roles and gosh, even entire industrial revolutions. I long for chairs that were collected from back alleys on sunny days. I miss balancing old mirrors on the shoulders of my husband as we made the trek home from another successful thrift run to furnish our humble, newlywed apartment.

    Somewhere along the way, I’ve become lazy. Shopping turned into a leisure activity, a quick fix for a bad day. The store became a getaway when I needed a breath of fresh air from the pressures of a crying baby or a pressing deadline or a tough conversation.

    I don’t want my happy place to be Target (no offense, Target – I love you/I hate you). I don’t want my home to boast souvenirs of a successful afternoon shopping in suburbia. I want less.

    I want more.

    Here’s to our homes containing souvenirs of lives well-lived. Not well-shopped.

    Image Credits: Studio Fludd

    p.s. Living with less.

    • oh.my.gawd. Yes to this.

    • Love this, all of it.

      • Thanks, Jessica – so happy I’m not the only one!

    • Good call. And thanks for sharing, it got some wheels turning!

    • this is so spot on, i love every word you spoke. i am entirely with you, and inspired by your words. thank you, thank you, thank you! xo

    • wow, i’ve been in much the same headspace this month. i was looking at christmas decorations this year and was saddened by how disposable so much of it is intended to be. i ended up making a few new things instead.

      i’ve also been letting go of other possessions. it hasn’t been easy. but so far i have yet to regret letting go of any of the things i no longer own (which is always the top fear for me when it possession-purging: needing it soon after i get rid of it).

      • Ahhh, I’m so with you re: the push to save in case we’ll need it. And I’m happy to hear I’m not alone in this headspace!

    • Jenn Mattison

      Love this. Totally agree.

    • Yes. Yes. Yep.

    • Love how you framed this. I wrote a similar piece yesterday about breaking up with Target…though it was about being addicted to cheap shiny objects. Your approach to objects that tell a story (and stories that last) bolsters my desire to have meaningful objects, instead of just “stuff.” I had to laugh though… when I’ve bought notebooks in Italy or France (or even Vancouver), I’ve had trouble using them, because they were so special!

      Thanks for writing this.

      • Ha, I TOTALLY agree. I have a notebook from Ireland that I cannot BEAR to write in. ;)

    • As I mentioned, I am very glad to have found you/your blog. Our heads are certainly in the same place. Come on over to http://www.mysoulfulhome.com if you need home editing. We are going room to room together until all we have left is what makes us authentic, happy and what we find useful. Here’s to living soulfully with less stuff!

    • Anonymous

      AMEN. My husband is like the anti-shopper and I think he has secretly trained me over the past 10 years!! Initially, against my will but now I am thankful. ;)

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