On Loving Things

Thanks Tara! It’s Another We Scout Wednesday great topic.

Flowers at Haddam Neck Fair 2010I have talked often here about how we should all de-stuff ourselves. Get rid of everything and just stop the consumption train.

It’s no secret how I feel about that. I am the anti-packrat. At my house, if you leave your sh*t on the counter too long, I will bin it.

This is genetic and has to do with a odd chromosomal defect in my sentimentality gene, passed down from my mom’s side of the family.

It’s not a universal defect. It might even be often canceled out by an overwhelming melancholy, inherited from my dad’s side of the family. So that when I pause to examine plastic detritus of modern life, I always find I am incurably sentimental about the things I love.

I loved my white stuffed seal named Wendell from Sea World that must have gotten stolen from the back of the truck when I was moving out of college. I loved the leather handmade purse I bought at the Mountain Fair in Carbondale, CO. I loved MY bed in my bright blue eastern bedroom in my house on Wyoming in Kansas City. And  my 1993 5-speed Mazda Protege that I paid for myself that sat in my driveway there.

I loved, most of all, the porch swing where I could survey my corner of the world. All forts should be held down whilst swaying and drinking a beer.

We Are What We Keep

It isn’t exactly the things themselves I love, I suppose. It’s the relationship I have with them. A bed. A car. A house. Items of my own that symbolize what I made of myself. A purse that carried a part of my identity: a conviction for local and handmade– before I realized I even felt it that deeply. A stuffed animal that traveled miles with me, across states of the country and of being– from childhood, to adulthood.

The things I love seem to carry snapshots of me with them, the work and the effort I made in those parts of life. In someways, they pulse with my life. I think that is why I feel compelled to find souvenirs. I love to meander through gift shops and fairs when I travel, to located the one small thing to bring home that might transport me again, not just to Amsterdam or Egypt, but to who I was in that slice of time.

Taking photos often appeases my desire to consume things– I can snap up the essence of a place or a thing without having to cart it home and dust it. When I forget what that particular image meant, now the digital media lets me delete it. And the happy side effect is that as I get better at taking photos, the images themselves sometimes become a thing I love.

Like the photo posted here. We were at the Haddam Neck Fair on Labor Day when I snapped this photo using Hipstamatic. It captured a moment in time at the fair, but also an image of things loved— the efforts those who worked hard to display their flowers at the agricultural fair.

A thing we love is just stuff, but it is also the sum of all the meaning we give it. Which means sometimes it’s easy to trash the dying flower on the counter. And other times it means holding on for a bit . Or even longer.

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  12 comments for “On Loving Things

  1. September 15, 2010 at 5:15 am

    Methinks all of today’s contributions will be better than mine. Like this one. Thanks, Elizabeth!

  2. Lindsey
    September 15, 2010 at 6:24 am

    Found you via AONC. Great post! 🙂

    • September 15, 2010 at 10:28 am

      @Lindsey I have no idea what AONC is but YEH! And thanks!

  3. Lisa Hill
    September 15, 2010 at 6:29 am

    So true. I don’t love my stuff as much as I love what my stuff reminds me of. With my horrible memory each saved thing is a touchstone to who I was or who I was with. I also save songs. Some songs evoke a friend so clearly it’s like being in the room with them.

  4. September 15, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Wow! 11 tweets is my record so far! Thanks everybody. Lisa, I hadn’t even thought of songs… Mix tapes are the epitome of that. I didn’t mention that here, but I was busted to pieces when someone stole the mix tapes made for me from an old lover of mine. So sad.

  5. September 15, 2010 at 9:05 am

    I have a bad habit of collecting things and then a couple of times a year I purge the entire house. I think I really have to look at what I want to keep and how much money I am wasting each year. Seriously….if I could only buy handmade I would from now on 🙂

    • September 15, 2010 at 9:49 am

      @megs, I find that I like to shop, occasionally, for emotional purposes. You know that feeling– wandering around just to BUY something. It does have a satisfactory feeling afterwards. I try to do it at tag sales and at thrift stores, but that doesn’t always happen. Thus the need for a “locally handmade” section of Target.

  6. September 15, 2010 at 9:28 am

    LOVE love this post, Elizabeth. You captured so many of my feelings about this in a wonderful way.

    A difference between us is that I *do* have the collector gene – but as you know, I fight it tooth and nail.

    • September 15, 2010 at 9:50 am

      I LOVE your toothpaste collection! Do you use them, I hope??

  7. September 15, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Great post! I especially love the idea that “we are what we keep” (that actually makes me want to throw away a bunch of stuff! hahahaha).

    This post also reminded me of some of the terrible fires me had here in Santa Barbara a while back. Some of our friends lost everything – we were worried we might lose everything. I always thought fire insurance covered all that, but it’s all the stuff with meaning – with memories, made with love – the stuff with special significance – that makes your heart ache when you lose it, and is also so much a part of our identities.

    I am going to keep a closer eye on what I am keeping around, and what I can let go of.

    Thanks for posting this!
    Kristen

  8. Pingback: The Things We Cherish
  9. December 10, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Oh, thank you for this…i missed it in September, but now, as we are getting thick into the season of “things” and i’ve been cranking out buckets and buckets of more “things” for the countless craft shows i committed to and, though these thoughts of over accumulation are never far from my mind my head has been reeling with them lately.
    This is that breath of fresh air that i needed, just as i’m ready to clean up all the paper scraps and errant snippets of thread (which are hybridizing with the dog hair and dustbunnies) and put my house back together. This will be on my mind as I stand back for a little hiatus, reexamine how I will pick it up again and keep in mind what I love…not only in terms of keeping, but in terms of making as well.

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