Stuff

There exists a contradiction of messages in our lives.  Advertisers pelt us with images of what we must have.  Self help tips tell us that we must purge our lives of the excess in our homes.  Simplify your surroundings, buy some happiness.  It is a first world problem for sure, but we live in the first world and it is a problem that we have.  Lucky us, and I mean that sincerely.

I have a lot of yarn.  Enough yarn to last me until, well, next year at least.  And while I don't have it categorized or inventoried in any way, I have a pretty good idea of what I have and when I got it.  That's because I frequently open my bins of yarn and just look at my collection.  I enjoy the rich colors, the soft squishiness, and the possibilities within each skein.  I love that I could run out of money tomorrow and still be able to knit beautiful things for a long time.

Today I was listening to yet another After the Jump podcast.  Grace Bonney interviewed Megan Auman, who is writing a book called "In Defense of Stuff," and keeps a blog "Stuff Does Matter."  She advocates that it's okay to be surrounded by stuff that you love and has meaning for you.  I myself have a love/hate relationship with stuff.  I'm not good at visualizing and putting objects together in a pleasing tableau, so I tend to clutter up horizontal spaces with things I appreciate.  Fortunately, I'm married to a man who excels at this.  He edits spaces and objects and makes me love the things we have even more.  Unfortunately, he is also skilled at organizing excess stuff out of sight, because "out of sight, out of mind."  It won't make him crazy if he doesn't have to look at it.  And while it's neatly stacked elsewhere, it's not being edited from our life, which occasionally has to happen.

Auman mentions a book by an anthropologist, Daniel Miller, called "Stuff."  While he was doing field research in Trinidad he noticed that while women there lived in what we would consider slums, they owned twenty pairs of shoes.  When delving further into this, he realized that this was a reflection of their cultural belief that you wear your soul, who you are, on the outside, that nothing remains hidden.  So, while in our culture privacy is highly valued, in Trinidad, such feelings are considered evil.  How fascinating and thought-provoking.

I have been laboring under the guilt of producing stuff and selling stuff, and I shouldn't.  What Auman said is that we should be discriminating about the stuff we bring into our lives, but we shouldn't go cold turkey about owning stuff.  There is no need to purge your home of things that have meaning for you, but it is wise to let go of things you no longer love or need because it might become something extra special to another person - a yard sale treasure or consignment score.  To surround ourselves deliberately with objects that have meaning or purpose, that allow us to savor time spent in the kitchen or at our desks or watching Netflix in the evenings, those objects should not make us feel guilty about ownership.  Instead, reflect with gratitude that you are able to own beautiful stuff, and then enjoy what you have.