In Defense of Our Things: Let Go of Letting Go

“And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.”
-Donna Tarrt, The Goldfinch

An empty white room with a white couch and a glass end table. A single succulent on the windowsill. A bar cart with four glasses and two bottles of wine. We’ve all seen this apartment;  in magazines, Pinterest, Instagram, and homes that we walk around in awe. The ideal 21st century life.

My current desk in its natural state

We live in an age where power is defined by how little you show of how much you have. If you own two pairs of pants and one pair of shoes but travel every weekend and do yoga in your sparse apartment, you have reached the top of society. But there is a difference between materialistic thinking and preserving; a difference between spending money and saving objects.

Me, age two (I’m adorable)

I grew up surrounded by stuff. Papers, recyclables, stuffed animals and the like. It’s strange to see pictures when I was two, before we even had furniture in the freshly built house, and you can see the entire floor. As I grew and my family grew so did our accumulation of things.

We could have easily looked like a house from hoarders if not for some personal restraint on the part of my parents. With a combination of my dad’s tendency to save anything and everything that could somehow be useful in the future and my mother’s determination to remain neutral and good, I watched the piles grow. It didn’t help that I was a little artist and often raided the stacks of boxes and coffee cans for projects.  Each item I used was fuel for the argument to keep the rest.

Camera bought for me, used, from my dad (double the power)

There seemed to be two options for my future; I would either take after my father and save glass jam jars in a cabinet in my apartment or I would resent my cluttered upbringing and throw away practically all my possessions to be left with a capsule wardrobe and a single book. Neither came true, and instead I grew a healthy love of objects that is now being contested by greater society.

It kills me that I can’t fit all my books in my current apartment, but this is maybe 1/10th of the collection

At a young age I believed that all objects have feelings. I wasn’t just sad for Charlie Brown when everyone made fun of his tree, I was also sad for the tree. I would save things not only because I liked them but because I liked the people that gave them to me; the memories I associated with it. Books that someone read to me or once wrote it became my most treasured possessions. I once saved a mylar balloon for almost year.

One of my favorite objects (guitar) hanging with most of my shirts

And so this transferred onto all of my objects. Necklaces held the magic of the day they were purchased, pens, quarters, shoes, and dresses all had a memory carefully attached. Objects grew powerful, not necessarily over me but within me. They all had history and life, and maybe feelings of their very own. Losing one was akin to losing a friend, and I’ve lost many a friend.

Under my bed is pretty much a Michael’s store

So I learned. I learned how to keep things without fear and how to unapologetically save jam jars under my sink. The trick is to not save every jam jar, to use that bottle as a bud vase, to create a labyrinth of storage under your bed, and to be willing to let things part with you when it’s their time. I don’t throw objects into the wind; I say goodbye while thinking over the memories we shared together. I let their energy flow through me; I wore this when – , I bought this that day-, this was the first -; and then I let them continue their journey in someone else’s hands.

Purchased at a yard sale, this typewriter has been through a lot with me

This is why I keep objects. They surround me with daily inspiration. Objects once owned continue their stories with me, and my objects can continue their stories for generations to come. Would I have a pair of my grandmother’s white gloves or my dad’s denim bellbottoms if those ancestors of mine had opted for minimalism? I want to leave somethings behind. I want to bathe my objects in my memory.

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