In Defense of Keeping Things
It was just a drywall trowel and tray, but it started me thinking. Tim had used the tools to patch up the wall after replacing the shower in our ensuite bath. As he washed them out, he said, "I bought these at Northern Hardware in Prince George. That must be 30 or more years ago. I don't use them often, but when I need them, they are there." He has a shop full of tools, used infrequently these days, but there when he needs them.
There's a movement in some circles that getting rid of one's things is beneficial. I agree, to a certain extent.
I've moved house over 20 times in our marriage of almost 39 years, including moves overseas and back. Each time I've packed, I've discarded stuff. Papers. Clothes. Books. But there are always items that I hold in my hands and consider, "Do I need this? Will I want it someday? Will I ever use it again?"
Tim's trowel and tray were stored for many years in my parents' basement (thanks, Mom and Dad) while we were overseas. So was much of my china. Am I glad that we kept those things? Yes, without hesitation.
I don't think anyone would call our home cluttered. My decor style is on the spare side, yet I have a collection of items that I rotate in my decor. Cupboards are full; organized, but full. I like pretty linens and have more cloth napkins and tablecloths than many. There's a large selection of vases. For me, the key is using my stuff, not storing it away "for good" and not letting my stuff control me.
There were a couple of times during our years in Ecuador when we packed emergency bug-out bags - a war, a volcanic eruption, a military coup - if we had to leave the country in a hurry, what would we take? In the end, our bags held little but essential papers, a change of clothing and a few photos. Stuffed toys for the children when they were small. Easily carried.
I like my stuff. I like opening a familiar book and turning to my favorite lines. Setting a pretty table is a fun thing to do. Introducing my grandchildren to china teacups is a delight. If breakages occur, it won't break my heart. The people who drink from them are far more important.
Rearranging the decorative items on various surfaces is a creative outlet. I have tons of craft and sewing supplies; currently on hiatus while I'm teaching full time. I like having the ability to go in search of threads and tools for small projects. I like the memories that are sparked by many of my things - wedding gifts, presents from children and loved ones, items purchased on vacations, treasures passed down from family.
When our stuff, in storage at the time, was subjected to a flood, an older woman said to me, "Learn to hold your stuff lightly." I've taken that to heart - if dishes get broken, I don't fuss, if things get ruined, into the trash they go. It's just stuff. I like it, but it doesn't own me.
Does this rather wordy post have a focus? I'm not sure. But I do know that I'm not ready to become a minimalist. Everyone must find the balance between stuff and space for themselves. I'd be interested to read your thoughts on stuff and minimalism.