Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thoughts on Stuff and Sentiment

Here are two different, perfectly valid, but fairly opposite philosophies about saving "things," whether they be mementos, memorabilia, heirlooms, or vintage items. I find both fascinating...

A Word About Heirloom Guilt by Bea of The Zero Waste Home -- As part of her radical no-waste, no-clutter, minimalist lifestyle, this woman & her family have stripped down their possessions & eliminated pretty much anything they don't actively use every day. That includes mementos & heirlooms, which she feels are mostly kept out of obligation, not practicality. Bea states: "I believe that we do not need things to remember our lost ones."

Why I'm Not a Minimalist by Franca of Oranges & Apples -- Starting with the concept of a minimalist wardrobe & why that doesn't work for her, this blogger also enjoys having things around her house. She explains: "Often while sitting about in our living room, I will zone out and look at a vase or whatever and think how nice it is, and how happy I am that we have created a home where we are surrounded by things we love ... What makes me even happier is that a lot of this stuff is inherited, bought on holiday, or rescued from a charity shop or car boot sale ... It has meaning."

some of my sentimental jewelry
On the one hand, I really love Bea's point that memories don't depend on physical items.  I can remember all that was wonderful about my deceased grandmother without holding onto the vintage brooches that came from her collection. But I also adore those brooches because they're intrinsically pretty *and* they remind me of times I spent, as a little girl, playing dress-up with my grandmother's jewelry. These things have meaning, as Franca points out.

The shell necklaces I buy on vacation in Hawaii & Jamaica soothe me on stressful days at the office precisely because they remind me of those lazy, hazy days spent on the beach with my sweetheart. It's a little bit of a holiday on a string around my neck. Sure, I could just look at a digital photo from those trips (or a scanned picture of my grandmother) that takes up no space. But the tangible does have a stronger connection.

Maybe I'm being sentimental. But with a practical side too -- I don't believe it's necessary to preserve every last item that reminds you of someone or something that has a positive memory. One or two very special pieces are plenty, particularly if those items have their own unique artistic or practical value. I don't believe most heirlooms are kept out of obligation, as Bea asserts. Perhaps out of neglect ("do we really have that old thing from Aunt So-&-So up in the attic?"), but I don't personally know anyone who feels beholden to their heirlooms. I only hear of family treasures that people cry over when calamities destroy them.

What about you? Are you a minimalist who doesn't believe in keeping old stuff? Or do you surround yourself with mementos of the past? Whether in fashion or home decor, do tell!

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