Treasure to keep; treasure to toss.

December 12, 2007

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I’ve been in a fit of belated fall cleaning for a few weeks now, bagging up shirts that I constantly tugged to cover that inch of midriff but were too beautiful to not own; trashing year-old unopened Russell Stover chocolates I was too leery to taste; forcing Marshall to consider if he still needs that old Playstation. I went through books and sold a huge stack of them to Half Price for a whopping 13 dollars. As I flipped through pages, I felt an obligation to keep many of those that I purchased for literature classes. Sure, Pilgrim’s Progress is a classic, but I was bored out of my mind. Same goes for Robinson Crusoe. I didn’t see the appeal. So to Half Price books they went.

The tarantella between Me & My Stuff continued when I went home to County J for a visit. I tackled some boxes in the basement and threw 37 pounds of essays, notes, exams, and folders (mostly from high school–early college) into the recycling bin. I found a bundle of senior photos exchanged with classmates, and graduation party invitations (six and a half years old now). There were concert tickets, programs, and playbills nested in a plastic sheeth. Do I really need to keep a sheet of paper to commemorate that I played in the pit for the Sound of Music?

And did I really need to keep that shoebox of letters from pen pals I hooked up with through a pen pal service, sheets upon sheets of small talk inked with wide, elementary handwriting?

I’m a saver, a saver of stuff; I bless the stuff with meaning and then neatly tuck it away. I was reading a magazine article about a writer who rented a Dumpster one day and cleared out his entire Brooklyn brownstone basement: broken chairs, ugly heavy homeless kitchen cupboards, a Candyland with half its pieces missing, et cetera. I couldn’t believe someone could allow all that stuff to accumulate, but I realized that I’m on the same track, although my items are smaller scaled at present. The writer made the excellent point that we like to keep things for several good reasons: it has sentimental value, it’s attractive, it’s useful. But, with many of these things, the attraction fades, the function breaks, the sentimentality wanes. Yet we (well, some of us) keep this stuff because owning gives us a sense of valid existence: I possess these clothes (though never worn), these books (though never read), these bikes (though broken), these games (though never played). It’s a way of making a mark on the world, or making your life have meaning. But the writer suggests that it’s a false notion, simply because we’re not our stuff. Which makes me think of a certain guy talking about treasures of heaven & treasures of earth.

I don’t want to come off as pushy. I, for one, treasure many of my possessions, even if I infrequently use or look at them. I came across a stack of old journals in one of those basement boxes and consider them items I’ll never part with (even though they remain in that basement box). I own a pair of romantic sandals that I got in England when my family was visiting and although they dig into my flesh and I wear them three times a summer, they remain in my shoe rack and probably will for a long time. I don’t think owning stuff is bad, or even being attached to certain stuff is bad. I just think taking stock once in a while in my accumulated clutter is good for the heart. And, as cliché as this may sound, it helps me live in the present and look forward to new memories.

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4 Responses to “Treasure to keep; treasure to toss.”

  1. Ireney said

    i love you.

    and your words are such a pleasure to read, no matter what topic you are writing about.

    let’s speak soon i’ve been thinking of you lots
    i xxx

  2. Sejal said

    I relate to this so completely…a small NYC apt. helps, but I am paring down my things or trying to. You capture that beautifully. lovely to hear your words again, christy!

    also: i’ll be in mpls for a wedding May 31st–maybe see you and the other writers then?

  3. samtorode said

    *This is not Sam, this is Bethany*

    WHY DON’T I KNOW ABOUT YOUR AMAZING BLOG!!! YOU SILLY GOOSE!!!!!!!

  4. Sarah! said

    As I recently hauled all my belongings to North Carolina in the back of a rented truck I thought to myself…”Why do I have all this stuff?” I think you’ve hit it on the head. I’m a collector, too (a glorified pack rat, really). My stuff validates who I am. I don’t really need it, but it makes me believe I exist and matter. Maybe I need to purge!

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