Things That Are Not Things
The minimalist wave has a lot to say about sentimental items. When to keep, when and why to let go, why it’s so great to live with the least possible possessions you can manage. I’ve never been a fan of extreme minimalism; I agree that you can live with only 100 items, but the question is, do you want to? I know that there are people who pride themselves on being attached to nothing, have a bug out bag on hand at all times, have very few sentimental objects around their home, and I respect that’s how they like to live. But it’s not for me and here’s why.
At this stage of my life, I’ve almost reverted to being a teenager. I’ve left home, with the bare minimal survival items, borrowed bits and pieces from friends and family, and my furniture is an eclectic mish mash of styles more about functionality than looks. It’s been good, in a way, because the things I have left have become even more important to me because I have kept them. I find myself regretting letting some things go though. I know, at the time, I had no choice. When I made the decision to move my family across the country, letting go of things that were important to me was nothing compared to the opportunity of a lifetime I was accepting. But I do wish that I could have found some way to keep some things, put them in storage, so they were there when I inevitably got back to my ‘real life’.
Almost everything I have, has some story attached to it, a strong memory, a connection. I sit in my lounge room and look around, everything I see takes me to a special time, a special place, and I can feel the emotions attached to that memory. Yes, I know they are just things. Yes, I know those memories are in me, not the object. And yet, these ‘things’, these random little objects scattered around my house, are the things that keep me grounded to who I am, where I’ve been, what I’ve done, who I’ve loved, who loves me. They tell my story for me.
What are the things I regret letting go of? I used to have a beautiful stained glass wooden wine cabinet, that I bought from a young couple who were moving overseas and included the amazing collection of quality crystal decanters and glassware in the cabinet that they had been given; they were young and didn’t care for such things. It was heaven-on-a-stick to me. I still have a few of the decanters left, not as many as I’d like, but the rest are gone.
The focal point of my house used to be an eight seater solid Indonesian teak dining table that my ex husband bought for me at a garage sale one morning. He’d been out walking and seen it, knew I’d love it, and bought it. Love it I did, I spent many hours polishing the turned legs and the smooth top, shopping for tableclothes, placemats, centrepieces, dinner sets, chair cushions. I restored the chairs. I hosted many dinner parties and holiday feasts at that table, including my wedding. I sold it on ebay when I moved, it was too big to take with me and too big to store. I hope whoever bought it loves it as much as I did.
My beautiful baby dog. This one devastated me, I still wonder where she is, is she still alive. I remember the day I bought her, from a breeder two hours drive from home. My mother, my eldest daughter, and I went on a road trip to pick her up. We met the breeder in a shopping centre car park. She was waiting with two puppies in the trunk of the car, she’d bought the one I’d chosen from photos plus the sister, in case I changed my mind. I didn’t and she sat happily in the back seat with my daughter all the way home, sleeping. I trained her, she was my dog. Beautiful white and fluffy. When we moved, I left her with workmates of my ex husband’s for the Christmas holidays, until my mother returned from visiting us to pick her up. They sold her. I never saw her again.
The things I have left will be staying with me. Each have their own story. My wooden tv cabinet that my mother and I wedged sideways into the back of my old campervan to get it home. My solid heavy-as-hell coffee table given to me as a wedding present. My clay fat Mexican lady, one of the few things I kept from my Mexican restaurant. My glass dragon I carried home in my lap on the plane from Thailand. My dragon wall hanging, the first thing I bought in Thailand, my first disastrous attempt at bartering; the woman followed me onto the tourist bus still haggling. My solitary painting, which I loved the minute I saw it, even before I knew it’s name which even that connected with me, bought from a little studio on the Gold Coast. My two china cabinets, one bought from an antique dealer because it reminded me of my grandmother’s that I loved growing up, the other bought for me just like the dining table, by my ex husband just because he knew I’d like it. I have four bookcases, most of my books have a story, I can tell you where I bought them and why and where I was when I read them.
My things are the history of my life. They bring me pleasure and comfort. They remind me of where I’ve been and the lessons that I’ve learned. I don’t believe in having more than you need, but sometimes what you need are the things that connect you to who you are.
As hard as it is and has been, one of the things that makes where I am now, starting again, kind of great, is that it presents a world of opportunities to create new memories, a lifetime to build, a history that awaits.