Why do we fill our shelves with knick knacks? Is it to simply fill empty surfaces? Why must they be filled? Are we afraid of hurting someone’s feelings (by not displaying a gift)? Is it to show off our wealth? Is it to remember someone? Is it to prove that we are educated and cultivated (shelves of books)? Is it to escape our own reality (“this shell reminds me of happy vacation times”)? Is it to prove that we have been places and are wordly (tiki statuette)? The last three especially ring true to me.
In my previous, bedroom community life, I had unconsciously filled my home with travel books and artifacts collected all over the world: A way for me to impress friends and separate myself from a settled community that I longed to escape. But I have since come to realize that the pictures in my head, the experiences lived and the memories shared with my husband of that world trip are more important. They live forever and can never be taken away, stolen, damaged or burnt. On the other hand, artifacts can. The library now stores our books. I am free of the responsibilities related to possessing such objects.
My story might not ring true to everyone but what I know for sure, is that the pretexts that I hear from my clients point to the reasons given above. “Oh I can’t let that go, I bought it in Thailand!”, or “I paid X amount for it!,” or “My mother made it!,” or “My friend gave it to me,” or “It reminds me of happy vacation times.” Are those reasons good enough to clutter your walls, shelves and overall life? They do not seem valid enough to me anymore. People do not give us things/presents to burden us, they give them to us as a simple, sometimes cultural gesture, not to clutter our space.
Putting much value on such items teaches our kids to do the same. With parenting comes the question: What important life lessons do we want to teach our kids? We choose to teach ours that there is more to life than stuff. It is experiences and people that make life rich, and it starts with parents living with less.
“The stuff that I cherish is mine to cherish – I don’t expect my children to keep it and I have told them as much” Anonymous… Valid outlook on heirloom guilt, but, to the question: “What does your mom love?” I would not want my kids to answer “her porcelain dolls.”
“Telling our kids” is one thing, but “living by example” is another, and in my mind, a more powerful way of getting an important message through to them.
I have questioned my past pretexts and feel liberated from the false reasons that had me display non-functional things. Today, I only display a handful of very select ones.
Again, I do not write this blog to dictate, but rather to share my experiences, and hear yours.
What keeps you from emptying your curio shelves?