What are your five favorite items, physical things, material possessions?

When my SPACIOUS partner Joey and I were hanging out one day, I asked him this, and I loved his answer because it was entirely a list of things that symbolized experiences (his passport) or relationships (a photo). There was nothing about status or materialism. I loved what it said about him.

Why do we love what we love? How often would you put something on that list that’s purely about impressing someone?  I’d posit that those sorts of things might be commonly sought after, but they’re not on the “best of” lists that we make when we are thinking sentimentally about particular items.

At a time of year when we’re poring over catalogues, shopping, hoping to please people with just the right gift…  lot of energy goes into thinking about STUFF. Yet it’s interesting, isn’t it, that most of us would say that the one thing we’d grab if our home were on fire is something sentimental or symbolic of a relationship, experience or adventure, not something mass-produced (even if it was very expensive).

This is not a scientific fact; it’s my hunch, born out of many conversations with people over 50 years of standing in lines, killing time at doctor’s offices, and generally hanging out in places where the conversation comes around to “desert island book lists” and “what would you grab from a burning building?” queries.

What would you grab (note: fireman say not to go back in and grab things; this is theoretical)?

I’d grab:

  • a mug that one of my daughters made me with depictions of all my bizarre quirks and habits on it
  • a mermaid I bought on eBay, whose face I slashed with scissors while getting her out of her bubble wrap (She reminds me that glory isn’t ruined by scars.)
  • a banner my son sewed for me with his favorite phrase, “Lord knows!” on it
  • a painting my daughter made that blew me away with the spontaneity, beauty and maturity of it
  • a Dippy Ducks t-shirt I traded most of my other clothes for at summer camp back in 1973
  • a charm necklace that tells my life story and features a hit parade of people and experiences
  • my wedding ring (if I happened to have taken it off for the first time ever, besides surgeries, when the fire hit!)

I’m grateful for gifts received. I’d be a brat not to say that, especially right now when some nearest and dearest are out there buying stuff for me. But what I really love is the fact that someone remembered, went to the trouble, had me on their mind. That is something to be grateful for, and it’s something I never want to take for granted.

But the stuff itself… it’ll all burn up someday, one way or another, or end up in an estate sale. And that’ll be a shame in that we all spend a lot of time selecting, procuring, cleaning, storing and protecting this stuff.

And what we really value, down deep, are those things that remind us of people, experiences, adventures. Not the things we have to insure and protect because of their monetary value.

Stuff, stuff, stuff. One sort is overrated. The other sort is, well, priceless.


7 thoughts on “Stuff

  1. Spot on. Although I am comfortable living without any of my possessions- I used to spent a large amount of time backpacking around, living in the woods during the summer- there is something very nice about having things. Theres something nice about having tangible artifacts of ones nostalgia and yearnings. To have a coffee table book to flip through during breakfast that captivations your interests, to have photographs and hats of family members nailed on the walls, chairs to sit in and to button on clothing that expresses your inner-personality. There is nothing wrong with any of that as long as we remember that we are souls and heartbeats first and foremost, and we can exist without any of that stuff.
    I am a costume designer, and I always feel that with my work I am telling the story of the inner-personality, desires, history, mythology, and sometimes stark realities of humanity through the clothing that they wear. The clothing that we wear and our possessions speak a language. They express fragments of who we are, of what we are willing to buy and not buy, of how we want to present our selfs when people visit our homes. As superficial as it sounds, you can get a very good idea of who someone is by viewing their possessions.

    As an artist I am currently undergoing a project where I literally paint those stories on my possessions, to obviously share myself, but to more over invite others to become “stuff whisperers” themselves. Thanks for this article as it has further inspired me!

    y’all can see some of my work at:

  2. Check out this article:

    I’ve been on an aggressive simplification campaign over the past six months. From cleaning out closets to boycotting fall/winter shopping, it’s gotten to the point where I’m resisting even products like drying racks and irons. I just gave away my microwave yesterday. The typical decluttering questions like “have you used this in the past six months?” no longer apply.. Nowadays, when I look at an item, I think: Would I take this with me if I were to start traveling today? 99% of the time, the answer is no. So the things just keep going.

    And it feels amazing. So much weight off my shoulders.

  3. STUFF!! I need an intervention so that I stop saving so many items that are steeped in memories and relationships. I have stacks of Christmas cards from 10-20 years ago, and as Xmas cards get more and more rare, they will be a novelty someday. They are like snapshots of friendships that were a part of my life for that chapter but are now long lost, even with facebook.
    I’ve actually started taking pictures of certain items and then throwing them away just to declutter and start letting go of things (or sometimes hiding them in the woods like treasures for someone else to find)

  4. You use things for the right purpose — there is meaning infused.

  5. I had a friend who bought no clothing for a year and blogged about it. It was interesting. Will try to find it.

    Are you feeling light?

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