Monday, April 18, 2011

A different criteria for my possessions

Over the years I've looked at all sorts of schemes and organizational plans for how to decide what to purchase - are you building a capsule wardrobe?  maybe buying the entire matching set of sheets?  For whatever category of product you're purchasing, someone somewhere will give you some guidance regarding what to buy. But I don't really want to live my life (or spend my money) according to someone else's guidelines, so I've searched for years for a different way to evaluate the merits of the things I'm going to buy.

A few years ago, a distant relative died, leaving nobody near to her to clean out her home.  My mother and I gamely volunteered to take on the project, and in retrospect I think we were both suffering from temporary insanity.  Bless this woman for being a nice person and a good friend, but she did not own ONE thing worth passing on to posterity.  Not one nice book, not a single beautiful piece of furniture, no lovely jewelry or vintage clothing - absolutely nothing!

What she did leave behind was a vast, almost impenetrable mess of cheap clothing, cheap dishes, cheap furniture, and mounds of unsorted paperwork.  It wasn't a question of not having enough money - I know for a fact that she could have afforded fewer, nicer things.  But it was definitely a question of never feeling worthy of the one big, beautiful, enduringly precious item that could have brought joy to her every day.

So now, when I'm pondering a potential purchase, I remember her and the sad lack of heirlooms (or even just mementos) that she left behind.  And I wonder, when I look at that sweater or dish or CD, if anybody will want this thing when I'm gone.



  1. A great perspective. I have a family member who, when she passes, will also leave behind an incredible pile of worthless items - items that I believe have caused most of the stress in her life as she spends a good deal of time maintaining her "stuff."

  2. Very thought provoking post. I tend to have too much "stuff" and while I like to think it's good quality "stuff," this has given me something to think about.

  3. Your experience is one of the reasons why I don't want to own "stuff". I want the perfect scarf, the perfect teapot, the perfect yummy blanket, etc. Purchasing 10 cheap versions of the real thing will not increase your enjoyment of the article, but merely increase your storage requirements.

    I'm really glad you're starting this blog; I was a huge fan of the Vivienne files from FC!

  4. I'm reading through your older posts. (Like when there are scores of channels but nothing to watch, so you slip in a dvd of your favorite old movie--sometimes it seems like there are thousands of style, fashion, and lifestyle blogs but nothing to read.)

    When I came to this one, it really struck me that it's on the same wavelength as your recent Slow Style set of posts.

    This story reminded me of the process of clearing out a relative's home after she died. And what comes to mind is the question I want to put to everything I buy now, fashion or otherwise: Heirloom, or Fast Trash?

    We buy so much just to meet the current need, whether a practical need for something, like a kitchen implement, a book to read, a pair of pants, or just that evil old "need" to spend.

    I don't literally expect that every kitchen gadget should last a lifetime (but most could if chosen well), or that I'll never buy a throwaway (well, giveaway) read, or toss a fading summer cotton garment at the end of one season.

    Some of our purchases are mid-range consumables, and that's ok. But how far does ok stretch? I would hope that when, as my grandmother was fond of saying, "they have my sale," they could apply the 80/20 rule to my belongings.

    Wouldn't that be something? To think that 80% of everything you own would be valuable, desirable to someone else whose taste and standards you admire? That there wouldn't be a lot of everything-in-the-box-for-a-buck cartons, but plenty of folks holding something up and saying "I could use this," and "How nice. I'd love to have this."

    Inspiring. And scary. Makes me itch to declutter, for sure.

  5. Now, I am reading through your older posts. Inspirational thoughts, clear attitudes and authentic ideas from the beginning. You make my day, thank you Janice!

  6. Excellent ! Cela peut en effet être le début d'une belle réflexion... J'adore votre blog, ce pourquoi j'en suis venu chercher le début ;)