the sentimental value of stuff

Recently, my husband and I had a group of friends over for dinner. We started talking about our attachment to stuff. Of the three couples, each pair was well matched with their opposite when it came to their relationship to things; one would be a keeper and the other a tosser. I am to the point in my life that I don’t want more things, more stuff, more detritus of life. I’m tired of the upkeep. I have managed to inherit things from my grandmothers and from my mother that take up space and have little emotional value to me. Most of this stuff has come to me through my mother, who for one reason or another thought I might like to have it. The trouble is that my attachment to the object is much less secure than my mother’s attachment.

My husband, on the other hand, seems to keep everything that comes into his possession. He keeps old electronics, magazines, and clothes. Don’t get me started on his ball cap collection. Honestly, how many ball caps does one need? You can only wear one at time! He seems to assign a high degree of importance to this stuff. I have tried to move a few things in our household along to better homes but I end up fighting my husband every step of the way.

The other couples in our group understood completely. Each rolled their eyes at the others’ leaning. It was kind of comical if it didn’t cause so much angst in a marriage.

I’m carefully reviewing many of my things these days. When I turned 40 years old, I had a change of heart about accumulating stuff. For example, I have china from my first marriage that is impractical to use (it can not go into the dishwasher) and tends to gather dust. I picked a china pattern for that wedding because it was what you did if you got married in southern Alberta. Now, though, it is a reminder of person I no longer am, if I ever really was that person.

I’m not a psychologist, but I wonder if my husband’s attachment to his stuff has to do with his childhood. There was a period when he was growing up when money was tight. The social pressure to have things must have been hard on him. Maybe he is making up for lost time.

I will continue on my way, eliminating things I no longer want or need. I’ll only deal with the things that are truly mine. I’ve already started by giving away all my hardcover books save for a small number. The small number of left over books may go eventually, too. I have a Kindle app on my iPad that is much more useful for storing books and great deal lighter. I can also visit my public library if needed. Next up will be finding a new home for that china and flatware I never use.

One thing I have noticed, when I give up things and move them to a better place, there is an invisible weight lifted from me. One less thing to worry about, or account for, if the house goes up in flames.

Cheers, Catherine

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