Several years ago our adult son commented, “Your house looks a lot like Grandma’s did, with lots of stuff sitting around.” Seeing the look of shock (and perhaps a hint of anger?) on my face, he immediately made a great save by adding, “Of course, your stuff is a lot cooler than hers was.” It gave me just enough space to consider the truth of what he said, and to admit that yes, I have lots of stuff. Any resemblance to my mom, however, went uncommented.
When I was a teenager, I read a magazine article or book that suggested an exercise to find your own unique style. The suggestion was to create a scapbook made up of magazine photos you found interesting. Keep collecting pictures and photos for several months, and then go back over them to find their common elements. What colors keep showing up? Textures? Do they look modern, victorian, rough hewn, or ? Homemade objects or technology? When it came to living spaces, my collection was polarized. Half the pictures were very sparse, open, using white walls, wood, and natural fibers, but with very little furniture and only one interesting object in the room. The other half were cluttered, still using wood and natural fibers, but with lots of homemade stuff (not frilly), and interesting objects sitting around, the kind that tell stories. As much as I admired the clean, sparse styling (which looked more than a little Japanese), I realized I would never be able to stick to it. So I cast my lot with the Interesting Junk Store motif, and never looked back. (Well, that’s not entirely true . . . I still attempt the sparse look in the kitchen, but then there are all those dishes waiting to be washed . . . )
My mom collected Avon stuff. Every room in the house had some sort of Avon bottle or decanter or dish or scented candle or whatever. The scented wax statues were impossible to dust. But every one or two weeks everything else got dusted, and there was a LOT of stuff. I actually liked the “silver Dusenberg” decanter. Then there were the bookends and vases and various useless objects carved out of a dark wood, and a few pieces that had gold paint (one aunt favored the Las Vegas style of decorating). There were a few arrangements of feather or silk flowers. When Mom moved out of that house and into a one-bedroom apartment, she had at least three garage sales to get rid of stuff (and probably made enough to pay for a month or two in the apartment).
I like to think my stuff is more interesting. There is the broken vase our son reclaimed with a silk rose and a story about making something beautiful out of what others discard. (That’s definitely in the treasure catagory.) There is the statue of Granny Weatherwax I bought in England. LOTS of rocks and crystals. Small, plastic animals that actually look like geckos and pelicans and such. I have candles, too, but I use mine. The Zen Clock that got dropped, and now the alarm doesn’t work, but the clock still does. The tiny cement statue of a rabbit, and the large cement statue of Venus on the half-shell. Of course, there is also my husband’s stuff, which has slightly different themes but still plenty of interesting stories. And BOTH of us have a lot of books. We decorate our house with books like my mom did with Avon.
Lately I’ve been thinking I need to get rid of some of this stuff. Am sure it is blocking my chi. I keep saying I’m going to investigate how to sell things on Ebay, because some of my stuff (like tarot decks and books about magic) just wouldn’t sell well in this area. Some items I have no problem with getting rid of. But there are the ones that make me hesitate, usually the ones with stories. Sigh . . .
Then yesterday I was looking at a Sharper Image catalog, and they have these great digital photo frames . . .