Erin Boyle, our Guest Home and Living Editor for April, is back to share her sage advice for a more minimal, meaningful life. Today, Erin coaxes us to reconsider the things we keep stored in our homes for no particular reason. We hope you find yourself inspired to toss these ten trivial objects in the trash, making space for spring's refreshing energy.
We mortals love to ask people what they’d take with them in the event of a fire. The idea is to get to the essentials, quickly. But the answers to this question are almost never essential. They’re sentimental. People list objects that tell a story: A great-grandmother’s ring. A box of letters. A mother’s favorite spoon. The objects that people would take with them in the case of a fire are objects that are meaningful beyond their practicality.
When we want to get an even deeper sense of a person, we ask what they’d take with them to a desert island. These island packing lists are often filled with objects that offer comfort. There might be a book as comforting antidote to solitude or a toothbrush for the comfort of good hygiene. A particularly practical person might list an ax for the comfort of protection and self-sufficiency.
We're generally of the persuasion that folks should hang onto these kinds of things: objects that bear particular meaning. The distinction between essential and sentimental can get blurry anyway. That’s okay.
And then, of course, there are the mundane things that are necessary tools over the course of an ordinary day, but that aren’t particularly noteworthy. Those things can stay, too. (No need to live like one’s on a desert island all the time.)
But what about the other stuff? The heavy stuff that’s neither sentimental nor useful?
I like to ask what people would leave behind if they felt they could. I wonder about the things that we hold onto out of a sense of obligation, fear, or, let’s face it, general laziness. If there are so few objects that we’d all take with us in the case of an extreme event, what are the things that are filling up our homes for no particularly good reason?
These are imaginary specifics, but the idea is universal. We all have things in our homes that haunt us. Little things that linger longer than they should. Things that take up space and that might help us feel a little lighter should we manage to send them packing. Here’s a list of ten such objects that might sound familiar.
1. The pair of jeans with a bleach spot on the knee. The ones that you can wear for exactly four minutes before everything hurts and you have to strip them off while gasping for air.
2. The book you’ve started five times but can’t make it past the first chapter.
3. The sandals that make your right pinky toe blister, even after all these years. (Yes, the ones you spent too much money on.)
4. Your great aunt’s crystal candlesticks. (She loved them. You don’t. You still love her.)
5. The broken hard drive that can’t be repaired. (You don’t need a photograph to remember the way the wind felt on your face that day, anyway.)
6. The gold hoop with the green glass beads that your neighbor gave to you in middle school. (The one whose mate slipped out after a flourish of a scarf on New Years Eve. It’s been twelve years.)
7. The ugly potholder that’s so thin it burns your fingers every time you use it.
8. The charger for your iPod that you left on a Chinatown bus to DC circa 2000.
9. The lipstick in a shade of orange that’s just all wrong, no matter how many coats you add.
10. The incense your sister gave you that makes you sneeze when it burns. (She’ll understand.)
Let these things go; they’re gone already. Make more space for the objects that truly count.
p.s. If you're delighted by the prospect of a simpler life with less stuff, you'll love learning more about Erin's story and perspective.