A life in objects

I’ve moved home a few times in the last few years, and have another move ahead, confident that won’t be my final destination either. Despite having craved stability all my life, I don’t find that a static living arrangement gives me any particular sense of security. What matters, is the people I’m with, the wider community, and having the means to make changes when I need to.
The process of moving invariably requires me to go through all of my stuff, working out what no longer has relevance, what doesn’t fit any more, or has been grown out of. As a child, this kind of thing happened perhaps twice a year in response to both my mind and body growing. As an adult, it’s all too easy to settle into a rut, surrounded by stuff.

Everything I own came from somewhere, and carries stories and associations. Giving up the object can be a help in relinquishing an unwanted bit of history, and I’ve found that therapeutic. Letting go of clothes I never much liked, and slowly replacing them with things I do like. The simple recognition that I am not obliged to keep any of it, is wonderful.

One of the big and difficult ones for me has been my grandmother’s piano. The instrument is over a hundred years old now, and was bought for my Gran when she was about 11. My brother and I both learned to play on it. The boy used it to teach himself to read music a couple of summers ago. It featured at parties, on the back of a procession float, it has travelled widely and I’ve cried into its keys on a few occasions. Kittens and mice have explored its inner working, but not at the same time. It is full of stories. It’s also rather large, impossible to shift around without a professional, too big for the boat. I couldn’t let it go – my grandmother’s piano that she wanted my son to have access to. I’m letting it go. My mother is taking it in, and I shall do without a piano. I used to be a decent player, but time without access has weakened my hands too far and it would take years of really hard work to get that back. I’m not going to put in the time and may as well be honest about it.

Objects can become so infused with our care, so much a part of life that they are part of us. My violin, the bear I had from childhood, and other small items that connect me to myself and my past. Objects can also own us, taking over our spaces and lives such that we cannot move for them.

Henceforth, I am not going to own anything that I cannot carry, or otherwise shunt. I’m not going to own anything I don’t use, or hang on to things because of historical attachments. I own less all the time, and the more I let go of, the better I feel about it. A few of the right things, carefully chosen, are far more worth having than a heap of stuff. I’m paring my wardrobe back to a minimal collection of things I want and use. Why own more? Realising how little I need is an on-going adventure, and one I increasingly delight in.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

3 responses to “A life in objects

  • Andrew Smith

    “Freedom comes when we learn to let go” is, I believe, how an old Madonna song goes. I’ve been a book magpie for most of my life (second-hand bookshops my particular weakness) and amassed quite a collection – so many that most stayed packed away in boxes for years as the result of house moves and lack of space. Last year I finally got around to sifting through them, selling a handful on Amazon, but mostly carting off several boxes to the local Oxfam. I feared it would be difficult to let go, but the process proved to be surprisingly liberating. Afterwards I felt mentally, emotionally and physically lighter. I’d recommend it to anyone. (I’m now working on clearing out the mental/emotional clutter of negative thinking patterns collected over the years!)

  • Alex Jones

    Good attitude. I am going to be moving soon, and though I tend to keep my material possessions limited there are always ways to reduce it by more.

  • Andrew Smith

    Many moons ago, I met someone who moved house a lot. She could fit all her wordly possessions into a couple of suitcases. When she moved into somewhere new, she would buy her furniture from a local charity or second-hand shop, then take it back again when she moved out.

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