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Is Your Stuff Heirloom-Worthy? - Live Like a Mensch
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Is Your Stuff Heirloom-Worthy?

I recently read two articles that got me thinking about minimalism and my attitude toward stuff. The first was this Cracked article (warning: salty language) on the five useless products no one can bring themselves to throw out. The last item on the list was items that might be useful some day. The author, C. Coville, pointed out that holding onto potentially useful items in order to keep them from the landfill generally means they will definitely go into a landfill when you die--since your heirs won't have the time to sort, donate, and recycle your stuff.

On top of that depressing observation, I read this interesting article on Money After Graduation that claims you should not own anything that you don't use for at least 45 minutes each day. Any less than that, and your stuff becomes clutter rather than useful additions to your life. (Since 45 minutes per day works out to 11 days per year, the author suggests that you should cull any clothing you do not wear at least ten times a year to once a month, which seems like a perfectly reasonable suggestion).

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm very aware of the life cycle of my stuff. I hate it when I can remember my original desire for an item that I am in the process of donating to Goodwill or otherwise removing from my home.

But I also sometimes think about the longer life cycle of stuff. Much as it hurts, I know that someday the items that I hold most dear will become nothing but clutter to someone down the line.

For instance, one of my most prized possessions is the wedding quilt I made for J and myself.

(To be fair, it did not start as a wedding quilt, as I started making the thing a good four years before I met J. But once we decided to get married, I figured I ought to make the world's-longest-running-craft-project our huppa):

To say that I'm attached to this quilt would be a bit of an understatement. I have been known to cruelly ignore J's physical distress in order to shout "Don't bleed on my quilt!" in a moment of stress.

Every day, when I make the bed, I play through in my mind how LO and BB might have trouble deciding who will get to keep the quilt after J and I are gone. I imagine my great-grandchild taking this quilt to whatever passes for Antiques Roadshow in the year 2114 and pointing out various aspects of the quilt to the experts. "You see here is where my great-grandmother stitched her name and her husband's name and the date of their wedding into the quilt. And here's the bloodstain that ironically, she nearly divorced him over..."

As J likes to point out however, our quilt has no intrinsic value, other than as a blanket. (Meaning it's unlikely that the year 2114 Antiques Roadshow will be particularly impressed). Its value is sentimental, and I hope that sentiment will carry it through my family after I am gone. But I have no guarantee of that.

However, one thing that I hope to be able to do for my boys and my family as a whole is to minimize that amount of stuff I have that is just stuff. If I attempt to mostly keep items that do have intrinsic value and that could potentially be heirlooms, then that will mean less anguish over getting rid of my useless stuff once I am gone. And that will allow my boys to keep sentimental items that are truly good and useful and that were loved by me. (I have experienced the anguish of having to figure out what to do with a poorly-made keepsake from a beloved relative. I want to remember her, and yet I don't know how to use the flimsy piece of furniture that was left to me.)

Of course, no one can have a home furnished and populated entirely with heirloom-worthy items. That's simply not practical. But if I aim to only bring good-quality items that will get actual use into my home, then it will take longer before my stuff becomes clutter to myself or to some descendant down the road.

I like that idea!

I'd also like to officially release LO and BB of any guilt they might have for getting rid of items that belong/ed to me. As much as I love some of my possessions, I recognize that all of it is just stuff. (Even the quilt-that-I-spent-11-years-crafting-with-my-own-two-hands-and-you-had-better-not-ever-attempt-to-get-rid-of.) My goal is to minimize the unecessary stuff in our lives so that LO and BB will have a choice of lovely and useful things to remember me by and will be able to bless others with our things should they need to or want to give it away.

How do you think about the long-term life cycle of your stuff?

Comments

 

haverwench said:

45 minutes each day seems like an impossibly strict guideline. I mean, I use my toaster oven and microwave every single morning to make breakfast, but only for about 2 minutes each. Even my toothbrush only gets used for about 4 minutes a day (2 in the morning, 2 in the evening), and I certainly don't think it would be wise to get rid of it.

June 2, 2014 11:11 AM
 

Emily Guy Birken said:

Haverwench, I definitely agree. I think this was more about the tendency we all have to hold onto things like books, outdated gadgets, sports equipment and the like that we don't really use anymore. I thought it was an interesting way to look at your stuff--but I definitely cannot live up to it as a real guideline.

June 2, 2014 12:49 PM
 

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