I love my stuff. I know it’s not cool to admit that anymore, but here I am. My name is Sarah, and I love my stuff.
Loving our stuff has gone a bit off popularity these days. We’re supposed to be modern minimalists with clean lines. We’re supposed to try experiments, like only having 100 things in our homes. We’re supposed to be enchanted with tiny houses. The KonMari Method has us lugging trash bags of stuff from our homes with glee.
I find these movements inspiring: I see the benefits and the truth of the philosophy behind the purging. We all have too much stuff. We aren’t living simply. We over-spend until we are in debt and distracted.
Over the years, I’ve embraced a simpler way of life. We have done our share of purging, particularly a few years ago when we lived in a small urban space. I love a tidy and clean home, clutter drives me bonkers (with four tinies, this is a losing battle). I devoured The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up along with the rest of the world and I liked it (well, I didn’t quite get into thanking my t-shirts every time I hung them up, but you know what I mean).
As a Christian, I’ve been led to pursue a simpler life because I believe that consumerism is stealing our money, our time, our resources, and even our identities. I practice simple living, and I do my level best to be intentional and thoughtful about justice issues, even in everyday purchases like clothing and food and furniture. I believe in living within our means and in being unreasonably generous.
But I still love my stuff.
I love the teacups my Grandma gave to me along with her kitchen knick-knacks – the cream cow, the decorative plates, the battered copies of her favourite Zane Grey novels, the slender violently orange ceramic cat that presided over her kitchen sink from the window sill and now rests in my window sill. I love collecting old editions of L.M. Montgomery and Madeleine L’Engle books that I stumble across in second-hand stores – no online purchasing allowed. I have scrapbooks and memory boxes from university that I’ve moved across national boundaries, and the first stories I ever wrote are still tucked away along with my embarrassing high school and college journals. My mother’s old dishes, the first dress I bought for our first baby, the love letters my husband used to write to me when we were dating sixteen years ago. I adore our big kitchen table with the mismatched chairs, and every day, I use the white teapot I bought in Germany ten years ago.
It’s not about the things themselves, not really. It’s about the stories of the stuff and the way I want to embody those stories in our home.
For instance, after years of Ikea and second-hand stuff, we finally bought our first really nice piece of furniture together: a gigantic Canadian poplar kitchen table to seat the whole family. I love it so much, not because of the thing itself, but because of what it represents to me: family, gathering at the table, space for a few more, laughter, all the people I love most near me while they eat the good food we’ve prepared together.
Another example: that white teapot is an emblem of one of the most difficult seasons of my life, the trip itself a fulcrum of our life before and afterward, as we reset our entire trajectory as a result of the sorrows and strangeness of that time. It’s functional, yes – I have a pot of tea every day – but it’s also lovely, and it is an icon in our marriage and in my own spiritual life of life-before and life-after that moment in time.
The things I have kept over the years do bring me joy and so I keep them. Even KonMari approves of this method.
I believe there is room in our homes – and in our lives – for more than just the useful or functional; there is room for the lovely, the memory-filled, the beautiful, the sacred, the just-because-I-love-it-still stuff.
So even though I consider myself someone who practices simple and intentional living, I still surround myself with the familiar things. I’ve discovered that I’m not the type of person who can live as a minimalist, not really.
My soul craves and finds rest in handmade over commercial, slow over fast, quiet over loud, old over new, cozy over modern, tidy over messy, clean over clutter, comfortable over stylish.
It seems we can live our metaphors in so many corners of our lives. In my new book Out of Sorts, I write about going through this process in my faith, too. I have found myself rummaging through what I believe over the years, figuring out what needs to go and what needs to stay. And I have found myself reclaiming so much of what I thought I had outgrown, so many beliefs or practices or ideas that I thought were holding me back. It turned out that they were actually precious to me and I learned to live with them, to make peace with them, even as there were other beliefs or ideas or opinions that I released altogether.
The tracing of the line of time, of my lineage, of my family’s stories and my own stories and the stories that matter to me in the world, is meaningful and beautiful to me. I feel like it’s part of my purpose as a storyteller, to embody and hold space for the physical stories, too.
Simple living doesn’t mean we untether from the material world: as Tsh defines it, simple living means that we live holistically within our life’s purpose. There is room there for you, sentimental friends. And now I have learned that this holds true in our homes and in our spirits, we aren’t required to toss everything we were taught or given. As we grow and change, we become more fully ourselves, and there is room to honour and hold space for the precious and the meaningful, even as you evolve in your beliefs, your home, and your life.