Friday, August 10, 2007

:: Toss the Grinders, Keep the Kitsch ::

It’s funny. Today, as I perused some of my favorite blogs, I came across two “competing” entries. In one, LawyerMama posted pictures of some of her favorite kitsch: a ceramic Paddington bear, these funny little pig salt and pepper shakers, a faux payphone from Target. I posted a comment on my own favorite piece: a creamer shaped like a cow that my mom got for me at, of all places, the Pottery Barn Furniture Outlet.

In the other post, Sara at Walk Slowly, Live Wildly wrote about Stuff: all the crap we accumulate that we have no need for. She wrote about downsizing and about reducing our consumer imprint. At her site, I posted a comment about how since we’ve decided to put our place on the market, we’ve had to do a lot of work getting this place ready to show, most of which meant getting rid of stuff. We rented, and filled, a 5’ by 10’ by 10’ storage unit, taking about half of our books, all of our camping gear, several bikes (we’ve got seven between us), and a bunch of random furniture, knickknacks, small appliances, etc.

Needless to say, the house looks great and we feel much less encumbered.

So it has us asking: do we really need all that junk in storage?

Unfortunately, the answer is that we do need a lot of it. How can I live without my books? I teach half of them, use a quarter of them for my studies, and just really love the rest. If I could have a house built of books I probably would. Especially if they all had that great mass-market paperback, just-opened-for-the-first-time-since-printing smell. The smell of my childhood. Oh, I could drink that smell with a straw.

And camping gear? No question, we need it.

But surely there’s plenty of stuff in storage that we wouldn’t even notice if we never saw it again. In fact, I think I’ve already forgotten half of what’s there to begin with, meaning it can’t be all that important. And I know that if we really thought about it, we would discover that we really don’t need half of the things we kept here at the house.

OK. Maybe not half.

But then I go back to that post on kitsch, and I keep thinking that that is the stuff I’d keep. The cow creamer, the little Russian nesting dolls, the small red combination-lock cash box I’ve had since I was six. Those things may not have real uses, but they have meaning. They have personality.

Kitsch is usually a term used to refer to inferior art – art that is in bad taste. In today’s world, it often refers to art that is mass produced. But for a lot of us, it also refers to the special, strange, delightful things we found and kept just purely because they made us smile. Do we use a creamer? No. But I like being the kind of person who owns and displays a cow creamer.

I could probably toss some old jeans and sweaters, though, and surely don’t need two coffee grinders or cheap pre-fab cube-shaped “furniture.”


Christina August 10, 2007 at 6:15 PM  

We moved into our house just over three years ago. There are still several boxes out in the garage that we have never unpacked. I'm guessing we really don't need that stuff, but I worry if I look in those boxes, I'll want to keep it all.