The Story of Every Thing

In a frenzy of activity to clear my space for the New Year, I whip out my dust rag and go to work in the living room. How I'd like to get rid of this clutter, I think, dusting away. For a moment I seriously entertain the thought of getting a big box from the garage and … what?

That thought stymies me. What could I do with this stuff? I ponder the hand thrown pottery vase. Mother gave me that for my birthday one year. It's gorgeous. It's exactly the kind of pottery I most love, natural earth colors. I feel the potter's love each time I glance at it. I feel connected to earth and to Mother. She's long gone, but her spirit lingers in that vase.

Likewise with the pewter-washed copper candelabra next to it. It's a cunningly crafted item, old, hand-worked, slightly off-balance. I don't even remember when I got that. Did she give it to me, or was it part of the loot I scored when Daddy cleared out her stuff? I recall that trip, packing boxes, stabbed with the knife of sorrow, knowing she'd never be home again, that life had turned one of those irreversible bends,

Seashells? They nestle so nicely on the small shelf in the bookcase Hubby built when we moved into our first house. My mind wanders off to that long-ago day when we were young and getting acquainted with life as parents and contributing members of society. Ah, the stories.

The Japanese tea set, a gift from Mitsui when Hubby visited his home in Japan all those years ago. It's such a thing of beauty, deep cobalt blue. What about the Gurkha knife, the Buddhist prayer wheel,  remnants of Hubby's trek in Nepal, or the soapstone cats from our trip to Egypt or the grandfather clock and family Bible and tree. Our roots are in this room.

I look around the room, recalling the trips to Pendleton to order the custom-built sofa and loveseat and a later trip to the Fabric District in Philadelphia for new upholstery. I remember sitting in the dark chair with nursing babies, which reminds me of the time Phyllis came to visit after Susan was born and how she seemed to freak out when I handed her that tiny person to hold for “just a minute.”

Each of the lamps has a story, especially the one I found in Seattle — another hand-thrown pottery piece in earthen tones. Aside from books, every item in this room is hand-crafted or customized. Each item has a story, and its acquisition is part of my story. This room documents much of my life.

My thoughts turn back to Stuff. I don't want to get rid of this clutter. It's part of me. It connects me to my Story. If someone else wants this stuff someday, it will become part of their story. A fragment of mine may be woven into it, as a fragment of Mother is part of a few objects in here. Hubby's mom is here too, and his ancestors.

I feel connected to family, to continuity, to the world in this house, and most of all to Story. I live in the midst of deep, ongoing Story. The Story of Every Thing. Simply walking into this room connects me with my Story and I'm grateful for that. I celebrate my stuff!

Write now: look around a room in your house. Jot down story ideas that come to mind as you eye moves from one item to another. Notice how one story links to another. Consider the effect of telling the story of one item compared to telling about the whole collection of objects. What is your connection with the object? Let your mind run wild and write about your thoughts. How are you connected to your Stuff?


Shirley said...

Sharon, I have just moved from Michigan to Virginia and therefore have both "decluttered" and rearranged and re-focused our "stuff." I like that you are going against the current advice to "let go" and instead looking with love on your material goods as manifestations of spiritual and emotional values and relationships.

My little rule as we moved out and then moved in again was that something had to be either useful or beautiful to make the cut. I like the implicit definition of beauty in this post.

Thanks for your insightful comment on my review of Why I Left the Amish. Happy New Year!

Sharon Lippincott said...

Thanks Shirley,

Actually I do lighten my load fairly often -- I have to! I live with a pack rat and there's only room for one per house. The way I see it, the challenge is more to cut back on acquiring more Stuff than to get rid of the old.

Linda Hoye said...

I think the Stuff that is attached to memories is different than the Stuff we accumulate because we feel compelled to buy, buy, buy. I hope you keep those things that remind you of your mom, the memories of your early days with your hubby, and everything else that holds the essence of all that is dear to you.

Leila Summers said...

Hi Sharon
Lovely! I have been decluttering for the new year, but stick to the motto "do I need it, do I love it?" Some things I keep simply because I love them, just as you have described. Surrounding myself with beauty and memories. This makes my home one of my favourite places. Happy New Year!
Love Leila

Sharon Lippincott said...

Maybe the trick is to keep the Stuff with stories and toss the rest. But some people (who shall remain nameless here) have stories for enough Stuff to fill several barns ...

Sharon Lippincott said...


When we get rid of the clutter, we can write the stories of Every Thing that's left. LOL