Spark Joy: Keep Your Stuff
Contrary to popular advice about living with less, I’d like to make a counter argument: Sometimes, more is more.
I’m not talking about money; let’s leave that subject out of it. I’m talking about stuff. Paper. Memorabilia. The irretrievable items that, once disposed of, we wish we’d kept.
I had a long conversation with my 94-year-old father yesterday. He left his home one day to go to the hospital and never returned to the place he’d lived in for more than 50 years. My brothers and I distributed or disposed of the contents of his home: a couch here, a few chairs there, and dozens of shoe boxes of photographs. When my father – who now lives in a small, one-bedroom apartment – wonders aloud, “what ever happened to…” he is usually talking about paper: a lost love letter, a yearbook, a newspaper clipping.
This week, he mourned the loss of a commemorative edition of the New York Times Book Review – an item I remember him treasuring and turning to on many occasions. I also remember being the one to throw it out.
I feel guilty about that, because I know exactly how he feels. How many times have I thought about my first illustrated, multi-page report for school: Ants Do the Strangest Things? Or the song lyrics my friend Rhonda and I used to write for departing colleagues?
But the item my thoughts return to most often date back to a 7th grade English assignment, when my class had to choose a contemporary author and send him/her a list of interview questions. Enchanted as I was by the Wrinkle in Time series, I chose Madeleine L’Engle. Using our neatest handwriting, we wrote our questions and polite requests for a response.
And then we waited.
At least half of the class got no response at all. Some kids got a form letter, and others got a personal response addressing their questions in a page or two. Here’s what I got: SEVEN pages from Madeleine L’Engle, who typed out my questions along with a thoughtful response to each one. Even in the self-centered world of 12-year-olds, I knew that was a big deal. I remembered her generosity and remained grateful until her death in 2007. And I really, really wish I still had those seven typed pages. I must have tossed them in a fit of young adult maturity.
So, call me a pack-rat. I can live with that. But don’t come for my stuff. It may not spark joy today, but who says it won’t tomorrow?