Recently, I replaced my makeup bag with a new one. The old bag was in my service for at least 18 years. I bought it in 2008 for my daughter to use as a pencil case. It had photos of the Spice Girls on it and when she grew out of them, I hijacked the sturdy plastic case for my make-up.
One of my work colleagues and I have joked about it for years when we shared rooms for conferences and the like. I decided it was looking a little too raggedy and bought a new one. I put the Spice Girls in the bin. Now I feel strangely uncomfortable. It was still in OK condition – the zip still worked. It was covered with old makeup and left-over bits of eyeliner but nothing a good soak wouldn’t fix. Perhaps I was being too rash!
I sent a text to my friend to commemorate its passing. She sent back a crying emoji – she shared my pain. I think I am grieving…over a plastic case. It holds so many memories! It has travelled with me around the globe. It’s been a loyal and steady friend. It survived divorce. It’s lived in 6 houses with me. It still works!
It’s hard to describe the feelings I have for this thing; this object. After all it’s only a bit of plastic. One of the tenets of minimalism is that sentimental items have no intrinsic value per se and that memories do not exist in things but in our minds. “The Minimalists” – Ryan Nicodemis and Joshua Fields Milburn exhort us to rid ourselves of sentimental items. In his essay Letting go of Sentimental Items Josh writes
I am not my stuff; we are more than our possessions. Our memories are within us, not within our things. Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing. You can take pictures of items you want to remember. Old photographs can be scanned. An item that is sentimental for us can be useful for someone else.
I don’t agree with this idea, for a number of reasons. Sure, we can scan and store photos digitally but what happens when technology changes? If I had stored my memories on 3 ½ inch floppy discs back in the day, I’d be stuffed now! A possible work-around is to store photos in the cloud. Call me a pessimist, but heh, I am not real keen on having my only copy of things in the nebulous cloud. Who owns it? Who will maintain it in the future? What happens if there is some sort of EM pulse warfare where everything gets fried? (insert relevant conspiracy theory here!)
I have a small collection of items that are not useful but are beautiful. They belonged to my grandparents and some, to my great-grandparents. Small curios, some handmade furniture, a few pieces of jewellery. I have some useful items too, like baking trays that must be at least 70 years old. These items make me feel connected to my history more than any photos would. I can conjure up memories of my grandmother baking scones on the very same trays I still use. The molecules of food ingrained into the metal of the tray, perhaps even some of her DNA. I am reluctant to scrub them back to shiny metal. The decades of patina add to the flavour.
I am not my stuff but this stuff is part of me, part of my family. I am going to fish the Spice Girls out of the bin. I am not ready to part with them yet. Who knows, a future grand daughter might love them again!
 new to me from a local op shop – someone’s cast off gift no doubt – NWT’s. NWT = New with tags