I just finished reading The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. It is the story of a man, (and then a woman) who picks up things he finds around, catalogs them, and hopes in some way to reunite them with their owners. Intertwined are the stories of the things and the occasion of their loss. I highly recommend the book.
I am also reading Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon. In this book he has a chapter called “Open up Your Cabinet of Curiosities: Don’t Be a Hoarder,” where he says that we all are own own keeper of lost things. We all have a collection of all the things and experiences, thoughts and dreams of our lives. Some of these things are physical, books and knick knacks, while others are only in our hearts and minds. He suggests finding ways to share this collection.
The latest self-improvement fad is based on Maria Kondo’s best seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I haven’t read the book but understand that one of the criteria Konmari uses to decide whether an item should be allowed to stay or should be discarded is whether it “sparks joy.”
I know there are many things in my life, utilitarian things, that I must keep even though they don’t necessarily spark joy in my life. However, I think I understand what all three of these authors are talking about. I think I understand that are are special physical and non-physical things in our lives that bring a special pleasure that we may or may not be able to share with others.
Although I’ve accumulated many things over the course of my life, I have never been a focused collector. I’ve tried but I get two or three pieces in my collection, and then get bored with the process of looking for and displaying them. So I tend to pick up things that I like without any consideration of how they will fit with everything else I own. Since I’ve become a daughter of Yemaya, I do seem to be more drawn to oceania, things of or representing the ocean, but even in that case, I can’t seem to maintain my attention.
One thing that some people say, is that we should collect experiences instead of physical things. Several years ago, I came to the conclusion that among the cognitive skills my mother lost as she aged was the ability to remember many of the experience of her life without help. She had scrapbooks from her many trips but she never, to my knowledge, looked at them. Instead it was the things around her that sparked her memories. Photos of her children and grandchildren, kept them alive for her when they lived too far away for regular visits. She kept other of the things close that not only brought her joy but helped her remember people and events.
I often have periods when I was feel especially afraid of falling into that type of dementia. Not Alzheimers, per se, but a simple lost of memory, short and longer term. I decided that important events needed to be memorialized by physical objects that would spark a memory or at least bring back the pleasure of an experience. Perhaps, you can say this is the kind of response Konmari is talking about but it probably leads to more clutter than she may be comfortable with. I have several trips scheduled over the next several months. Each will be a special and unique experience. Each should be memorialized with some token of remembrance.
Thinking about Kleon’s idea of our work coming out of our personal curiosity cabinet, I don’t feel as though my writing is a way to share the experiences of my life. I’m not writing memoir. My characters live in times and places completely alien to me. However, I am sure that there is a bit of my life in each thing I write, thoughts and dreams that slip out below the radar of my awareness. I do find the work of creating these characters, putting them in bad situations, and then helping them to escape brings me a special type of pleasure.
Are you a collector of things or experiences of both? Tell us about it in the comments section below