Sunday, January 14, 2007

things, and our attachment to them

I broke a bowl this morning. Half an hour earlier, it'd held my breakfast. As I wrapped the pieces in old grocery bags, to put them in the trash, the porcelain was still warm from the scalding dishwater in which I'd washed it.

The kicker is, I've only recently purged a lot of my extra dishes. I'm a big fan of "junk style" or "shabby chic," and over the years I've collected a lot of mismatched but complementary table wares from rummage and yard sales. How many plates does one woman in a bachelor apartment really need, though? I decided to pare down, and kept just eight of each of the basic items: dinner plates, bread plates, and bowls.

As I boxed up the extras to take to Value Village, I worried: What if I break something that I've kept? But I realized that if I broke something, I could always go to IKEA and buy another whatever-I-broke, very inexpensively.

The second kicker is, the bowl I broke was one of my favorites. All my dishes are either white or cobalt blue, and this particular bowl was white with blue transferware strawberry blossoms on it. I'd kept two, and now I only have one.

What is important to us? A bowl is just a bowl. If somebody tells me tomorrow that I only have six months to live, a broken bowl will be the least of my worries.

But that bowl gave me pleasure. It made me happy just to look at it... and it made me even happier to think about sharing a meal with somebody else - the two of us eating out of matching strawberry bowls.

There's a great article on organizing in the January/February 2007 issue of Natural Home magazine, and in a side-bar to the article there's an amazing quote by Sarah Suzanka, architect and bestselling author of The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live (Taunton, 2001).

Suzanka says: "An awful lot of the stuff we have - and I'm not talking about one or two things, I'm talking about 50 percent - we literally never use and are never planning to use again, but can't let go of. They are basically objects in which we've invested dreams that didn't happen. It's very difficult to let go of the dreams, even though we know that they didn't actually bring us the satisfaction we were hoping for."

This quote resonates with me, and it reminds me that my dream of sharing a strawberry-bowl meal is maybe (just maybe!) not as important as sharing a meal, period. I still don't know what to do about the bowl; I could go to Value Village and buy back one of the ones I gave away (Oh yes, I gave away four of them!)... or I could just let go of my shyness and ask somebody over for dinner - hang the bowls.

Come to think of it, I should have invited someone over a long time ago.

copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow

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