One man’s trash

… is another man’s treasure, isn’t that the saying?  That little set of six glasses, espied through the window of a vintage stuff & art gallery called Hudson’s at MassMOCA in North Adams, was priced for $25.00.  I have a set just like it– maybe?

The set belonged to my mother, and she picked it up for some cheap price at some church white elephant, because she had notions of what kinds of things one was supposed to own in order to maintain a proper household.  When she moved to California to express her displeasure that I wasn’t giving her granchildren find her bliss in the sunshine, she pushed them off on me along with other sundry glassware, some of which I wanted because it had been my grandmother’s, and most of which I thought was just junk.

I say maybe I own something like it, because I really cannot recall if it’s sitting, wrapped in a box in the basement, unused with my grandmother’s china and other still-wanted possessions, or if I took the chance of leaving my husband to give it to the AIDS Action Committee thrift shop for them to sell to someone who might think that six tiny pressed-glass cordials or whatever the hell you call them would somehow make your life more complete than if you just bought some all-purpose lowballs at Ikea or Crate & Barrel.  Who knows?  Maybe the owner of this shop bought this very set from the Boomerang in JP, and it’ll bring someone else way more use and pleasure than it ever brought me, cluttering up the bottom shelf of the hutch full of shit I didn’t use and had had foisted on me by family insisting on the right way to set a table, entertain, put on a spread?

Seeing that set in the window got me thinking about the things that we keep and the things we discard– not so much that I’m going to go hunting downstairs through my stuff– but in terms of the trash versus treasure conundrum, and how invested we get in other people validating our treasure, and telling us how lovely it and therefore we are. Failing to take an interest in the same things as you is taken as a wholesale rejection of you as a person (and heck, sometimes it is but I do have some manners and usually manage to be polite, but asking for pom-poms and a brass band is too much).  That perceived rejection is a cause for drama, accusation, pouting, shaming, guilt or outrage (I don’t know your family, I just know mine, all those options are possible, sometimes within the span of five minutes), and if you dare state anything as inflammatory as a disagreeing opinion, you’re a terrible person.

You’re trash, in a word, for rejecting someone else’s treasure.  (Though you haven’t, you’ve just said you don’t want any yourself.)

People mistake the collections of objects they amass for pleasure and success, and project that mistaken impression of accumulation of happiness via stuff onto you, in a nutshell.  Go your own way, and you’re telling them that you think they’re all wrong.  It’s not that, necessarily (though sometimes it is, and sometimes it only becomes that after our progenitors start insisting you follow The Old Ways) but changing the arrangement and type of objects is deeply unsettling to some, and the lack of stuff is even moreso.  When I tell people I don’t have a TV or a car, it earns me these looks– and when I look at the house I have only one room in and think– the things I could do if I could get rid of all of this stuff– well.  I’m sure it’s crazy to some.  But I like not having to deal with the weight of so many things (or wanting them, any more) physically & mentally taking up space that could be better spent swinging into warrior pose, or spreading out in a sunny patch on the rug with a shelf-space conserving Nook.

In the two years that most of my stuff has been in the basement, there have been maybe four times when I’ve needed something.  Maybe it is time, in fact, to go down and unpack– not for keeping’s sake, but shed to even more.


3 thoughts on “One man’s trash

    1. She Curmudgeon Post author

      I don’t know if I was trying to be that deep or universal– or ascetic even.

      I think there are times in our lives when our own selected things can bring real pleasure and comfort, and the things I’ve kept still do that. I am still a believer in selective retail pleasure (rather than numbing collection for the sake of emotional avoidance), I just am a bit more thoughtful about whether I acquire things in the first place these days. But I think it’s the fact of conscious selection that matters, and not the wholesale adoption and mimicry of other peoples’ attachments just for the sake of going along, because it’s the going along and stifling your own preferences to please other people part of it all that leads to suffering, at least in my experience. Other peoples’ definitions of “need” and your own don’t need to jive, and treating yourself to your own definition of a nice thing doesn’t have to match with your parents– whether it’s more luxurious or less. In my case, I have way less stuff than either of my folks, but I spend far more money per expense on dinners or vacations (on far fewer occasions) because to me those experiences are worth it as moments of self-care and memories to draw on later.

      1. Dawn

        I get you. I would have bought those because I liked the way they looked (and I used to have a thing for drinking out of fancy-looking glasses, what can I say?) and not out of any notion of what is or might be proper for entertaining. Which is of course what you’re saying. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to be more selective in what I buy, rather than just spreading money at random, so the bulk of what pulls at me (good or bad) is older. Although there are some family things (not quite heirlooms) that I’m not real happy about having, and if I get rid of them–! :\

        It’s a bit unrelated but what you say about the trade-off reminded me of someone I used to know. We both were un- or underemployed, with very tight budgets, yet he was going to movies quite a bit. I couldn’t understand for the longest time, and then it clicked. The spare cash he was spending on movies, I was spending on a treat at the grocery store or possibly a new book. It’s all in what makes you happy or at least content.

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