Thursday, 15 July 2010

Re evaluation

Recent posts from other bloggers have made me think about one subject that I do think about a lot - stuff and consumerism. Zoe writes about how she is packing up two years worth of life and sewing to move from Spain to England. Part of being a sewer is being a collector of fabric, notions, patterns, etc plus she has a machine and a serger to pack as well as her wardrobe of beautiful Zoe-made clothes. When you have to move and pack up your things you are forced into a consideration of how much stuff you own - and circumstances may dictate you jettison some stuff. Just making decisions as to what to keep can be difficult. I moved a lot in my twenties and early thirties and have always had a fairly easycome easygo attitude to much of my stuff, although there were exceptions - I trained as a fine artist and so have several large portfolios of work. One of which resides under my daughter's cot these days with a heavy layer of dust on it. About few years ago I emptied one portfolio, framed up the work on paper and had an exhibition in a cafe. To my surprise and delight I sold almost all of them. The remainder still in frames are hanging in our house. I had had an idea that I had to keep these works as I would be using my portfolio in job interviews, exhibition applications etc but I have to say it was a great feeling to get rid of some of the pieces of work and to think someone else was deriving enjoyment from my artwork - well, that is a great feeling!

Hayley is also writing a thought provoking blog about the need to own stuff and buy stuff, examining her own motivations. I have been clearing up this morning inspired by her, thinking about my clutter and objects, why I want things and buy things. I agree with Hayley that I too was bought up t o be a consumer, as a young teenager "going to town" was a major activity, as I got older you HAD to have something new to wear before going clubbing and I can remember a feeling of being almost compelled to buy a new peice of clothing if my friend had bought one. Why was that? Some kind of subconscious competition with my friends? Anyone else care to own up to that? I have to admit that it is only recently that I have lost this urge to buy something just because a friend has...either I have only just grown up or my whole not-buying new clothes and accessories has really helped me towards gaining a new mindset

Another event that can force you to look at how much stuff you collect is bereavement. I have not blogged about my father's death (18 months ago) and am not going into details here but suffice to say, when some dies in their late '70s or early '80s, there is a lifetime's worth of stuff left behind. I know it has been overwhelming for my mum to clear all his stuff and so she has done little bits - also do you have to clear out all evidence of a person when they are gone. Me, personally, I find it hard not to go into supermode when visiting her house and "sort" it all out for her. But maybe she likes to still have his dressing gown hanging up and his coats in the cupboard. I do take bits each time I visit, for instance I collected up all the spectacles and took them to an optician for donation to Africa. Each little bit of clearing up makes me feel better, but I don't know why. My dad was a bit of a collector, not just the lifetime's collection of vinyl, cds, tapes and books but also collections of Useful Things like a box of hosepipe connectors, a box of electrical tape, a box of tweezers, do you get the picture? I have to confess that although I consider our house to be full and I am trying not to bring more stuff in but I do keep bringing back odd things of my dad's. For example, a magnifying glass that has a built in light...I mean how great is that? And the book in the picture here - my Grandpa was an air raid warden during WW2 in North London and rescued this book from the ruins of the house next door to his when it was bombed during the Blitz. You can hopefully read his writing in the picture above.
Anyway what I am trying in my rambling way to say is that I am looking at my objects and my relationship with them - that book is also the only example of my Grandpa's writing that I have and so is a tiny piece of someone who is long gone. I am reducing my consumption and clearing space in my house too but re-evaluating those things that are important to me.


  1. What a great post! I am having a major sort out at the moment, i have so many things that i don't use and will never use but i still find it hard to get rid of them just incase i may need them in the future. I think i need to be firmer with my self x

  2. I know what you mean about wanting to keep things just in case you need them one day - it is a great feeling when you remember you have just the right tool/ piece of fabric/trim for a project and do not have to go and get a new item. But for me well, I have to make space cos I feel we have run out of room in our house.

  3. That was a lovely, thought-provoking and honest post (and thanks for the mention and link!). You really touched me about what you said about your father's belongings. Things that belonged to or were gifts from loved ones, alive or passed on, are things that I cling to generally. I have yet to develop your more mature and healthy attitude and I really hope I do. The relationship between people and their posessions is such a tricky one.

    On a lighter note, I totally agree with you about the way your perception about a thing changes and your situation and means alters. As we are packing up, many of the things we were both adamant would be coming with us are being fairly easily dismissed as necessary now that the reality of the capacity of the moving boxes is upon us. I have also moved a squillion times throughout my 20's (something I'm hoping won't be so prominant in my life now I've hit 30!) yet this time seems so much more difficult now a parent or mate with a car can't be convinced to take 'just one more car load'!

    You should photo some of your art pieces and display them on your blog, it would be great to see. Massive congrats on selling so much of your portfolio! It must be so nice to think that people are enjoying them in their homes. I also have portfolios pf design work and suitcases of garments I made at college and university. The only reason I can give for why I'm keeping them is to drag them out one day and show my (currently non-existant) kids! Is that mental?


  4. No, not mental! I also keep art work and sketchbooks under the excuse that they could beuseful teaching aids one day (not that I am currently teaching of course). Thank you for your great comment. Good luck with those boxes

  5. Great post and thank you for the link. I'm glad I inspired you to clear up some things!

    When I was in high school I certainly thought I needed to live up to the clothing 'standards' of the cool girls in my class. Overpriced surfwear was all the rage but I couldn't afford much of it, and when I did buy some I ended up looking like a dag anyway.

    My dad died as well about two years ago, but he was a practical sort of fellow and didn't keep much that he didn't use. I think he was a lot like me, keeping only the most sentimental things and discarding the rest.

    I have a few things to remind me of him, including a drawing of him as a young guy done by a street artist.

    Hope you write more about your relationship with buying & owning stuff.

  6. Thank you for your thoughts on your Dad. It's wonderful that you passed his glasses on to someone who could use them yet cherished small items with meaning such as your grandpa's book. I think your cleaning up is a way to make order out of the situation and it's also healing. This is such a good and enlightening subject! Truly, less is more and maybe just right!

  7. Beautiful post. I think it's so important for us to have this discussion and I appreciate your contribution to the topic -- it's so important to understand the difference between the perceived and true value of things and some things should absolutely be kept. I pare a lot, but not enough, so this inspires me to keep trimming those things that don't have real value. I should finally donate the traditional cheongam I had made for me when I lived in China (and haven't worn in nearly a decade), but I can't imagine tossing the dresses handmade by my grandmother. And yes, I absolutely feel the pressure to buy, but I'm getting better.

    By the way (since I'm playing catch up), I adore the skirt you made. The pockets must make it so comfy. I feel like good pockets change the way I wear a garment, the ease I feel in it. And I'm currently working on a denim with red-button piece as well :)