Sparking Joy: Picking the Keepers


26 Jan
26Jan

Marie Kondo, with her new Netflix seires, is all the rage now. I reviewed her book almost a year ago in this blog, and while I took issue with her overall approach, I also had a few takeaways. The most important one was to focus on what you want to keep, not what you want to get rid of.

In these cold winter months, when I am still busy with marketing my book, I spend more time thinking about downsizing than actually doing it. So, one of the mental games I play with myself is, What do I value so much that it must come with me in that final move (the one with less space and almost not storage)?

As interesting to me as what I chose is what I didn’t choose. For example, in the last few years, I have created a lot of art (mostly collage and watercolors). I have some talent, and I do sell my work when convenient. But I am not attached to most of it. I take photos of each piece, and that act is sufficient. I will hang onto only a couple of works, which fortunately are small. The rest I will sell, give away, or recycle into greeting cards.

I am also not that attached to my clothes, but I like what I have, and as long as I have the space, I will keep most of it (using my one in, one out rule at a minimum), but when the time comes, I don’t think I’ll have trouble parting with the items I wear less often, whatever those are.

Of course, there are many practical items that belong in the “keep” pile, like my computer and my phone. This exercise has me focus on the unnecessary items that I’d always like to be in my life. To be a keeper, it needs to relate to some important person or period of my life and serve as a trigger to that period or person, perhaps at a time when my memory is failing.

Here are six top candidates for these sentimental “keepers” that definitely spark joy (and some sadness, too, but in a good way):

“Homage to Belle,” a screenprint: Made by my mother, the artist, in her 70s especially for me. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I have inherited my mother’s art collection, most of it huge acrylic paintings. We’ve displayed a number of these in a rental property we own in Maine so that others can enjoy them, but we have little wall space in our main home. But If I keep no other work from her, I will always try to find a place for this print on my wall, as it was made with love.

My Steiff teddy bear collection: As a lover of miniatures, I acquired these tiny mohair bears in childhood. They cost $1.25 each  (For awhile, they were worth quite a bit, but since the market for this kind of thing has gone south, it would hardly be worth selling them.) I was more of a bear person than a doll person (though I do still have my dolls and their all-important wardrobes.) (Photo: Amy, one of the larger bears, as a nurse.)

These bears were part of an ongoing story I concocted and played out with a friend. They each have extensive wardrobes and accompanying tools of their interests, all made or bought by me. They exemplify some of my most positive memories of my childhood. For the last few years, I have displayed them on a wall. I have a few other Steiff creatures and a larger Pooh bear (English), but I think I can part with those.

My high school yearbook: Admittedly, high school wasn’t the happiest time of my life, but I was co-editor of the yearbook and, like my bear collection, the yearbook tells me a lot about who I was—not so much for its contents but for the work it took to produce it.  I just wish my senior photo didn’t make me look like I was trying to keep from throwing up, which I probably was, but that’s another story altogether. Fortunately, my feelings about my classmates have grown more positive as some of my friendships with them have deepened over the years. I will probably hang onto my college yearbook, too, though I was not involved in its production.

A copy of Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger: I re-read this book periodically. I remember first reading it in the 9th grade. It was controversial at the time. But even though he was a boy, Holden spoke to me. Now as a writer, I enjoy it for its distinctive first person voice. It was one of my sister’s favorite books, too, and she asked that a passage from it be read at her funeral, and her daughter did so. I still have my original paperback, yellowed and none-the-better for wear.  I have other books I treasure, too, but that is a list for another time.

My Liberty frog:  Aside from being very cute, this frog has deep meaning. I worked in the fabric department at Liberty’s of London, the posh department store in the West End the summer between my junior and senior years of college. It was my first non-camp counselor job, my first time traveling abroad without my family (though I had relatives there), and the place where I had a delightful summer romance with a handsome Finn with whom I went to Paris later that summer. Frogs have a sad association, too, like Catcher in the Rye. The frog was the symbol of my sister, a fashion designer, and she had a large collection of frogs made from different materials. She also worked at Liberty’s the summer she was 20, and she used Liberty fabrics in a number of her early designs. I suspect the Liberty frog was her first frog.

My tiny coke bottle collection: Say wha’? In my 20s, I took a memorable 10 month-trip across Asia, encountering numerous languages and alphabets. As souvenirs, I kept coke bottles with “Coca Cola” spelled out in these various languages and alphabets. Although I still have these, they are stored away. I believe a friend, who knew about my collection, sent me these little replicas. The box is just 3” by 2.” They are reminders of an ambitious trip that ended with my job as a bar hostess in Japan, the inspiration for my recently published novel, Gina in the Floating World. It’s fitting that I end with this one.

What will you keep and why?

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