Beauty and the Beast of Heirlooms

Helping my Dad and Celia (stepmother, with out all the “evil” connotations) unpack after the great retirement move I can’t help but reflect on a) the “tyranny of the heirloom” and b) the value and beauty of well crafted items. My people are a sentimental brood, though they might not always like to think so, we are all the same. We like to keep mementos of people, places and experiences. On the surface it can be quite a mish-mash, but some how it all works, from the Danish modern dinning room table, the framed reprint from the Book of Kells, a 4 year old’s rending of a landscape, a Joe Montana commemorative plate and the original timbers  from 1840 that support the “early” part of the new home. It works because each is loved and special. The challenge is there is a lot of stuff that is loved and special, and then there is the stuff we hold on to be “we might need it some day” or so and so had that/gave that to us, even though it is not something we use or really care for much.  It is those things that clutter up the space or become the “tyranny of the heirloom”.

So exactly what is the “tyranny of the heirloom”, think about that platter, chair, picture, collection of whatever, that you hold on to because it was so and so, not because you love it or even like it. When you think about it and letting it go a new person who will love it, do you feel a sense of guilt, or “no I couldn’t”? Do you resent it for the space it is taking up? Are you hold on to it just incase we need it one day? If you answered yes to any of these questions you know what I mean by the “tyranny of the heirloom”; if not, lucky you.

By in large few of the items my Dad and Celia moved came with the tyranny moniker, but some did. Why don’t we let those things go? I think it is most often because many people infuse the memory of a person into an object and unconscious fear that getting rid of the object will also result in losing the memory of the person. This was very true for a past client of mine. She had a house loaded of items that were “from the family ” and no one else in the family wanted which she resented, and it prevented her from celebrating the memory of people who had passed on. Once she could wrap her mind around a new approach or view those items as longing for a home where they could be loved she was able to pass them on to some friends, and people she know would cherish and use the items. What a lovely to celebrate someone, by genuinely loving what had once were precious to and loved by an other.

The other point I found myself reflect on was the joy that beauty in all things bring to our day-to-day experience. If you are going to use a dishtowel, it can be lovely and strong. When form, function and aesthetics can come together and make for a wonderfully inspiring welcoming space. How different might your work feel if the pen you used had just the right weight when balanced between your fingers? If the desk lamp in your cubical made you smile when you looked it?  Sometimes the convergence form, function and aesthetics is pricy, but not always. My desk lamp came from a Target and is a dead ringer for a 1930’s piece I covet.  For more about the importance of and how to introduce beauty into your every day items read the words of my friend Marilyn Webster, her words are inspiring.

Our lives are complex and heavy enough without the potential energy draining reality of holding on to things that we do not love. So here my two questions for you this week:

  1. Is there some thing you are holding on to that if you let go would open up some damned up energy?
  2. What small piece of beauty can you bring into your everyday things?
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