The following is a rant by Bruce Sterling about possessions that I found entertaining for the eloquence as much as anything. Via Treehugger . . .
What is "sustainability?" Sustainable practices navigate successfully through time and space, while others crack up and vanish. So basically, the sustainable is about time – time and space. You need to re-think your relationship to material possessions in terms of things that occupy your time. The things that are physically closest to you. Time and space.
In earlier, less technically advanced eras, this approach would have been far-fetched. Material goods were inherently difficult to produce, find, and ship. They were rare and precious. They were closely associated with social prestige. Without important material signifiers such as wedding china, family silver, portraits, a coach-house, a trousseau and so forth, you were advertising your lack of substance to your neighbors. If you failed to surround yourself with a thick material barrier, you were inviting social abuse and possible police suspicion. So it made pragmatic sense to cling to heirlooms, renew all major purchases promptly, and visibly keep up with the Joneses.
That era is dying. It's not only dying, but the assumptions behind that form of material culture are very dangerous. These objects can no longer protect you from want, from humiliation – in fact they are causes of humiliation, as anyone with a McMansion crammed with Chinese-made goods and an unsellable SUV has now learned at great cost.
Furthermore, many of these objects can damage you personally. The hours you waste stumbling over your piled debris, picking, washing, storing, re-storing, those are hours and spaces that you will never get back in a mortal lifetime. Basically, you have to curate these goods: heat them, cool them, protect them from humidity and vermin. Every moment you devote to them is lost to your children, your friends, your society, yourself.
It's not bad to own fine things that you like. What you need are things that you GENUINELY like. Things that you cherish, that enhance your existence in the world. The rest is dross.
This material culture of today is not sustainable. Most of the things you own are almost certainly made to 20th century standards, which are very bad. If we stick with the malignant possessions we already have, through some hairshirt notion of thrift, then we are going to be baling seawater. This will not do.
The emphasis is mine as this was the central theme for me in my own purges and my own sustainability challenge, even though I could never have written it so well.
Having said that, I confess to my fantasies of tabletop beauty. Just the other day I caught my breath when I saw this image. Fiesta china is something I longed for, for decades. And, I’d forgotten. I will even admit that I used to keep a clipping file of table décor ideas. Feeding the eyes, doing more than just feeding the body is such a personal view I value. I kept aside a small set of fiddlefern flatware for special.
Last year around the holidays I sent my mom a whole bunch of visually delicious table setting images. This delight was something we used to share. When I spoke to her later she told me that the family gatherings are no longer seated around tables. I guess lifestyle changes or something has happened in the intervening years. That seems like a loss.
If my particular path wasn’t one of living alone with austerity and minimalism, I would approach this purge differently. (And I don’t close the door on this aspect either . . .) Sharing meals together is such a wonderful thing to do. Eating is the most basic thing we do daily that doesn't demand privacy and eating food together is a ritual worth cherishing.
Post Script: I had so many fuck ups in trying to post this, one could get dizzy trying to read it as I was editing every few moments. Sorry.