For most of my life I have lived in large old country houses, where I collected and restored furniture and effects obtained at deceased-estate clearing sales. I have always liked order but am more flexible on filth. As a child, God stood over our Methodist household threatening violence to children who were careless or wasteful. Adults paid me to impose order on pantries, spare rooms and overflowing sheds because, à la Marie Kondo, it sparked joy in me, and it was useful. It rarely involved throwing things out.
Over the last few decades, privileged, westerner consumers have changed their patterns of consumption. Beautifully-made furniture—blackwood, cedar, pine, mahogany—stable and strong, with dovetailed drawers, has been supplanted by flat-packed, disposable, venereal and plasticated-wood furniture that chips and cracks when breathed on. Mary Kay Buysse describes it as ‘a significant shift in material culture’ … ironically during an age of climate change and natural resource depletion (in Verde: 2017).
Now, I’ll strike some notes of caution. Decluttering and conservation are not diametrically opposed. Holding on to items that have already stood the test of time and are energy neutral makes sense. And for centuries, knick-knackery, factory and homemade arts have cheered women living gendered lives. Intimate space is personal and its decoration diverse. We all aspire to be authentic. As a young mother, I spent early evenings cross-stitching samplers to restore my equilibrium, a feat difficult to achieve when mainly raising kids alone, their medico practitioner father frequently absent, saving or welcoming lives.
‘Why don’t you design the patterns yourself?’ suggested the male, visual artist across the road.
‘Why don’t you go and fuck yourself,’ I thought. I was creating artifacts, framed in recycled, hand-carved frames, and saving money on valium.
Jessica Friedmann, in Weaving, beautifully describes the alienation suffered by new mums: ‘bit by bit the tapestry grows, and I make sure to leave in at least a single imperfection, so that my soul can escape the cloth, and flow back to my body once more’.
In late 2018, we moved to an urban townhouse in an interstate city. We sold the fifty-four acre, fourteen-room museum, aka the family farm. The constriction process was more rapid than any decluttering exercise. It came about because at the first whiff of change in my husband’s stay-put attitude, the first false start on my two chainsaws, I saw salvation.
‘Take me out in a box,’ he once said. I had imagined him, down the track, digging himself into our land like a tenacious tick, like his own parents in their tree-strangled house sliding off its blocks, its internal flooring layered like flaky pastry; animals free-ranging the fenceless, wasteland yard. Over a few months and by means of garage giveaways lubricated by red wine, charity donations to shops whose umbrella organisations had no history of child abuse, and auction houses in two cities, we reduced our worldly goods by two thirds. We gave away or sold antiques. We donated many, many books to Zonta. Someone once accused me of buying books like bread or milk and now I have destroyed the evidence. I have struggled from beneath a decades-long accumulation with a couple of two-gig drives of digital photographs and documents and 200 or so of my favourite books.
‘Nobody wants that stuff.’ the dealers said, in two cities.
‘We’ve got no room,’ our children barked.
‘We’re too busy,’ parleyed my siblings.
‘We don’t want stuff infected by dead people,’ whined the slightly mad.
‘Limit your library to thirty books,’ people misquoted Kondo.
Whether we would have ended up in the squalor described in Sarah Krasnostein’s The Trauma Cleaner (2017) needs to be balanced against my ethical and conservationist anxieties.
Much as the Konmari method blighted my Facebook feed at the dawn of 2019, I resisted seductive posts to reform, make good, lose weight, tidy the house, be kind. I viewed the year’s opening moments whilst standing on tiptoes on the lid of the upstairs loo, below the window, in our new dwelling, from where I could see, as advertised, glimpses of city views. At the precise moment that the neighbours ceased bull-roaring and began counting down to midnight, I saw and heard pyrotechnics on the skyline, in loud Christmas brights. Meanwhile, my husband slept heavily, oblivious to the liminal moment. What would 2019 bring? Had we done the right thing?
Rationale for Stuff:
Householders’ fractured identities inform the purchase, custodianship and conservation of:
‘stuff’ (noun); the material of which anything is made…; the material to be worked upon and used in making something… (dictionary.com).
I am still moved by this process. As an undergraduate I read a book written by craftsman and poet, William Morris. Not all of us could hold to his dictum: ‘have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful’ (The Beauty of Life, 1880). Before I relinquished our effects, I searched for ideal homes, wherein they would continue to be as useful and beautiful as Morris intended, wherein they would link new memories and old, creating a meaningful life for their new custodians and less burden on our planet.
In 2018, I hardened my heart to the small voices within the material ‘stuff’ I wanted to give away, the spirit of their makers trapped within, the beauty of their aesthetics, the crafty solidity of their timeless function; the gleam of their patina; the links with the women who shared my bloodline.
‘Thank you,’ I said, addressing them one by one. ‘You served me well.’
‘But I am not out of the woods yet.’
‘I will visit you in your new homes with my friends and family,’ I said.
‘I will not bring my duster.’
‘I will hex the whimsy of auction goers who paid $200 total for my ten walnut chairs with cabriole legs, once worth a couple of thousand.’
Things happen; get over it. Step away from the displays, the shelves, the trunks; stop. You are the girl who wanted to travel the world with nothing more than lipstick and a bank card stashed in your denim pocket. But before I’m done with grieving and exaltation, I need to look over my decluttered shoulder.
1. A Bottle of Sparkling Red: for Emergencies
2. Aide-memoire: Family and Other Identities
3. Custodianship: for Historicity, Race and Nation: Intergenerational Trauma
4. The Pulse of the Maker: Art and Aesthetics
5. Breeding like Bunnies: Collections
6. At Home with Strangers: Souvenirs
A Bottle of Sparkling Red: for Emergencies
Living in danger zones—fire, flood, seismic earth movements, war—forces people to keep an account of their materialism, to pare down the list of things that they might run with from the house, at a moment’s notice. During a forest fire, my mother-in-law staggered down steep hills with two small children at foot and one in utero, a choking dance of flames driving her forward. She lost all her photographs, and, most heartbreakingly for her, the wedding album. Kym Bonython, a wealthy SA entrepreneur, lost his extensive collection of art works and jazz records in the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires in the Adelaide Hills. Such losses might be described by historians as tragedies.
While living in a bushfire zone, I allotted half an hour each evening to scan our family photographs and store them in folders on my computer. One of the few benefits of an anxious personality is the work it generates, some of it useful. It took three years. One afternoon, I arrived home from work via the police station—you should be right, they’d said—ahead of a fire burning out of control towards our small acreage. All other members of our family were absent interstate or in the city. A pall of smoke covered the house and paddocks. I drastically shrunk the list of essentials on my bushfire plan as I ran from room to room. Then fled downhill with only my hard drive, my grandfather’s Royal Winton vegetable platter, and a bottle of sparkling red.
To my chagrin, I saw the family dog scuttling up—had I placed him on the list?—and bundled him into the back of the car. On the verandah of a friend’s house, I uncorked the wine and we contemplated the sea below, until television news declared the fire under control. Home, I trundled, along back roads. After all, I had not lost my Nachez cameo, my Istrian damask with hand-tatted edges and flower embroidery, nor my Hmong ‘mother’s hand-sew’ from Sapa. I thought about my young neighbor who fought his first fire and saw a man die; his memory being more eidetic.
I am done now with bushfires, real or imaginary, but I feel for my friends who remain in the hills and bush acres of country Australia. People who live on flood plains or the slopes of active volcanoes must feel equally vulnerable. While increasingly, climate change brings us unusual weather events that threaten our personal and domestic safety, we are comparatively privileged. The heartbreaking trek of families from war-ravaged countries, their few belongings beside them on a rustic cart or the deck of a leaking boat, underlines the providential position from which I write. Many do carry digital records of the life to which they hope to return, a precarious act of courage as they move across land and seascape in search of their sanity.
Aide-memoire for Family and Community Identities
Over generations, objects signify graceful or bold living, class and taste, interest in heritage or modernity. For women confined to their homes by circumstance—geographical isolation or gender stereotypes—or choice, the decoration of their workplace conveys their personal and family identity. I cannot reliably speak about male homemakers, there being so few. In On Longing… Susan Stewart addresses the ‘function of belongings within the economy of the bourgeois subject’ opining that ‘the interior milieu substitutes for and takes the place of an interior self’ (1993: xi).
Raised in a peripatetic family that moved every two years from one old, stone, bank premise to another, we were adept at fast transitions. We arranged the same furniture, pictures, ornaments and vases in the new space and added fresh flowers. Within two days of arrival our living space signified our ongoing family identity, one that relied on heritage and the slow accretion of material things by annual gift giving. I might interpret Mother’s dedication to cherishing her material world as a longing for her widowed mother, eight hours drive away, and the aesthetic values she had instilled. In each of our homes, she set up a realizable world that worked, a metonym for her childhood home, adding nostalgic objects that triggered memories of her exile in various Australian country towns.
In my mother’s homes, domestic chores were pregnant with meaning. She can still be observed prayerfully dusting her objects on Friday cleaning day. They are important to her sense of self, her need to live in harmony with her surrounds. An autodidact, she studied Ikebana and read several books each week. She knows about colour and tone, balance and proportion, line, form and value. China and napery are also considered utilitarian in a house where the afternoon tea ceremony still prevails. I have strong memories of my grandmothers and other women, reverently washing and drying china and glass at the close of the ritual; telling stories about admired objects and, simultaneously, the men being absent, family secrets. Despite the tremor in her hands, my paternal grandmother continued doing this well into her nineties and to my knowledge never dropped or chipped a cup. Neither women would accept damaged goods when shopping or receiving gifts.
This essay is not, however, just about decluttering, but the relieved gasp of a second-generation, hard core, collector-conservator, whose documentation of history had enslaved her body and crushed her spirit. How did this happen? Like Stewart, I believed that collected historical objects, including ephemera—theatre tickets, launch invitations, school reports—became ‘a mode of knowledge’ that was more than a hobby because I taught history and restored houses (161). My need to conserve and supplement, then display historical items became close to pathological and it generated work for which I had little time, outside teaching loads and unpaid farm labour.
My parents sized down to a unit and began to ferry to me the previous generation’s family heirlooms that they held in trust: great grandmothers’ teapots; embroidered napery; family Bibles, and collections of Robert Burns poetry. When my oldest daughter moved overseas, she left behind a trail of domestic accoutrements—bed linen, furniture and dinner services and I have never been able to reunite them. In addition, when my friend moved to Scotland for a year and stayed ten, finally taking up UK citizenship, I maintained custodianship of her Barbara Hanrahan lino-print; silver serving platters; an Art Nouveau clock; Elizabeth David cookbooks; and antique brass scales with weights. And thus, my commodious old house became a dumping ground for other people’s treasures.
Returning only for a single visit, my friend relegated her objects to excess luggage. In 2018, firmly, I told her of my plans to find them happy homes and she did not demur.
Memories are edited within an inch of their metaphorical lives each time people revisit them. By 2018, my mother had become increasingly agoraphobic and, ironically, I needed to bust out of our museum. I canvased her feelings about ‘stuff’. I offered to transfer custodianship to my siblings: alas, no enthusiasm. I showed her captioned digital representations of our shared objects on PowerPoint presentations. Displaying them helped her, in fact gave her enormous pleasure, as she corrected my paragraph and sometimes page-long captions of handed-down knowledge. Her memories constellated around familiar and repetitive narratives; but their trace was present in objects. PowerPoint presentations enabled them to deepen into a more authentic past. Photographs released new memories and unearthed stories that we had never heard her tell.
Will caretakers like my mother accept the change from materiality to the amorphous mysterious iCloud? Will digital memories satisfy descendants’ need to connect with their ancestors? Will objects survive longer in the cloud, legally owned by corporations than in concrete form? What can be done if we lose the lot? Relinquishment is very sad. But then I think about how long I have deferred my creative work to support other people’s dreams—my husband’s farm; my mother’s nostalgic world; my children’s heritage? I long to be a more productive writer: not a farmer; not a curator; not a matriarch maintaining lines of heritage that render me invisible.
Custodianship: for Historicity, Race and Nation: Intergenerational Trauma
After reading Edward de Waal’s The Hare with the Amber Eyes (2010), I began to meditate more on the place of material things as repositories for intergenerational pain. In one of life’s strange coincidences I had also been reading Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, (1913), in which he fictionalises his friend Charles Ephrussi, the first owner of the eponymous hare with amber eyes. De Waal descends from Ephrussi on his Judaic, maternal side and many members of their family died in the gas chambers, but as he painfully points out, his book is not a Holocaust story but a meditation on signifying objects.
I know that my family were Jewish, of course, and I know they were staggeringly rich, but I really don’t want to get into the sepia saga business, writing up some elegiac Mitteleuropa narrative of loss.
De Waal began work as an apprentice potter; then read English at Oxford, before setting up as a craftsman and critic. In 1994, after the death of his Uncle Iggie, also an art historian, he inherited the family netsuke collection. These small hand-carved ivory and wooden animals and humans, once adorned the obis on kimonos, acting rather like toggles because their garments had no pockets. The migration of the 248 Ephrussi netsuke from Japan to Paris, during a trend for Japonisme, to Vienna, England and back to Japan, reminds us that objects’ d’art can serve as storehouses for traumatic memories.
In 1938, when the Nazis finally stormed the wealthy Jewish households of Vienna, the Ephrussis fled carrying very little, but Anna the mother’s maid, cowering in the upstairs dressing room, held the family’s precious collection of netsukes rolled up in her apron. What made her choose to rescue them rather than other valuables: gold? The netsukes symbolised something important to her. The children had always played with them on the floor of the dressing room as she assisted with her mistress’s toilette. As they lifted each piece from the vitrine, Emmy Ephrussi told stories. Anna saw the netsukes as enchanted, workplace memories. No one alive knows the details about how she smuggled them out or, indeed, about the maid herself.
De Waal explains in his preface the difficulty he experienced in writing about objects linked with intergenerational, traumatic narrative.
There is no easy story in legacy. What is remembered and what is forgotten? There can be a chain of forgetting, the rubbing away of previous ownership as much as the slow accretion of stories. What is being passed on to me with all these small Japanese objects? … (De Waal: 20)
De Waal’s exegesis resists the symbolic weight of the netsuke collections as artifacts of the Jewish Holocaust, even as he weeps over erasures and tragedies. The book addresses all the issues of collecting objects – the lust for security and possession, the coded joy of their aesthetics, the ethics of custodianship.
A favoured, favourite thing. Or I could put it away. Or I could pass it on. How objects are handed on is all about story-telling I am giving you this because I love you. Or because it was given to me. Because I bought it somewhere special. Because you will care for it. Because it will complicate your life. Because it will make someone else envious.
While De Waal, the prevaricating artist, agonises over the symbolic gifts he has inherited, he finds a way to begin, by entering the historiography of the collection. The Ephrusssi family clung to material goods and affluence as a means of shoring up identity against the historical persecution suffered by their Jewish diaspora in Odessa, Paris and Vienna. Using the hare netsuke as title and conceit enables De Waal art scholarship while inadvertently approaching traumatic family stories. While each netsuke is discrete in its individual beauty, the entire collection symbolises the precarious serendipity of survival.
Breeding like Bunnies: Collections
I contributed to my mother’s collections by gifting homemade items, glass and china, on celebration days and on return from overseas travels. She showed little interest in their backstories, supplanted as they were by personal narratives of acquisition and placement on shelves. In Stewart’s words she searches ‘for perfect hermeticism, the collection must destroy both labour and industry’ (160). She likes autumn tones in her decorative choices, including soft furnishings and fresh flowers, and this may explain why she collects amber hobnail glass and Bavarian fruit plates. For her the joy lies with form, colour and display.
To compare, my ‘Aunt’ Grace traversed Australia in the sidecar of an ancient motorbike ridden by her husband, clutching newspaper-wrapped Carnival glass. They built a collection that drew visitors to their small stone house, which they had made over, room by room, into a museum, the glass displayed and described with historical accuracy in floor-to-ceiling glass cabinets. Each item carried a story of acquisition and provenance. Perhaps she falls more in line with tragic Jewish writer Walter Benjamin, who considers collectivity in his essay about books:
I suffer, by explaining the passion a collector feels for the process…
The most profound enchantment for the collector is the locking of individual items into a magic circle in which they are fixed as the final thrill, the thrill of acquisition passes over them…The period, the region, the craftsmanship, the former ownership—for a true collector the whole background of an item adds up to a magic encyclopedia whose quintessence is the fate of his object (Benjamin, 62).
I did not deliberately set out to convert my children to collecting but, ostensibly, to minimise chocolate intake each Easter, when our family bunny delivered to them, a Royal Doulton Bunnykins figurine, proxy-bid for at country auctions, bric-a-brac shops and later on eBay. They were chosen first for narrative value: nursery rhyme, fairy tale characters and historical heroes/sheroes, for instance. Our children kept them on personal display shelves, along with other small items or curios they thought significant, taking them out of the cupboard to play with on the dining room table, acting out small plays and stories, and then rearranging them on their shelves. That generations of Ephrussi children played with netsukes on the floor of Emmy’s dressing room resonates for me. I think of the absorption with which my middle daughter’s small child replicates this play with her bunnies. And, indeed, slid my forbidden solitary netsuke away in its satin purse to play with behind a chair, chipping the deer’s ear.
When my son, our youngest child, aged fourteen, brought a strapping friend home for a weekend visit he led him to his shelf saying, ‘do you want to see my china,’ followed by, ‘do you collect things?’ His naturalness pleased me. Later when I asked him and his sisters to take custody of their collections, he said, ‘I will never get rid of my bunnies, Mum, but please keep them for a bit longer because my house is too small.’ My heart bumped again.
In the early years, their collection half complete, we speculated over who would eventually sell their bunnies for a hit of heroin. Of course, it wasn’t as hard as that. One Christmas, I carried to London my oldest daughter’s collection, bubble-wrapped in a plastic tub, knowing that her English husband had, when first introduced to the bunnies, described them, in derisory tone, as twee. I joked that I was returning them to their natural environment: England. That I needed to move on from childish things!
‘I don’t want them,’ she said. ‘We’ve got no room.’
I offered to purchase a little glass-fronted cupboard I had seen in the curio shop on her High Street.
‘I don’t know….’
‘But they’re yours,’ I replied. ‘Why don’t you sell them then?’
Theatrical sighs. ‘I’ll put them in the attic for a few years.’
‘Perhaps one of the children will like them when they’re older,’ I consoled her and myself. By then they might better understand the Arthurian and Tudor bunnies even if dissevering The Little Mermaid.
My husband is one of twelve children and his family were not collectors. At some point he expressed an interest in Australian echidnas to one of his patients. Over the years, live ones had climbed our verandah craving dog food or water. From then on, at first only gradually, stuffed, carved and blown representations of echidnas began to arrive at his surgery, sourced from every corner of the nation and even from overseas, until they filled his open fire place, which finally overflowed.
‘I forbid you to bring them home,’ I said. ‘That is all.’
Nonplussed about how to deter his patients he malingered until, this year, he took up his new urban appointment and carried them in a garbage bag to a kindergarten.
Conserving the Pulse of the Maker: Art and Aesthetics
During the writing of this essay, I try to come to grips with the tense relationship between making, restoring, possessing and relinquishing: artifacts and narratives. De Waal is a maker, an artist, a writer of books and essays about pottery, preferring to write as a craftsman and critic, rather than someone fetishising a collection of objects that have come to him ready made. As an artist he understands the powerful act that creates beauty. Beautiful objects, he believes, ‘retain the pulse of their making’.
My grandmother told me over morning tea that when electricity arrived in their district, she helped her grandmother throw all their hand-painted, kerosene lamps into the creek.
‘Outdated technology,’ we all say, tossing technical hardware towards Africa. For rational thinkers, the argument is hard to resist.
For many years, a Victorian, library lamp, its shade hand-painted with pale pink azaleas, extended by long brass pole over my dining room table. During my machinations to get rid of ‘stuff’, I managed to track down the original restorer who spoke of the lamp with love, of his memories of that careful work. A thing of beauty, it was one of the few antiques, that held its value when I disposed of them at auction.
Acid baths, electric and hand sanders, wood-turning and carving tools, French and bees wax polishing techniques, and the pursuit of knobs and handles are necessary skills for rescuing artifacts. Super-glue must be the 21st century renovators’ equivalent. Conservation and restoration, as trades and skills, operate as subtexts to this section but are beyond the scope of my essay.
Souveniring for Personal Identity
Many of the material objects that define the spaces I lived in during my adult life are souvenirs of travel or self-determined lived experiences: a poster map mounted on board, a book purchased at a writer’s home, a ceramic Chinese scholar, a netsuke immortalised in a book. As an adventuring first born I gradually supplemented memory objects with metonyms of travel that underlined my individuation and mature separations from my family: Stewart sees souvenirs as an extension of the project of self and ‘its perpetual desire for reunion and incorporation, for the repletion that is not a repetition’.
I am of you but not you, I mentally telegraph to my parents. I am different. In a complex way, the setting out of domestic possessions associates and differentiates.
My children laughed about our decorating taste, its themes confined to pockets or corners of our living areas. Artifacts from Berlin, Chicago, Mauritius, Shanghai and many other places, contribute to the overall domestic effect which is collage, pastiche at best.
‘It’s like living in a bloody museum,’ our second sprog complained.
‘Eclectic taste would be a nicer way to describe us,’ I riposted.
‘The souvenir may be seen as emblematic of the nostalgia that all narrative reveals—the longing for the place of origin’ argues Stewart.
Like the cliche, I felt at home with strangers and sometimes strange at home. From an early age, foreign places formed my identity. Objects obtained away from home are the repositories of narratives and memories: shameful ones like a silver sugar bowl lifted by a travel companion; protected flowers plucked and pressed after a difficult climb; menus of exotic food after which one threw up; or, in my case, a man carried me fireman style along a canal to my hotel; photographs of difficult and joyful experiences. The souvenir ‘contracts the world in order to expand the personal’, writes Stewart. ‘The souvenir, is by definition always incomplete… an allusion and not a model… and in its incompleteness is what leaves room for memories. Into that empty space, you can import desire and longing’ (1993: 90).
The word souvenir comes from the Latin word subvenire, meaning to come into mind. Souvenir can refer to what you do to preserve something in your mind, or it can refer to the thing that triggers the memory. It is the object you use or the action you take to bring the sensation of the other into yourself, to remember (Stewart: 84).
Travel souvenirs decorate many homes and vary in form from expensive art works, Venetian glass, for instance, to poorly made, mass-produced, often unauthentic representations of national culture: kitsch, ‘that can be apprehended,’ Stewart says, ‘on the level of collective identity’ or can be seen as ‘metafashion’. From my first overseas trip, aged eighteen, I brought home a doll from every nation, and from then on. Why? That I bought them for my sisters, and they gave them back to me when done with childish things, would be a lie. Their individual prices are subsumed by their ‘seriality, novelty, and abstraction’. Dolls and steins, textiles and ashtrays cannot meaningfully be bought in a set–for the joy is in their individual pursuit. According to Stewart, ‘the collector constructs a narrative of luck which replaces the narrative of production’. These are particularly evidenced in travel narratives.
After a writer friend begged me to bring home from County Clare a stone from the Burren, I was ethically confronted by signs forbidding their removal. Huzzah, my conscience cleared when I borrowed a small stone from a demolition site; it brought her joy, she said. It sat beside her as she wrote, laden with once-removed memories of her ancestors, and I believe that one day her Irish novel will be published, and she will return her fragment of the Burren. Her nostalgic longing to link with her past was only vicariously mine through small-scale thieving. Karen Warren analyses the self-justification of marauders that include rescue, universal ownership of cultural capital, material benefit to the victims, scholarly access, and the undermining of black markets. De Waal argues that objects have always been stolen and traded. Few of the arguments stack up in a metamodern context: the theft of Lord Elgin’s marbles or First Nation artefacts.
Rather than antiques, many souvenirs made their way into our new dwelling, accumulating in my study. For they explain more about writer me, cuckoo in the nest of my family’s conservatism, than the heavy furniture that wouldn’t fit through the front door or the stairwell and dominated small contemporary rooms like ogres. But identities are complex, and in secret drawers, you’ll still find small items, for instance, my great, grandmother’s hand-painted china dog: a cheap piece of pottery, worth nothing but a memory of her pressing it into my small hands on her deathbed.
This new year, op-shops in my suburb are closed for donations, overwhelmed by the plenitude of people’s post-Christmas decluttering. On a climate-changed planet, with a burgeoning population on the move, increasingly into crowded urban centres, the acquiring and maintaining of material possessions, has become fraught and contradictory, simultaneously a capitalist impulse, and a desire for identity and connection. Souvenirs, collections and heritage legacies can serve these functions. Objects are metonyms for memory, carrying no intrinsic content but the skills and quality of their making. They shape national, artistic and personal stories and thus merit archival interest.
Surrounded by fewer identity-defining objects that trigger memories of my life as a family member, farmer, lover, writer, traveller, neighbor, friend, I note that most items I relinquished in this contraction of my domestic life, have endured at least one century already and may attract new narratives. This essay consoles me that objects and narratives serve their time in our homes and in our imagination and that no one carries sole responsibility for their preservation.
Benjamin, Walter ‘The Image of Proust’, Illuminations (1955; Great Britain: Jonathon Cape, 1968) intro. Hannah Arendt, trans. by Harry Zohn, from Schriften., pp. 197-211; and ‘Unpacking my Library: A Talk About Book Collecting’, pp. 61-70.
CENTI, Memory Box Project, South Africa, 2008-11. https://cerikids.org/memory-box-project-south-africa accessed 15 January 2018.
De Waal, Edmund The Hare With the Amber Eyes (London: Vintage Books, 2010); Winner of 2010 Costa biography Award.
Friedmann, Jessica ‘Weaving.’ Things That Helped: Essays (Melbourne: Scribe Publications, 2017)
Kondo, Marie, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (2014)
Stewart, Susan, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1993)
Buysse, Mary Kay in Tom Verde, ‘Aging Parents With Lots of Stuff, and Children Who Don’t Want It’, NY Times, 18 August 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/18/your-money/aging-parents-with-lots-of-stuff-and-children-who-dont-want-it.html Accessed Oct. 2018.