By Caitlin Kelly
The climate is changing.
If you watch national television news, as we often do, (and/or read thoughtfully and listen carefully), every single North American broadcast now carries yet another enormous forest fire and devastating floods.
Add hurricanes and tornadoes, and the very human wish to remain in your home, surrounded by objects you enjoy, stands in growing opposition to the forces of implacable nature.
Culturally, there’s now, additionally, the cult of Marie Kondo, a Japanese woman whose fetish for de-cluttering has millions of (affluent) people studiously deciding what to keep and what to toss, donate or sell.
Here’s a recent post by Grace, author of the blog Cultural Life, who recently Kondo’ed her closet.
And then there are tiny houses, a trend that has some people sneering in derision at people who can afford much better choices deciding to live in 200 or 300 square feet, some with children or pets. These micro-homes are all the rage, but also, de facto, demand severe paring of all possessions. (Or renting a big storage locker!)
These are all privileged decisions, of course. Some people live with so very few possessions or don’t have a home, or the things they own are so worn out and broken they long to replace them — and cannot.
I often wonder what, if I had to make a snap decision as fire swept through the woods around my house, or flood waters started rising, (neither of which, thank heaven are likely), what I would try to grab.
(We live on the top floor of an apartment building, on top of a high hill, several miles from the Hudson River. Nor is New York a zone typically, historically, prone to hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes.)
Some of my most valued, (not all monetarily valuable), possessions:
— my Canadian passport and my green card, which allows me to live and work legally in the U.S.
— several battered stuffed animals from my childhood
— a pile of journals I kept in my 20s and 30s
— a dress I bought in L.A. years ago and later wore to marry Jose in
— my jewelry
— the paintings of my mother done by my father (small, easy to carry!)
— my framed National Magazine Award
— an original print of The Loneliest Job in the World, taken Feb. 10, 1961, an iconic portrait of the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy standing silhouetted in the Oval Office of the White House. Ours is signed by the late photographer George Tames, who Jose worked with at the Times.
No matter how minimalist our lives, we do choose and enjoy certain items, some of them markers or identity and status, some of them inherited or hard-won.