December is the time of year when we expand our collections of stuff. The problem is that by a certain age, most of us have accumulated enough stuff. I’m doing my best to keep new stuff out of the house, but even my best doesn’t mean rejecting everything that tempts me. Many more trips to Goodwill are in order before I feel free of extraneous possessions.
The one area where I have made headway in restraining the inner shopper is when I’m traveling. With one exception, I’m through collecting souvenirs. I’ve grown tired of weighting down my suitcase and of bringing trinkets into the house that belong on a tropical island or in a South of the Border setting. No more Mexican masks, embroideries or painted wooden platters. They’re great examples of folk art, but my walls are already covered. No more clothes that don’t fit me, my house, or the climate of the Northwest. No cloisonne objects, Japanese wrapping cloths (still too beautiful to part with), and no carved or papier mâché animals.
If I would look at these collectables once in a while, they might bring back memories, but it doesn’t take long for tchotkes to blend into the woodwork, not nearly as good for reminiscing as they are for causing stress. (Yes, there is research showing that clutter produces anxiety and stress).
Photos generally work well to bring back memories and they only clog my computer, not my closets. There are exceptions. as when my husband and I both point to a shot on the computer screen and ask, “Where was that?”
These days, it’s easy to avoid trinket shops that enchanted me as a child — Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on the Seattle waterfront was my favorite, a souvenir hunter’s paradise — but no matter how hard I fight it, the inevitable craving to bring home just one keepsake overcomes me. For the last three years to satisfy that urge I have collected scarves. They’re light, practical and don’t take up much room in the luggage.
While we were traveling last September, I made my usual announcement that I was looking for a scarf to purchase. My husband asked, “Don’t you have enough scarves?” The answer was, “Yes, but I don’t have a scarf from ___.” Just fill-in-the blank with the name of our next destination.
Shortly after we returned home we were wandering through our local mall, when he pointed to a mannikin dressed in a suit and scarf. “Oh, look. They even have scarves here.” As if there were ever any doubt.
The bad thing is that just like all the other curiosities I’ve bought over the years, my scarf collection now fills an entire drawer. For the next trip I may have to collect something even smaller.
I mentioned this to a friend who had the perfect solution. “Jewelry is available everywhere,” she said, “and it takes up even less room in a suitcase.”