A “stuff-y” situation

By Steve Harrison

We have a lot of stuff. John and I have been collectors of one type or another for much of our 43 years. John started with stamps when he was a kid; I started with stuffed animals. We began collecting art pretty early, with paintings taking the place of nicely framed posters. John started collecting men, well, photos of men, which became the basis of three scholarly books, helping to cement his contributions to the studies of gender and masculinity. Hillside Fine Art, the California contemporary art gallery I started in 2014, helped round out our art collection.

Growing up, my grandmother took me shopping nearly every weekend. She couldn’t have too many white blouses. She loved things, but limited by the size of her house, bought lots of jewelry, small stuff. She was quite generous and passed her love of clothing and nice things on to me. She taught me how to make a home comfortable and how to provide hospitality so visitors would feel comfortable, too.

Now, as we get ready to do a bit of remodeling, we feel as though we are drowning in stuff. We are not hoarders. Really! We surround ourselves with things we like, feather our nest, and present acquisitions in a way that might drive an interior decorator crazy, but pleases us. Being encouraged to move all of our ephemera out of the downstairs, giving the workmen room to do their jobs, we are now faced with what to do with all of this stuff. A POD apparently will house half of our belongings and the rest will be shuffled back and forth inside to free up room for people to work. In the past, moving every decade or so has saved us from stuffing too much in the back of closets, having too many junk drawers or accumulating too much stuff — but after being in this house for over 20 years, we feel the weight of our material world.

A la Marie Kondo, we are trying to edit as we go. Who needs eight pie plates or six pyrex pans? Yet, as I try to toss belongings into the discard pile, I wonder if the serving platter that I use once a year won’t be missed. It may not “spark joy,” but it does come in handy. The same can be said for the wool coat that weighs ten pounds. It’s not sparking joy right now in 100-degree heat, but I might need it in Lake Arrowhead or San Francisco this winter. What doesn’t bring joy today, just might tomorrow. Packing up 15 white pitchers, hundreds of pinecones, collections of candle sticks, mercury glass, and dachshund statues would surely make Kondo cringe.

I’m a materialist through and through—I’ve bought into the American way: “more, more, more.” Though in the past I have been guilty of buying for the sake of buying or maybe even unconsciously hoping to buy happiness, I try to be a bit more conscious of what I buy, hoping what I purchase now will add comfort to what surrounds me. And I want things to have some meaning. As an art dealer, I enjoyed helping others find art that stirred their souls and embellished their spaces. I hoped to not only make money for both myself and my artists, but also hoped to connect clients with visual art that they would enjoy looking at for years to come. To make a house a home, you have to surround yourself with things and people you love, but you probably don’t need a house and several storage units full of stuff.


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