“A man is known by the company he keeps.” – Aesop
You can also tell a lot about somebody by the stuff she chooses to surround herself with. In my day job, I recently packed up a resident’s belongings after she left the residence hall. She had gone without taking anything with her, so her recent college life was all there, packed into her side of the room. I learned a lot about her as I packed.
She was an art student, and a good one – the painting she had been working on was a portrait in an almost-Van Gogh style, with little colorful flicks of paint. The girl loved books, but didn’t read a lot. Her little bookcase was crammed full of books that showed no wear or creases in the bindings. She was clearly a gigantic fan of music. She had records and a record player, cassettes and a walkman, CDs and a CD player, an iPod or two – music was clearly important.
Two cameras shoved in drawers with lots of memory cards led me to think that she took a lot of photos, but there were zero photos of herself or anyone else in her room. I wondered what she looked like, what she and her friends spent their time doing, what she found funny or beautiful. I wondered how she remembered her family and friends from back home, what made her smile at night when she was homesick, the things that she cared about other than music and art and books.
Then I came home, and took stock of the things I’ve been surrounding myself with, consciously and unconsciously. I noted the stuff that was once important to me that was maybe not so important anymore, that was just taking up space and could maybe make someone else happier if they had it. I noted the stuff that would make me happier if I didn’t have it anymore. Then I made a list of all the things I wanted to purge, and started purging.
And I noted all the photos. The blown up, 24×36″ print of Resurrection Bay that I took in Alaska last year. Photos from New York, all the snapshots of Hauser. That goofy family photo from last Christmas on my parents’ back stairs, my favorite picture from our wedding, the pic from our front steps on our 9th anniversary, when I caught him laughing about something. All of our photos bring back warm feelings and happy memories of those we love, and I’m happy to surround myself with them on a daily basis.
It’s good to take stock of your life every once in a while; not to make yourself sad about what ifs or missed opportunities, but to make sure that the things you choose to surround yourself with make you happy, not stressed out or tired or sad. (This is not to say that you should surround yourself with *things* that will bring you happiness, because I’m a firm believer that *things* will not make you happy, and you don’t need to fill your house with things in order to meet some sort of goal. Only that there are bound to be things and stuff around you, even if it’s one or two things, and to make sure that those things still make you happy the way they once did.) Clutter is a big stresser, so purge where you should purge. But if someone had to pack your life into boxes, would they know who you hold dear?
During your moment of taking stock, if you realize that the photos on your walls are terribly outdated, give me a holler so we can talk about what you need to update your “gallery of happy.”