I’ve been thinking a lot about materialism. Specifically, is it possible to write about material items on a weekly basis – coveting them, making them, upgrading them for purely asthetic purposes – without becoming, in the end, simply about things?
Sometimes I feel shallow for caring about what our couch legs look like. Shouldn’t having a couch be enough? Shouldn’t the fact that we have an apartment to live in be all we need? It can be difficult to remember why it’s legitimate to care about the aesthetics of my home, let alone write about it, when every day I’m bombarded with articles telling me what trend I need to include in my next project or showing me neverending items that promise to complete whatever look I’m going for. This attitude so clearly goes too far, that it makes me feel like caring at all is to participate in an industry that exists not only to sell but to oversell. Can’t valuable content be created without focusing so much on if we have the Right Things? What about focusing on why we have it, instead?
Because I do think it’s legitimate, even important, to think about what we surround ourselves with and why. I don’t think the “what” is important in the way that we can get trapped into thinking it is. It’s not important to be “on trend” or interesting to anyone but yourself. But part of being human is coming to terms with the fact that we are visually stimulated creatures. And to me, that means that the objects I encounter throughout my day matter.
The first time I saw a Monet painting in person, I was sixteen and visiting England with my Girl Scout troop. And I cried. It was so moving to me, to finally see the color and emotion in person, up close. It was real, and I cried. I thought it was a first time viewing thing, but I’ve since moved to New York and regularly visit Monet’s Water Lilies at the MoMA with Sam. It’s by far my favorite place in New York (I don’t mean favorite museum, or favorite day trip, or anything. I mean if you asked me where I want to go with my free time on any given day, I will probably say I would like to go visit the Water Lilies), and every single time I’ve gone, I’ve cried. They matter to me.
I’m sure you could to find someone who would say Water Lilies doesn’t matter, but I hope it would be difficult, and I have no doubt that the majority of people in the world are on my side of this. Art, and the way it makes us feel, and the way we feel when we are physically in its presence, not just through knowing that it’s out there in the world, is important. It is essential to what it is to be human. In that way, objects matter as well. But sometimes I have trouble remembering that when it comes to the every day things in my life.
We’ve all read the articles citing studies that spending money on experiences rather than things brings more happiness to our individual indexes, and I agree with that philosophy. But what are we doing when we put thought and effort into the objects that fill our homes if not creating a daily experience? We might not cry every time we look at our living room (though I’ve certainly been known to when I come home at the end of the day and find that Sam has cleaned the entire apartment while on break from school), but where we live and how we live there, matters. And the objects with which we choose to populate our lives matter, too.