From Trash to Treasure and Junk to Jewels

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. We all know the old adage. But in a world of Amazon, Walmart, and online shopping constantly at our fingertips, do we ever really find that treasure?

As a Midwestern girl growing up in the 90s, I looked forward to every summer when my mom and aunt would organize our family garage sale.  We drove around and pounded signs lined with gold tinsel into the ground, and I spent hours perusing the folding tables stacked with my stylish older cousins’ clothes.  I cherished my brother’s hand-me-down gym shorts that had his name written on the tag in sharpie because I worshipped the ground he walked on.  And sometimes I’d find my old toys that my mom had forced me to get rid of the previous year….and they would become newfound treasures.

Is it healthy to put so much sentimental meaning on things?  I have cupboards filled with dolls and stuffed animals and playsets that I can’t bear to part with in the hopes that my future children might gain some joy from them.  Although—and this is my selfishness talking—I really think I’m keeping them solely for me.  They are my childhood.  I remember who gave them to me on which birthday and memories of playing in my room flood my mind.  When I attempt a purge, the soulful eyes of my stuffed animal dog Droopy fill me with guilt.  I invent a whole Toy Story-esque melodrama and end up taking a nap.

Marie Kondo suggests we ask ourselves if an item “sparks joy” and use that as a reference for keeping or tossing. But what do we do if everything sparks joy? Am I a happy hoarder? My husband is the exact opposite. He throws things away with wild abandon and doesn’t understand why or how I can save odds and ends on the off chance I might someday maybe possibly could find a way to repurpose them. But it brings me joy. I was raised by parents who reused and recycled everything. “New” was never as exciting as “new to me”.

To this day, I find retail therapy in pacing up and down the Goodwill aisles, looking for possibilities.  For my eclectic wedding, my mom and I spent many weekends collecting fifty-cent wine glasses to save money on rentals (and everyone got to keep theirs as a momento).  My wedding dress itself was a Marchesa I won in a raffle for $90.  And it fit me like a glove.  That, to me, is the essence of a treasure hunt.

What is the point of this rambling?  I guess it is just a pretty blatant pat on the proverbial back.  Or a not-so-veiled attempt at justifying my hoarding habits and thriftiness.  My point, I suppose, is why do we have to label something as trash in order for it to transform to treasure?  We live in a throwaway culture as it is, and I don’t just mean things.  It’s very easy to rid ourselves of friends—Facebook or otherwise—when we don’t see eye to eye.  It’s become almost unheard of to stay married to your first spouse.  And sometimes this is for good measure.  When the “trash” is piling up and sparking electrical fires rather than joy, perhaps it is time to reassess the situation.  But it is also possible to breathe new life into the old.  To look at things from another angle as they might serve a different purpose. 

Is it holding onto the past? Maybe. But is that wrong? Living in London, everything was old and quirky. Perfection in the imperfections. Granted things didn’t always work how they were supposed to or how you wanted them to, but there was a familiarity of knowing that the buildings had been lived in. Loved in. So in this season of new and shiny toys, don’t forget to give some love to the old faithfuls that have been by your side through all walks of life—whether they be people, places, or things.

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