I can’t be the only one that now has a house filled with random things from travels. Please tell me I’m not. A little sphinx on the bookshelf, an ebony giraffe on the dresser, some hippos on the desk. Oh yea, then there is the elephant on the lamp, the gorilla mask on the wall, that pair of alabaster bowls, and some warthogs next to the pitcher. Not to mention printed placemats, an Austrian snowglobe, and a huge embossed rice paper Angkor Wat hanging on the wall.
I love them. They remind me of the places I’ve been. I like seeing them ever day. They are good conversation starters. They give our condo character. Sure, inanimate objects shouldn’t make me happy (yadda yadda yabba dabba doo), but these really remind me of some wonderful experiences and make me smile.
But…I’m sort of OCD about organization and cleanliness. Right now–for the most part–they look like nice decorations. I dust them with minimal effort each week. But if I keep adding at this rate, I’m afraid our house may one day appear on Hoarders and instead of electronics and old magazines, it will be overflowing with wooden animals, handmade crafts, baskets, and wall hangings. I will be the screaming, pouting, disaster of a woman who can’t part with her things. Who may or may not be dragging items out of a dumpster and hiding them under her armpits to sneak them back in to her house.
I don’t want that to happen. DH doesn’t want that to happen.
It all started so innocently. On our first trip to Africa, we were amazed by all of the beautiful beadwork and wooden animals. On our second trip to Africa, we found amazing pottery, and potato-print fabric (still one of my most favored items). But then we went to Tunisia, and found some more hand-painted stonewear. Then it was Egypt and alabaster. Then it was Cambodia–hell, I hadn’t been to Asia before and look at all this amazing stuff! What about those incredibly patterned baskets in Uganda? Can’t we get an awesome wooden nurse shark from Belize?
You get the idea. It’s a dangerous, dangerous slide down the crazy hole. So here is what I have been trying (and mostly failing)–to do to rectify this “issue”.
1. Simplifying my life. People have told me to simplify. To downsize. To get rid of stuff. Yea, ok (gasp, stutter, snort) I actually like stuff. Sure, I can easily live without so many things, and I get the minimalist living concept (in theory, not in practice obviously). I’ve been getting rid of things I no longer use or need. I am trying to focus on experiences, food, and photos rather than things…but to say that I don’t like souvenirs would just be lying.
2. Purchasing useful items. I tried to start purchasing useful items, and that has worked to some extent (where they are available). Coasters, for example. Always useful. Nice to have a rotation. Pillows. Never can have too many throw pillows in my book. But there is a limit to how well I can justify something being “useful”. A wall hanging? Another wooden animal? Definitely not really “useful”. I try.
3. Purchasing one more expensive item rather than a bunch of less expensive items. This has been probably the most failed attempt. I really don’t like purchasing expensive items (I’m talking $100 or more) overseas. Now, there are some exceptions, but generally not. A painting for $20? Sure. A painting for $250? Nope. I never know what’s going to make it home, and I guess I don’t like all my eggs in one basket. Weird, I know. Plus, I still like the little items (like ornaments), so it doesn’t really save me money (or space) anyway.
4. Purchasing wearable items. This isn’t a bad idea, in theory. For example, scarves. I wear them every day to work, so they do actually get used. Jewelry–I have some necklaces I adore from my trips. They are different than anything I’d ever find in the States, and don’t take up space. But dresses? Tops? I have tons of clothes I love at home. I really don’t need more, so I don’t buy them (though somehow I don’t need more knick knacks…but I buy those anyway).
5. Having accountability. When your friend turns to you in a Cambodian market and says…”Heather, you can only buy two Tin-Tin wooden wall hangings. Your husband (then fiancé) will kill me if I allow more” then you only buy two Tin-Tin wooden wall hangings. DH is good, too. He now asks: where are you going to put this? Plus, he tells me half the things I like are crap. He’s probably right. Unfortunately, sometimes I think I could convince a rock to nod in agreement out of sheer, annoying, persistence.
6. Setting a hard budget. Hahahahaha. I usually set a budget, just “in case” I find something a little more expensive–which I never do (read above). So, instead of buying less, I just find more little things to purchase and I still come in underneath my budget! I suck at budgeting. This isn’t news to me, or to DH, or probably to anyone reading this that knows me. The only way this can really work, is if I shop with cash only, and I run out of cash. I don’t go get more cash just to buy something. Maybe I should just go to markets without cash? Hmmmm….
I guess this is where being nomadic or at least a long-term traveler would come in handy…there simply wouldn’t be that “perfect place on the mantle” for things. I’d love to hear other travelers ideas and suggestions about what they buy and what they leave. Or, as you travel more, do you start buying less and less? I mean, I can’t possibly buy another wooden giraffe…seriously. So I could definitely see that happening.
But here’s to hoping this habit is self-resolving; at least I’ve acknowledged the problem, right?
Do you have a home filled with travel knick-knacks? What do you like to buy or collect when you travel?