I want to sell some of my stuff. It’s not just junk, mind you; it consists of collectable items such as hand-woven rugs, some art pottery, art medallions, and other kinds of beautiful artistic objects. None of it is terribly valuable, but it’s too nice simply to be discarded or sold for pennies on the dollar at a yard sale.
It’s time to downsize and I thought it would be easier to do so. I just want to recoup what I originally spent. Over the past thirty years I’ve already given to libraries many thousands of dollars in books and have gifted most of the canvases I’ve painted.
I’ve asked experts why I antique dealers or auction houses are not interested in my stuff. Apparently the value of collectables and antiques hit a ceiling and came crashing down after the Great Recession. People in the business only want the cream of the crop because of their costs. Young people are not interested in grandma’s china and silver. They prefer relatively inexpensive Mid-Century Modern, which fits their contemporary décors.
So what about the beautiful items from the Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau, Beaux Art, and Art Deco eras? Many Millennials generally consider those eras passé and no longer find beauty in them. They’re saddled with college loans and can’t finance marriage and homes. They have to live in tiny spaces that do not accommodate much extra stuff. They also tend to have a greater respect for the environment, for recycling, and for being able to travel lightly in order to move easily from job to job and place to place. Beautiful stuff that weighs them down simply is not of value as yet.
I’m told Millennials do love to collect a different kind of “stuff”: electronics and “experiences.” Telling others on social media the neat places at which they’ve eaten, the exotic venues they’ve visited, and the parties they’ve attended substitutes for the stuff Boomers and previous generations collected that symbolized middle class “success” from the late 19th century until recently. So what Millennials collect takes up a lot less space than what Boomers collect. My stuff wouldn’t fit into their philosophy on life or their neutral-colored aesthetic.
The post-World War II world, highly influenced in this country by English Victorianism, is coming to an end. “American exceptionalism” is in its last throes. We’re beginning to shift away from materialism and we’re seeking new values on which to hang our hats. And though my stuff is beautiful and adds value to human existence, I know that I need to be part of the shift in consciousness that is ushering in new attitudes in much of the world toward material possessions.
What is your attitude toward beauty and hand-crafted objects that convey the skill and aesthetic of the maker? What sort of stuff is worth collecting for its own sake, or does everything we own have to have a utilitarian purpose? Do you think the Western world is shifting away from materialism, and how? And what would you do with my stuff if you were in my shoes?
© 2017 Michael Parise
Portions excerpted from Michael’s book: Life Interrupted, Taking Charge After Everything Has Changed
Since 1979 Michael has worked with individuals and groups to take full advantage interruptions and changes to balance responsibilities, simplify their lives, and find greater productivity and peace.
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