I make much on What I Shed Today of what Nimue and I have long called “the Morris Rule.” Straight out of an essay by the 19th-century English artist, designer, and social critic William Morris, the Rule says, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” We find that, handled confidently, it is a very sharp knife to divide what should stay and what should go.
Occasionally we ruefully amend the Rule: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, believe to be beautiful, or was given to you by someone you don’t wish to offend by ditching it.”
Bemusement aside, I believe that “thank you,” “congratulations,” “great job,” “you’re appreciated,” “please care about me,” “I’m glad we’re us” and like words are the finest things people say to one another in ordinary discourse. We say them—aloud or by signs—to connect, keep connection, or strengthen the bonds of relationship. Gifts signify that.
So I don’t want to be ungrateful nor treat them shoddily. But when I look around at my clutter, I see a fair amount that came to me as gifts. Is it possible to separate the significance of those objects from their qualities of usefulness or beauty so as to keep the connection to the giver but permit shedding the gift?
The question is tender, one I don’t want to rush to answer. But I recognize that the solubility of memory sometimes yields a “yes.” Nimue and I recently counted our decks of playing cards: we had six. The most we could imagine wanting to need were two. How did we wind up with so many? At least five were given to us, we thought … but we can’t remember by whom, nor when. Without diminishing a sort of general gratitude for everyone who’s ever been generous toward us, I think we can shed them.
For the rest of our gifts that we don’t know to be useful nor believe to be beautiful, I don’t know yet. But I sense that the generalized gratitude I sometimes feel might be cultivated and grown till it thanks the generosity of all life. I think if I could do so, I might discover a freedom to reverently yet lightly receive, and as lightly release in giving on, that would answer my question without words, but rather a wise wink.
shedding style: give away
destination: thrift store
Comments welcome … what do you think? Is it possible to separate the significance of objects received as gifts from their qualities of usefulness or beauty so as to keep the connection to the giver but permit shedding the gift?