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Some of the Mayan artifacts Philip and I found in the Yucatan. Can you tell which ones are real and which ones I bought?

I have a friend who changed jobs, moved to a new city on the other side of the country and put almost everything she owns in storage. I understand she doesn’t know whether her new job will work out, but I couldn’t leave my things behind. Almost, without exception, everything in my home is linked to family, friends and events in my life. Some remind me of tragedies while others represent happy times and great blessings.

They’re as much a part of who I am as my smile and my blue eyes.

Everything in my home has a story. They’re like old and trusted friends. Few things were bought because I “needed” them except for the sofa in the living room, which now looks and smells like it belongs to Annie. What was I thinking, buying a white sofa when I have a dog?

Or the Albert Watson photograph of Keith Richards I also bought for this house but from my point of view… Keith’s not new. He’s been part of me in one way or another since I was 12.

I like to think that if someday I move to a smaller place or, God forbid, a nursing home, some of my pieces will go with me. I’ll be the only old lady with a rockstar in her room. 

The pieces we surround ourselves with are more than just stuff we buy so our rooms won’t look empty. They’re reflections of who we are and the life we’ve led, and they carry with them rich memories that are deep and everlasting. Like Medicine Crow that hangs over my fireplace. 

Medicine Crow wasn’t a random piece I bought at an art gallery. I’ve admired the artist, Stan Natchez, and dreamed of having one of his pieces since I was in my early 20’s. Much of his art he paints on uncut sheets of two dollar bills to which he adds turkey quills and glass beads, tributes to his Native American heritage. Twenty-five years after I first saw his work, James and I were on our honeymoon in Santa Fe, and I literally set out to track Stan down. 

I’d gone from gallery to gallery, inquiring about Stan Natchez, and when a store owner pointed down the street and said, “You just missed him,” I ran out the door. Even from the back I knew it was Stan. His hair was straight and glossy black, pulled back in a long ponytail. I took a chance and called out his name, and he stopped long enough for me to catch up with him. He took us to his studio, and I bought Medicine Crow. Because I didn’t have enough money, Stan put it “on layaway” for me, and I paid for it over time. It was a year before Medicine Crow came home to live with me.

I have lots of minerals and crystals that my first husband and I found. Philip used a chisel and a rock hammer to bust an outcropping of amethyst crystals loose from the wall of an abandoned mine in New Mexico. Somewhere I have a photograph of his bloody knuckles. 

Then there’s the oil painting of Philip’s great, great, great grandmother that hangs over my bed, a gift from Philip’s mother to me. The family resemblance is amazing. I removed the dusky red decoupage frame and added a linen mat and a silver frame to highlight the beautiful lace on her blouse. I love that she’s writing with a quill pen.

I have a pair of gold cherubs that were Christmas tree ornaments I bought for my first Christmas with James. They’re now hanging on each of the lamps next to my bed. It seemed only fitting since he died on Christmas. It’s like he watching over me.

How did you acquire the things in your home that are important to you? Did you buy them at an estate sale, inherit them, buy a matching group of things at a furniture store or maybe buy something because you couldn’t live without it like I did with Keith and Medicine Crow?

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  1. Your post was timely for me. We recently sold our home and we are moving back to my home state. We are building a home that we designed so we have to move to a rental home until it’s completed. Much of our things will remained boxed up and in storage until we move into the new house. Many of my things have stories – some collected and some inherited. I love going to art fairs, small shops, or pick things up when we travel. No place will feel like home until I can get my things out and hang them on the walls or put them on shelves. People always make the comment “Your house feels so homey” when they come over. I am not a minimalist and could never be one of those people that sells everything when they move. But after packing all these boxes maybe I should be!

    • Michelle, I know what that’s like. James and I put everything in storage while we lived in the Little House at the ranch with plans to build a bigger house. We figured 1.5 years, max, our things would be in storage, but James unexpectedly died and we never got to build our home. I lived in the Little House for another six years until I sold the ranch and moved back to town and got my things out of storage. I went to our storage unit frequently but it’s not the same as living with them. I hope your transition goes smoothly and it’s just for a short period of time. xoxo, Brenda

  2. What a lovely post Brenda. You’ve inspired me to walk around my house and I have to say everything in my home also has a story. Over my sofa is the mirror and 2 prints my mother in law bought at a “to do” store for her first home as a new bride. In the corner of my dining room is a piece of driftwood she found on the beach on her honeymoon.
    My brother David (he was murdered) was a musician and a mason. I have his antique level on my wall. Everyone wants to know what it is and why its there. xxxooo

    • Doreen, I, too, have a piece of wood from my father-in-law. A walking stick he found when he was young and had kept and used all those years. What is a “to do” store? The only to do I know is my to do list. xoxox, Brenda

  3. Thank you for sharing the story of your life through the special belongings that define you. I have an inspiration shelf where I keep all the little things that evoke memories that shaped me.

    • Hi Pat, In my office is a small walk-in closet with shelves. Several shelves are filled with things that are special to me. Things other people wouldn’t even have a clue as to what they are. Every time I turn on the light and go in there, they are the first things I see. Very comforting. Thanks for reminding me of my shelves! xoxox, Brenda

  4. Thank you for your lovely story. Like your home, our home represents the ‘fabric’ of our life that we began some 53 years ago. We lived and traveled in many places and our home tells the story of all those places. And it all works together beautifully.

    • Hi Judy, Isn’t it interesting how things bought at different times and places in our lives all live together cohesively? I love homes like this as opposed to ones where the owners have things from furniture stores and nothing that reflects their life’s journey. Awesome comment. Thanks! xoxox, Brenda

  5. Honestly, Brenda, I’ve moved so many times it’s hard to recollect what I kept and what I left. Now that we’re in our ‘retirement’ home, (meaning the last move, not a ‘Home home’. lol… I would say art is the most I’ve kept. Some from my art mentors who really opened me up to my own talent and also shared some of their own art with me. I’ve been told I have a talent for making a home feel homey. I think that’s due to my artsy eye.
    Love your story.

    • Barbara, You are artistic! That I know, but I didn’t realize you’d let go of most of your things over the years. Would you believe I still have the butcher block I bought when I married my first husband? It was our first piece of furniture other than bean bag chairs. Your comment about being able to make a place feel homey reminds me of stories of celebrities who, because they’re away from home for extended periods of time, travel with photos and other pieces to make their hotel rooms feel more like home. xoxox, Brenda

  6. Great article, Brenda, I can totally relate. The few “important” things we have left after five moves, give us lots of pleasure, specifically for the memories they afford us!
    XO Donna

    • Donna, I was going to say “Five Moves!!” but then I remembered your history, plus I’ve moved three times since James died. Moves are a good way to gage what’s important to us. xoxox, Brenda

  7. I enjoyed this post so much because it made me think of some of my possessions I haven’t thought about for a long time. There they sit, or hang, with me not giving them a second thought. The God’s eye which is also a Star of David I bought in a store in Tampa, Florida in the mid 1970’s when I was a newlywed. The Blackbear Bosin (a Comanche-Kiowa artist) print I purchased from the Mid America All-Indian Center in Wichita, Kansas when I lived there in the late 70’s. A rug with sentimental meaning. A salt and pepper shaker from my mother, one of my few possessions from her. Will some of these hang in a nursing home one day? I’m closer to that day than I am to those days as a newlywed. I love the Medicine Crow piece of art, by the way.

    • Alana, I enjoyed reading about some of the pieces you have. I still have half of my garage full of unpacked boxes. Obviously there’s nothing crucial in there or I would be missing it, but I need to get busy and unpack/sell before the heat sets in and it’s 95 degrees out there… which means I have another couple of weeks!! Eeek! xoxox, Brenda

  8. Since my husband and I never “upsized”, not having kids and preferring to stay in our two bedroom waterfront bungalow when we could well have afforded something more grand, I don’t worry about “down-sizing” as many of our friends are doing. And, like you, my “treasured” possessions came from the farm back home in New Brunswick, from my grandmother or Hubby’s mother. I hope to pass some of them on to nieces, or great nieces, or nephews. So most of the things in my house are not just things. They are imbued with my history and with the history of those I have known and loved. That’s their “provenance.”

    • Sue, A provenance of love… It doesn’t get any better or more meaningful than that. I was happiest when James and I lived in the Little House. It was 22′ x 22′ and we were there for five years before he died, and I was there for another six. When I moved back to town and got a normal size house, I got rid of everything except the most meaningful to me. A dear friend since high school frequently points to a wall and says, “You know if I lived here, I’d have every wall covered with something,” and she would. I love that we aren’t all the same. Thanks for sharing! xoxox, Brenda

  9. Years ago I read somewhere that decorating a little at a time with things that you love is a more fulfilling way to go than getting it all at once at various home stores, dept. stores, etc. Except for some art work on the wall, that’s what I did the first time I decorated my small living room (it was done in the 1980s/early 90’s pale pastel “western desert” look). I started the redo about 13 years ago, and it took 10 years to finish and get the perfect side chair; mostly because the old one “fit in” okay and I waited until it was completely used/starting to fall apart before I would buy another and partly because it took that long to find a chair that was the correct size and design!. I was just at a book club meeting of ladies from my local church that was also a pot luck. It was at a new home of one of the ladies who is the wife of a successful builder (from another large city in our state) and they bought a large acreage lot on the outskirts of town near the hills and the views are stunning. The house is estate-sized and magazine worthy, and I found out a decorator did it. I could tell, as it looked like a hotel lobby; it was all in the “industrial look” that’s all the rage today. I didn’t like it. It didn’t feel like someone’s home!

    • I agree with you Cat. A house decorated over time looks more like a home than if someone stopped at a furniture store and bought in mass or it was done by a decorator. Those houses don’t “have a soul,” because the life of the owner is missing. When I lived in the Little House at the ranch, there were people who built mega mansions in the same general area. The ceilings were so high and the rooms so large, they looked like hotel lobbies. There are people who visit my house who, while they won’t say it’s missing a soul, it is very minimalistic, and I have lots of “white space,” but then that’s what makes me feel comfortable. Great addition to our conversation!! Thanks! xoxox, Brenda

  10. Oh Brenda! This is amazing!! I am so attached to my Things…but then lately I have become obsessed with blue and white.
    I love that you hung an ornament from your lamp.
    Loved this piece so much

    • Donna, I love blue and white porcelain and rooms I see on Instagram, but it doesn’t fit it with what I have at the moment. A few years ago I did buy a large blue and white salad bowl from Pier One that I love. xoxox, Brenda

  11. I found upon retirement that things are just that – things. Things or possessions whichever you choice to call them can be replaced, and remembered through memories Family & friends are most important. New adventures keep us young. Move on in life. Your prized possessions hold memories and those are in your heart and mind.

    • Hi Joanna, You’re so right. It’s the new adventures that keep us young. I plan to continue finding ways to do that as long as I can. I have no family… except for Annie, my dog… and I love the things I still have. I’ve always been a minimalist so it’s not like Ive ever had a lot, plus at one point I sold the nice things I had to financially stay afloat and I’m grateful I had them to sell. Thanks for adding to the conversation, Brenda

  12. I also have many things that we’ve bought through the years on various moves. The items purchased in Europe are special to me for various reasons. The first auction I attended was in England and so my little gate leg table is a special piece to me. I inherited some pieces from my husbands parents-they are of no great monetary value but again very special to me. I have to wonder what will happen to these things when we pass on. Our daughter has very different taste than I have and our son doesn’t want to be bogged down with stuff. What I’ve done is made a list of all the items I feel are special, where they were purchased or acquired and a brief explanation on why it is special to me. This list is with our will – I did specify at the end of this list that I only want them to keep what they truly want and not what they feel they should keep. In other words, if it brings them a fond memory or a happy time than keep it.
    Because of all our moves, a house to me is just a house. I’ve never been attached to any one in particular and I’ve had some I liked more than others. This is when I am able to say our memories is what is important.

    • You’re right, Jeannette, about our memories… Unless we develop problems with Dementia or Alzheimers, most of our memories are worth more than our possessions. Because my father was military and we moved a lot when I was a kid, as an adult, my home, my physical dwelling, is dear to me. The Spy House on the Hill and the Little House at the ranch I treasure as much as I do an old friend. You’re smart to give your son and daughter some guidelines about your things and let them known they shouldn’t feel like they should keep anything unless they really like it. xoxox, Brenda

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