Stay for Tea

Category: writing

What Does Your Stuff Mean?

My friend Gooby Herms’ home office in NY

My friend Gooby Herms’ home office in NY

While I can’t exactly blame Socrates for my tendency to seek meaning in even the most minute details of life, he provided me with a philosophical excuse to do so when he said: “The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.” Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff and things – literally. I am fascinated by our relationship to the objects that surround us, whether it’s nurturing some kind of a collection, or choosing a reduced, even ascetic, way of living. In the process of this soul searching, I’m finding that a lot of collectors and minimalists actually have more in common than I realized.

We obviously live in a very product-driven age, what with advertising’s global reach and shopping made more accessible through the internet. So as populations rise and space and resources grow more scarce, there is an advantage to keeping things as simple possible. On top of that, moving with a lot of belongings is a chore, and we are certainly doing a lot of relocating these days. According to last year’s census report, 12% of Americans – age 1 and older – had moved at least once between 2011 and 2012. (This doesn’t deter everyone, of course. One of my relatives just moved to Bahrain for work. She brought with her just a couple of suitcases…and about 300 lbs of books.)

In response to the threats of growing consumerism, advocacy for minimized living is a popular topic among bloggers, life coaches and journalists. A few months ago, entrepreneur Graham Hill wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times about his journey from excess to simplicity. A hotly debated article, it resonated with some and was panned by others, with Richard Kim of The Nation going so far as to call it “a majestic display of guileless narcissism.” The trouble with some of the advice urging us to simplify and reduce is that the process of having less can become just as needlessly competitive and aspirational as the pursuit and accumulation of more. Whether filling life with stuff or striving for minimalism, it’s important to first acknowledge our intellectual and emotional connection to objects. Getting rid of some belongings without a little bit of soul searching won’t always lead to somehow feeling lighter. Just think about the invisible accumulation that is a very new symptom of the times we live in: digital clutter rules our lives a lot more, but because it isn’t as prominent or tangible, it’s a way of expression that doesn’t get examined as frequently. Read the rest of this entry »

your requisite “what am I doing here?” post

Fellow bloggers and readers:

How did you come to develop your tone and theme in your blog? More importantly, do you feel a personal blog should have a particular theme, or should the blogger reserve the right to write about whatever they want? Is there an obligation for consistency in a personal blog?

I feel that I’ve somehow set a theme for this to be about all things gastronomical and domestic, but that wasn’t really my intention. True, I love to cook and nest, but I also don’t want to have my blog be some precious cozy thing.

One of my favorite thing about keeping an online journal in the past has been the option to write down stream of consciousness thoughts, discuss current events, share impressions on pop and art culture. I want to write about Anselm Kiefer and how his paintings make me think of ancient hermits and the Atacama desert; I want to gush about Stephin Merritt and how delightful “Strange Powers” is; I want to post bajillion pictures of my roommate’s dog. But I’ve not felt like it somehow… fits in. So I haven’t. I probably would need to get rid of this damned teacup logo (what I mean by precious). I could post these thoughts somewhere like Facebook or Tumblr, but those are not the best platforms for blogging, plus I want to have zero question about owning the content.

Do I rename my blog completely and head in another direction? Do I stick to writing about what goes on in the kitchen? Do I keep it as is and write whatever I want? Do I even owe an explanation for either path?

One thing I was contemplating is keeping all the food related blog posts as a separate section, only occasionally updated with recipes and cookbooks reviews, and then creating a main blog notebook for the more frequent updates that I’ve been mainly keeping on Tumblr. The emphasis would be on my day to day thoughts, with friends being alerted to any time I post a new recipe. Or would that be too disorganized? One of my favorite bloggers, Luxirare, recently reorganized the site in a similar way. It took a little while to figure out the structure, but now there is more content from her and I have a feeling she is able to share even more than previously.

Answer my questions for me, Internet! That’s what you’re here for!