Thrift store or couture, $1 or $1,000, the types of things we can afford don’t matter. New, old or inherited, they’re no indicator of our value or place in the world.
Each item in our lives—yours, mine—represents a trade. A trade of time worked. Of money earned and spent. Or of another’s generosity, and whatever they traded in order to give us a gift. Far from the price tag that hangs from what we own, these are the true value of our possessions. And it’s why, even though things don’t matter as much as people, they still deserve our everyday and utmost respect.
Once, a child old enough to know better took a marker to my purse in a waiting room. Yes, it was just a bag. But just a bag that represented a friend’s thoughtfulness and love—and the amount of time she gave to buy it.
It’s easy to shrug and say that children (or grownups) don’t know better. We’re in a hurry. And things are things and not as important as people, so why treat them well? And isn’t it vain, anyway?
But treating things with cleanliness and care isn’t egotistical. It’s important. Humble. Modest. And, paramount, reflective of how we view ourselves and others. Because in each and every materialism, also ingrained is a piece of the owner, the maker, the giver, the store clerk—time, money, work, generosity.
Letting a rug go dirty without care. Coloring on a purse. Slamming and chipping dishes. Throwing pillows on the floor. Trekking across the floor without washing dirty feet. All of it and much more shortens the lifespan of not just the rug, the purse, the dishes, the pillow, the floor—but also the freedom that comes from owning and not needing. Because when we are too hard and careless with our things, sooner than ever needed to be, we are back making a trade. Of time. Of money. Of another’s generosity.
A table is a table. A rug is a rug. A shirt is a shirt.
However they arrived in our lives—new or used, cheap or expensive—doesn’t matter. How we treat them, though? It matters.