I try to keep “stuff” to a minimal in our home, though I am, admittedly, a work in progress. I recently opened a few of our drawers and closets, to discover that I still have a long way to go. I am determined, though, because the disorganized clutter that happens when we are not intentionally managing our acquisitions makes me crazy. I am burdened and disoriented by it, as it inevitably makes it more difficult and sometimes impossible for me to keep track of the things that matter to me. I have found myself sifting through stacks of papers that I don’t need to find the one piece of paper that I do need, and I am then reminded that I can and need to do better.
So, I try not to acquire “stuff’ for the sake of acquiring it. Any purchase of anything over $20, that is not food, clothing, medicine, or some other necessity requires a 24-hour waiting period. For anything over $200, the rule of thumb is typically 30 days, and I find this works well. It curbs impulsive shopping, excessive retail therapy, and adding stuff that we really don’t need to the stuff we already have. I am not opposed to owning things, as there are things that I have and love having, and which bring me joy. But excess makes me feel irresponsible and that makes me feel sad. So, these personal guidelines help me live a more intentional and satisfying life.
All of this said, I have been trying to figure out just why the tiny contents of my Classiky wooden boxes bring me so much inexplicable joy and happiness. A pin, given to me by a friend, and which I keep in the larger of the two boxes, reminds me that “Sh*t doesn’t have to make sense,” and that might be true. I may not ever figure it out. Some things may bring us joy just because. As part of my quest for answers, I took a little tour through the two little boxes that I often move to and from the dining room table (our family desk) to my desk (an actual desk), depending on where I am working that day, to analyze the contents.
The smaller box contains only one thing - paper clips. A huge and wide assortment of paper clips, more paper clips than I could ever actually use. Many of these paper clips connect me to people and places. I have received paper clips as gifts, and I have purchased them as souvenirs. There are stories behind some of them, these simple, mundane, office supplies. In fact, there is quite possibly nothing quite as boring as a paper clip. Yet, we have designed an amazing variety of them, when the original design does the job. I have silver bulldog clips and black doctor’s clips (or at least that was what they were called at Goods for the Study in Soho, where I bought them). I have large gold skeleton binder clips may by Tools to Live By. Paper clips that smile at me and make me smile that I picked up at Cambridge Street Papers, my favorite local paper clip joint. I have paper clips from Japan that are functionally awesome, and so much different than the US version. I got those from Kinokinuya in New York. I also have paper clips that were sent to me by friends. They are sentimental to me. And then there are the magnificently big, pretty flower paper clips. I got them from Barnes and Noble before I had kids. I once had six, but there are only four left. They connect me to my past.
The larger of the two boxes, the Classiky Desk Tool Box, is filled with a wide variety of things. It is, indeed, filled with some “desk tools.” My foldable scissors and washi tapes are stored in it, along with the vintage Dennison labels that I like to use on my notebook inserts to add the date. I found them at a local curiosity shop. I also have postage stamps in there - postcard, first class, and international- as well as the blunt syringes that are used to fill my fountain pens with bottled ink, which is part of my slow living daily ritual. There are, perhaps, few things slower and more pointless than filling a fountain pen with bottled ink in this digital age, which is exactly why I do it. So, there are practical and useful things in the box,, But I can also find things of great sentimental value, tiny trinkets and ephemeral that connect me to my sons and other loved ones, and things that remind me of things that make me laugh, smile, or feel joy.
The contents of this box change often. I take out of it when I grow bored with them, and they are no longer making me smile. If you’re a parent, the idea of “busy box” filled with novel toys that will keep a toddler entertained will sound familiar, and, in some ways, this box is like that. It also reminds me of a teacher’s “goody box,” in which kids are allowed to go if they’ve been well behaved. I have, with unintentional ingenuity, created my own personal hybrid busy box/goody box and when I open it, I am always rewarded.
I do use the paper clips that I have, and I often lose them. That’s okay. They are simply paper clips, and they serve a function. Their simplicity makes it easy to keep them and easy to let them go. They take up so little room and usually cost very little. Yet, their design intrigues similar to the design of the Classiky box. We make so many different kinds of boxes, which are simply vessels or containers for holding things. The construction of the Classiky wooden boxes, with their rounded, tongue and groove edges, hinges, handles, and clasps, seem to signify that they would contain things of much greater value, but perhaps it’s easy to underestimate the value of simple things - the joy of functional artifacts.