Friday, March 29, 2013

What Are Your Most Important Possessions?


When talking about uncluttering or simple living, it's quite possible to be misinterpreted as a spoilsport, a killjoy who doesn't want anyone to have anything beyond a scrap of threadbare clothing, a dented coffee mug, and a tent to sleep in. Those who dare to have more than that are supposed to feel guilty or at least ashamed of being so decadent.

Of course, that's not really what uncluttering and simple living are about. But it can be a fine line that separates gratitude from guilt when we think about our own possessions. The never-ending questions we face are, "How much is enough? How much is too much?"

The images you'll see in the projects linked below are thought provoking, perhaps even shocking. They're not meant to engender guilt or shame; they're meant to offer perspective, which can be helpful when we're trying to answer those difficult questions.
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Photojournalist Brian Sokol created a project entitled The Most Important Thing. It features portraits of incomprehensibly impoverished refugees who have crossed the border between Sudan's Blue Nile state and South Sudan's Upper Nile state, with their most important personal possession.

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Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti’s project entitled Toy Stories presents photos of children from around the world with their most important possessions: their toys. Galimberti explores the universality of childhood and concludes, “At their age, they are all pretty much the same; they just want to play.” But he discovered significant cultural differences, too. In wealthy countries, the children were inclined to be possessive; in poor countries, even when they had only a toy or two, the children were inclined to share.

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JeongMee Yoon's Pink and Blue project "explores the trends in cultural preferences and the differences in the tastes of children (and their parents) from diverse cultures [and] ethnic groups, as well as gender socialization and identity." The project began as a result of her five-year-old daughter's insistence on wearing only pink and playing only with pink toys.

I've posted about this project in the past, but it seems appropriate to reference it here again, not because it demonstrates the power of marketing, but because of the comparatively large quantity of toys that are displayed. Could a child with this many playthings identify only one most important possession? Does that matter? Do these pictures represent joyful abundance or thoughtless acquisition? How can we know? Are the gender issues more important than the issue of quantity?

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How much is enough? How much is too much? ~ It's easier to know how much is too little.