When I bought my house about 20 years ago I had no idea what my style was. Most things were bought from thrift stores or hurriedly taken from the side of the road on trash day. It was more about having functional pieces than how pretty they looked. With a limited budget I loved the challenge of getting lots of things for very little money; I accumulated everything from ostrich feather dresses to brass keys and tables (lots of tables). What didn’t fit on the floor was creatively nailed to the wall (a children’s chair amongst other things) or hung from hooks wherever there was an empty space.
After a few years of this, my house, as you can imagine, became very crowded. It was so filled with “stuff” that I no longer knew what I had, never mind what I liked. My home had become a museum of strange items that I dusted around but no longer understood. I felt disconnected from my own belongings.
My immediate reaction to this was that I had no power over the situation, I just had to live forever with my ostrich feathers and dusty tables. Well, I lived with this thought for about an hour or so, then I decided to take everything off the walls. A day later my home looked like a very disorganized flea market. I was horrified at what I had accumulated and I decided to try and make sense of it all. After analysis and a cup of tea I knew there was no meaning at all to what I had done, I was just someone who had a lot of stuff.
So, I decided to approach my home the way that they do style makeovers on television. I began to weed out what didn’t “fit” me anymore. It sounds so simple but I was amazed at how many things I either didn’t like anymore or had never liked in the first place. I have to confess that amidst the debris were a lot of unwanted gifts from people who love me very much.
Which brings me to the title of my story. Fifteen years ago I was given a wooden duck decoy as a present. Even as I write it I stop and pause, I still can’t believe that anyone who knows me would think that I would enjoy a duck decoy. I don’t hunt and I don’t collect ducks. Did I mention that the wings lifted off to reveal a swiss army knife nestled inside? Opening this present tested every bit of my English upbringing. I knew it was given to me because the person truly thought it was cute and that I would love it as much as he did. I said thank you very much and took the duck home.
I stared at the duck for a week. It could not live in my house. This didn’t mean that I did not like the person who gave it to me, it just meant that I did not like duck decoys.
Fifteen years later I was surrounded by metaphorical ducks.
One of my dearest friends told me that she accepts a gift knowing that it is given with love. This does not mean that she has to like it, or keep it. When she said this I was shocked, it seemed so callous and ungracious. I was even more shocked when I realised that some of my gifts had obviously joined her relocation program. How could she not love all of my presents? But as I thought about I knew she was right, she wisely kept only the things that she genuinely loved.
With this in mind I began to fill my home with things that had meaning; books I wanted to read, photographs of places and people, rocks, shells, vintage jewelry, anything that made me smile. Many things are just enough to provoke a memory and some have been passed down from friends and family. I can tell you what everything is, where it came from and why it matters to me.
It’s been a few years now since I took the museum pieces of the wall, and I still change my home when I need to. I have became almost childish in my endeavours to inject personality into my home. I gleefully tell myself that it is my house and I can do what I want. If I want to paint the bathroom aqua, hang giant clocks on the wall and decorate the living room with rusty furniture then that’s what I will do.
I am happy to have it reflect who I am, a canvas that I can adjust or direct as needed. The ostrich feather dress has been moved upstairs, but it still hangs on a wall; I never tire of looking at how beautiful it is and I know that one day I will put it on and dance around the house…………..just because I can!
For more by Wendy and the Blue Giraffe, go to: http://www.thebluegiraffe.com/