For more than four decades, I have found and made a home for many loved objects in our New York City apartment 12 stories up. My husband, Howard, and I moved in just before the birth of our first son, Carter, followed by his brother, Sam, three years later. Who knew that after all this time we would still be here, surrounded by so many of the same things we started out with—and a lot more! Taking a quick tour I see paintings galore, samplers, original children’s artwork, pot holders and pincushions, painted furniture, dangling paper chains over the bed, and shelves and stacks of books, books, and more books. Slowly, these rooms have filled up with the essentials—not the sofas and chairs or a dining table, but the really essential things, the things we have collected, made, or been given that tell the stories of who we are. The things that make a home a home—a scrapbook of our living.
Whether an apartment, a house, a cottage by the sea, or a cabin in the woods, our homes today are our entire universe—our offices, our restaurants, our gyms, the schools for our children, and our hubs for both reaching out and reflecting. When I finally leave my computer—and my tablet and phone are recharging—I find time to recharge myself by curling up on my sofa and taking a new look at some of the things I’ve lived with for years.
Focusing on the old painted table directly in front of me (see the image above) cluttered with a mélange of treasures I’ve curated many times before, I’m suddenly rediscovering each one: the peeling red robin my sister gave me for my birthday a decade ago; a handmade yellow pottery pitcher (filled with fake poppies), a gift from friends who carried it all the way from Madrid; a framed postcard of Pierrot sent from San Francisco; a tattered book cover self-portrait of Van Gogh nestled in an old tray with a pair of ceramic eyeballs, a souvenir from Paris; and a trio of Chinese matchboxes from a favorite restaurant.
All through our apartment are little vignettes like these filled with memories that give a home a one-of-a-kind personality. More than likely, your home is not as filled-to-the-brim as ours, but I’m sure it has plenty of special treasures placed on tables, in bookshelves, in cupboards, and on bedside tables that reflect your life and the tastes of those you may share it with. Take a little time with these personal totems, and like a podcast of the heart, listen to the stories they tell you. Rediscover the people, places, and experiences they evoke, and then, for the fun of it, start moving them around! If you’re anything like me, the way we arrange our homes can become static. This is a great time to give it a refreshing bounce of newness—rehang a wall with disparate pictures and artwork (even your kids’ masterpieces), move your bed to another spot so tomorrow morning you wake up to another view, or find a place for that mirror that’s been gathering dust in a closet. If children are part of your home team, have them redecorate their room (even temporarily!) or create an exhibit of their drawings or toys.
One of the reasons I love to hunt at flea markets is to bring home something new that will provoke me to instantly rearrange my stuff, and shake up the way it looks and lives. It gives me a new perspective on the things that I’ve interacted with for years. If you’re yearning for those junking journeys temporarily paused, I suggest, like me, you seek your inspiration elsewhere—forage through old magazines and books, click on the endless ideas served up on Pinterest, and if you need a real buying fix, check out Etsy and eBay or just make a “dream” list for later.
Most of all, live happily with the things you love and cherish that they make your home feel like home—for you and all those you share it with right now and forever!
A Gallery of One-of-a-Kind Collectibles From The Joy of Junk
During these special days of staying close to home, collectors find joy in rediscovering the things that fill their rooms and hearts with stories and meaning. Here are some shared by Carter from her book, The Joy of Junk. Two—Buffy Birrittella and Daniela Kamiliotis—have contributed their special creativity as long-time executives of Ralph Lauren.
- Courtesy of Francois Halard
- Courtesy of Carter Berg