Forego the Fads

By JOSHUA ADAIR

If you love home like me, it’s easy to obsess over the endless deluge of design decrees. Recently it seems not a week passes without someone maintaining that minimalism has been murdered, making maximalism the sole suspect. Others, Greek chorus-like, proclaim that no one wants personal possessions postmortem, while also gently implying that you’ve fully failed at living an ethical existence by accumulating accessories. One voice in this cacophony even asserts that only the minimalists among us are truly prepared for the great hereafter. These absolutist – perhaps even absurdist – arguments leave little leeway for personal license.

I’ll admit it: I love stuff. As the child and grandchild of antiques dealers, I learned to appreciate and protect objects from the past – grand and humble – and to turn to them first to meet my needs. Growing up, we almost never bought anything new, long before such an approach became au courant. Our vehicles were thirty years old; our furniture had survived a century; our house was made when McKinley held office. Both of my parents could clearly recall childhood years without indoor plumbing and other, now common, conveniences. Mend and make do was their way – and still is.

Minimalists, however, we are not. We adhere to William Morris’s maxim about owning nothing one does not believe to be beautiful or know to be useful. I believe in the transformative power of living amongst beauty. However, I am no slave to the mindless materialism of which collectors are frequently accused, nor do I fall prey to the pop psychology prognosis that heralds me a hoarder for having sufficient service to feed twelve people simultaneously. I often do just that, with plates purchased for pennies at a Peddler’s Mall.

We must consume conscientiously and plan carefully to curtail our impact. This does not mean we must surrender style summarily. In two decades of making homes, I have furnished them almost entirely from flea markets, antique malls, and charity stores. I diminish the demand for new goods by recapturing, restoring, and reinventing the already-made. What’s more, I do so at a fraction of the price I would have paid for new, often lesser quality items, and I support local, independently owned businesses in the process.

We all win in this scenario, as I style a functional and aesthetically appealing home made comfortable with objects that are mostly handmade, one-of-a-kind, and long-lived. In turn, then, this world I create frequently serves as a gathering place for my friends, family, and community to dine, discuss, and even dance. It is a living space, alive with possibility, fashioned to foster community and camaraderie. Sure, it’s no tiny house or IKEA icon, but it stands as an example of conscientious and careful collection coupled with creativity. Thus, I suggest we forget fads and fashions, and seek style instead. Search for stuff that’s already made – whether you buy a little or a lot is your own business – and then make it your own.

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Joshua Adair is an associate professor of English at Murray State University, where he also serves as director of the Racer Writing Center and coordinator of Gender & Diversity Studies. His work primarily focuses upon narratives of queerness and has appeared in Gender and Sexuality in Museums (Routledge, 2010), Interdisciplinary Literary Studies, Notches, and others. His collection, co-edited with Amy K. Levin, Defining Memory: Local Museums and the Construction of History in America’s Changing Communities, Second Edition, is due out later this year from Rowman & Littlefield.

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