Laundry detergent is more important than you think.
The right piece of furniture, or art, or that flat screen TV is marginal to your sense of well being. Really. What actually matters are the other seemingly frivolous household objects that convey a sense of integrity and purpose to our lives.
Like that chipped coffee cup you drink from each morning. Or those Beatles coasters that totally make you feel like a cooler person.
This was all proven way back in 1981 when researcher Mihaly Czikzentmihalyi asked what objects were special to individuals and why.
One woman showed the researcher a tacky plastic statue with blurred features. Czikzentmihalyi reports, “With some hesitancy, the interviewer asked the woman why the statue was so special to her?”
“The woman answered with great enthusiasm that the statue had been given to her by a Tupperware regional sales manager as a prize. Whenever she looked at the statue, she didn’t see the cheapness, but an image of herself as a capable, successful businessperson.”
I have a special affinity for my license plates, enjoy that Seventh Generation All-Purpose Cleaner represents my values, and take great pride that I got my dining room chairs at a huge discount.
Household objects that have meaning to us are those that we have a relationship with, and those meanings change with the interactions and experiences we have. They show us where we’ve been, where we’re going and who we are now.
And they’re often the only concrete symbols of who we are, our goals, and the significant and salient events in our lives.
So it’s not how your living room looks, or how it expensive your car is, or the status your Kitchen Aid mixer brings you. Instead, it’s the memories and associations the object has with your family members and friends.
You hold on to a lipstick long after it’s safe because a good friend recommended it. Using toothpaste may be more exciting because you got a free sample after a movie. You might cry for hours over a broken bowl because it belonged to your father.
These objects, they acquire meanings as we use them, becoming integrated in our whole life experience and before you know it, you can’t tell where you begin and the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser ends.
Are you defined by your values, your stuff, or both? What household objects bring meaning to your life? Or doesn’t it matter?