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The necessity of trinkets

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Trinkets, knickknacks and kitsches — whatever you want to call it, I’m a fan. I collect, accumulate and acquire a variety of different little treasures. The top of my dresser is packed with them — a trove of scented tea candles, flea market rings, glittery nail polish and vintage handkerchiefs. 

My bookshelves are the same: piles of lip gloss, crocheted animals and spare keys all vie for a spot alongside my books. Hanging from my bulletin board is my collection of butterfly dangle earrings, along with postcards printed with paintings and a pair of yellowed lace gloves.

I’ve always been a collector; at home, I have boxes of river rocks and sea glass. I have envelopes packed with all the letters I’ve ever been sent. Dried bouquets from graduations, birthdays and picnics adorn my walls.

I’m a strong believer in surrounding yourself with all the things you adore. Marie Kondo has a point — keep the things that bring you joy! I love my dried flower collection, and my infinite number of fountain pens, colored pencils and markers. My stacks of old notebooks are filled with math equations, sketches and grocery lists. What is a home if not a place to keep all your memories and mementos?

Yes, I’ll admit that occasionally, my spaces have a tendency to accumulate what some might call “clutter,” but in my defense, I typically live in small spaces. For all four years of high school, I slept in a closet under the stairs — like Harry Potter, I know — which housed my twin bed, a fold-down desk and an impressive amount of stuffed animals. Even then, I made room for clippings of poetry and vases of dismembered watches.

As a kid who moved around, having a space that was my own — for any amount of time — was important to me. There wasn’t always a guarantee for how long I would be living in a space, so it was always the goal to make it feel homely as quickly as possible. Trinkets helped me accomplish this purpose satisfactorily. They were small, easy to put in a cardboard box and the box had always fit comfortably in the backseat of a car. Even when my amount of boxes grew, it still wasn’t too tricky to unpack my fantasy trilogies along with my rolled posters. 

The end goal, of course, has forever been to walk into a space and know that it’s mine. It belongs to me. This is as evidenced by all the trinkets I have strewn around. 

My current most notable is an old Fisher Price cow. “Moo-Moo cow,” as she’s called, was a gift from my grandparents, who had owned it years before I came along. They kept her in their house for me to play with, until they eventually moved into a smaller condo and shipped her directly to me with the help of the United States Postal Service. Now, she sits in a place of honor, opposite the front door, where anyone can come in and admire her plastic yellow horns and exaggerated painted eyelashes.

Needless to say, there’s a difference between “stuff” and “treasures,” as I do try to keep my collections limited to the things that truly make me smile while letting go of the things that don’t. Life is too short to live without things that bring you joy, which means it is also too short to hang onto the things that don’t. On that note, I have to figure out what to do with the decorative plate under my bed. This is another courtesy of my grandparents, painted with a blonde Bo Peep that apparently, according to them, looks just like me.

Don’t let the odd grandparent trinket discourage you. I wake up excited to wear my pink fuzzy slippers and use my blue pottery mug or brush my fingers over my wall of jewelry. Or, I revel in sniffing my french lavender and vanilla chai candles when I return home. As they say, it’s all about the little things.

Contact Molly Freeman at