These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

June 24, 2024

It’s funny, how little things can often mean the most.

When I embarked on a seismic career/life change some years ago, I worked to identify what was no longer important and replace it with what I thought deserved to be in my next chapter. My goal was to get to those inner thoughts – all of those unhelpful shoulds and coulds – and create a new and more positive internal narrative.

I found it easier to start with the external. Before I could tackle the clutter in my brain, I’d need to confront the clutter in my physical space. That led me to Edit Mode: Less is More, a three-year process of Finding More Through Having Less by decluttering 10,000 Items from My House.

(You read that right… ten-thousand!… and amazingly, I still have more to go…)

I had too many pairs of jeans that no longer fit, heels I was happy to never wear again, and hoards of office supplies from the communal closet. Why did I think I’d need all those binder clips?

For the most part, I pared down to the essentials.

But there are some things I won’t get rid of: those that I currently use, obviously, and those that bring me joy, as Marie Kondo so clearly instructed.

And then there’s this… a ceramic donkey pulling an empty barrel.

Donkey empty these are a few of my favorite things

This Donkey Is About 60 Years Old

Why, you ask, does anyone need a ceramic donkey pulling an empty barrel?

What is its purpose? Its function? Its usefulness?

What is there to love about it?

Memories, that’s what.

The donkey’s now empty barrel at one point held a tiny plant. It lived in the living room bay window of the split ranch suburban home where I grew up. It was dwarfed by its neighboring plants in larger containers, but it was by far my favorite.

More than a planter, it had personality.

As a kid, I couldn’t pet those other containers. I could pet the donkey. I think some days when elementary school was all too much, I talked to it, telling it about my struggles, confiding my secrets.

It never spilled them.

As I grew up and took on household responsibilities, I was tasked with watering all the plants from a small copper watering can.

Years later, my parents moved once, then twice. They took some plants with them while others perished.

I moved on as well. To college, to an apartment rental in the city, to a suburban home outside of it with northern exposures and poor sunlight where my husband named the table where I’d keep the occasional plant, “the table of death.”

Plant solo leaf these are a few of my favorite things

A Plant Awaiting Its Fate On The “Table Of Death”

I never knew what happened to the donkey. I never thought about the donkey.

That is until I unearthed it in that purge of household items. I dug through unopened boxes that had been in our basement for the past 12 years following their stay in other storage for at least 8-10 years prior. Underneath high school yearbooks and faded ’80s t-shirts was a bubble-wrapped package.

Inside: the donkey carting an empty barrel.

I was surprised to see it. I may have gasped out loud. I may have placed my hand on my heart in that “Awww, it’s the donkey I used to talk to when I’d come home from third grade!” kind of way.

I had completely forgotten about it. I had no recollection of having asked to keep it or packing it for storage.

But now that it was found… what to do with it?

Was it worth keeping when I was getting rid of so much else?  Where would he go? His barrel is small. What use might he have? When did I determine this inanimate object is a “he”?

The first answer came with my daily coffee. I put packets of Equal and other sweeteners in the barrel and the donkey on display right next to my coffee maker and my mug.

When I’d make my coffee –  even before I’ve had my coffee – I would smile.

And then I finally ditched the artificial sweeteners and the donkey was no longer needed to hold those tiny yellow, blue, and pink packets.

But I wouldn’t send him back to storage. I wanted to see him every day and simply needed to find something for him to hold. A purpose.

Years ago, the donkey was used as a planter. Despite my awful track record with greenery, I would try this again. A bit of life to brighten the kitchen counter with the poor northern exposures provided I remembered to water the plant with enough frequency (not too much! not too often!) to keep it alive.

In doing so, and in using this item, I’m keeping memories alive.

Donkey 2 these are a few of my favorite things

And I swear that after 20 years packed in a box, that donkey is happy to be of use. It looks happy.

Objects are more than mere possessions when they contain our stories. When the stories bring us joy, they are worth holding on to.

How about you? What items do you hold onto simply for the stories they hold?

Valerie gordon the storytelling strategist headshot these are a few of my favorite things Valerie Gordon is a lifelong storyteller, a 10-time Emmy award-winning television producer, and the founder of career and communication firm The Storytelling Strategist. She runs virtual workshops to teach high-achievers and career pivoters how to capitalize on the power in their own stories. And often she writes just for joy. 


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