A case for objects

Some shops are akin to modern art museums or galleries, partly because of their aesthetic and partly due to my current net worth (i.e. buying something other than postcards or books will probably be out of the question ).

One such shop is Margaret Howell’s. I went in one afternoon while still living in London. I’d say her ideal customer is the well-heeled architect (m/f) whose tastes are stupendously understated and very expensive. While browsing through the racks, I discovered this cashmere cropped jumper and actually tried it on. The price was equivalent to that of a decent (subjective) weekend getaway to Berlin or Venice. And I’d been on a number of those. Suddenly I thought I’d take this jumper over a weekend away any day. I felt slightly guilty at the thought, but it also interested me. Wasn’t I all about experiences over material goods, minimalist living etc. etc? I remember being seduced by an article in the Guardian some years before, which featured people who said no to new furniture and yes to a trip around the world, so to speak. I was very impressed by this – this was enlightenment. And now here I was coveting a buttery soft piece of clothing that would probably combat the cold like a berserker, over and above a weekend in, say, Copenhagen?

This… experience in the Margaret Howell shop has stayed with me. I think it was then that I started to consider objects as experiences of a sort. It’s just that they are so integral to our existence that they paradoxically fade in to the background. Once that pair of jeans is on our body it’s mostly forgotten about (unless it’s a really, really good pair of course).

I think that when we slow down every once in awhile to become aware of the warmth provided by a jumper draped over our shoulders or even our movements when we fold that clean and crisp feeling bed sheet, we have an experience. I’m going to be bold and a little outrageous and call these everyday object/ experiences: micro getaways.

Now, whenever I hear someone say they much prefer experiences over objects, I get what they mean to a certain extent, but I also think it’s a little more complex than the eternal ‘sports car: bad – travel: good’ dichotomy. Personally, I find objects and material things fascinating (that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to own loads of them). Just thinking about all the effort that went into, say, the simple computer mouse on my table blows my mind.

Yes, material objects – especially everyday ones – can seem a little mundane, not worthy of much attention, but they also allow us to experience the world in specific ways . All we have to do is slow down sometimes, and become aware of our interaction with them.

I never did get that jumper but I might one day, in lieu of a weekend in Copenhagen.