The Touchstones of Our Lives

I was reading a southern lifestyle magazine at the bookstore today and came across a thought-provoking article titled “Stuff, Sweet Stuff” by Julia Reed. And she shared a term I had all but forgotten: touchstone. According to the dictionary, a touchstone is “something that is used to make judgments about the quality of other things.” In other words, it is a sort of measuring stick by which you value your stuff relative to other stuff.

For example, when my wife and I radically downscaled our stuff in order to live more lightly, we very intentionally waded through our things, weighing whether or not each item deserved a valued place in our final collection of treasures. Things like my college diploma and picture of my grandmother made the cut while my golf clubs and tennis rackets did not. I quit playing both sports but the other items were touchstones in my life, mementos that I valued enough to keep toting on my journey.

As Reed writes: “For me, home is where you find the touchstones of your life…But I’m actually a bit of a vagabond—I just need to know I can take my nest with me when I go. And that’s the thing about touchstones: Unlike a house, you can take them with you. After all, generations of Southerners have made a semi-profession out of toting around and lavishly tending to family heirlooms and prized possessions—though that’s not exactly what I have in mind.”