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This is the writing pad holder and pen my grandmother kept by her bed. I loved this object as a girl and when my grandmother died it came to live with me.

I’ve doing some writing to prepare for My Life in 101 Objects so I’ve been thinking about objects….what they mean, why they are important, and how the passage of time changes how important an object is. For example, my grandmother’s writing pad might not mean anything to my descendants who will have never known my grandmother or me.

My life, just like other people’s, is made of objects that have meaning and those that don’t. I’m not at all attached to the coat hangers in my closet, my computer printer, or the little basket that holds cotton balls in my bathroom. But my books, my art supplies and the things I’ve acquired from my family are hugely important to me.

I was thinking the other day about the experiences I’ve had helping to sort through someone’s things after they’ve died. People collect and cull the objects in their lives with such care. There was so much they knew about every object in their houses. Things I didn’t know as I sorted through their kitchen, their bedroom, their closets. And at the end of it all the house was empty; the objects passed on to new homes or tossed away.

What traces of ourselves do we leave behind? What do we say about ourselves by the objects we choose to keep and those we choose to give or throw away?

I read recently that the DNA in every human body is billions of years old. All the atoms that were created at the time of the big bang continue to be remade over and over into people and things. So we come from whatever came before. It would be nice to think that the objects we hold dear might also one day become something that someone else will dearly love. It would be the ultimate in recycling.