Mind Matters: Shoes and other possessions we cherish

Do you have emotional attachments to some of your possessions? One way to start answering that question is to count the number of shoes you own. 

I own six pairs of shoes. These include four pairs of shoes with which I have no emotional attachments: my bright blue walking/running shoes, black dress shoes I keep in my office, black dress shoes I keep at home to wear to social engagements, and a pair of old tennis shoes I keep in the garage in case a spider needs a home. 

My emotion-connected shoes include new electric blue and orange running shoes. These shoes are so beautiful that I keep them on display on a shelf in my office. I have sworn never to wear them.

The right shoe: What leads us to form emotional attachments to objects?

The right shoe: What leads us to form emotional attachments to objects?

I also own brown dress shoes that are about a quarter of a century old. I like having shoes older than some of my friends. 

Imelda Marcos, the wife of a Philippines dictator, famously owned 3,000 pairs of shoes. Owning many items of the same type shows emotional connection. We describe these individuals as collectors or hoarders, depending on whether we also value that type of item. Some individuals care nothing about shoes but have strong emotional attachments to other types of things such as their home, garden, or car. People who collect snow globes or coffee mugs usually treasure their collection.

What leads us to form emotional attachments to objects? For some individuals, the items represent a beloved person such as a grandmother or a wonderful time, such as childhood or a honeymoon. I know someone who treasures hundred-year-old furniture that her late grandmother used. 

I even have emotional attachments to items I do not possess. These items include a bubbly blue glass my mother had for many years. I have never seen another like it.

Another item I wish I had was something my first-born child picked up while we were on a walk. She said her first sentence at that time: "What’s that?" I did not know, but it was an interesting-looking item, perhaps part of a toy. 

Hoarders go wrong when they become emotionally attached to many types of items that most of us consider rubbish.  These items can include receipts and plastic bags.

The items come to possess the hoarder more than the other way round. The hoarder’s home ends up filled everywhere with junk. 

For most of us though, the cherished items in our life help us feel happy and connected to other people or other times. The items are emotional treasures. For some individuals, the possessions serve as extensions of themselves. 

To what possessions do you feel an emotional connection?