Lost & Found by Helen Chandler-Wilde – blogtour

I’m delighted to be one of those leading off this blogtour for such an fascinating book. Subtitled “…from someone who lost everything”, Lost & Found drew me like a magnet. I can remember that when we moved to where we now live, we had three months in a furnished rental first with all of our furniture and belongings in storage. Thankfully, everything was delivered back to us in tact – phew! But this wasn’t the case for journalist Helen Chandler-Wilde, who had stowed her worldly goods in a storage unit and moved back in with her parents after a break-up. Sadly, everything was lost in a fire on New Year’s Eve!

Her introduction tells the story of the immediate aftermath and how it affected her, “No one had died, but it almost felt like I was grieving.” She and the other victims of the fire formed a social media group – they were the only people who got what she/they were all going through. There was also the fact that a lot of the stuff lost had been shared with her ex – “The past – cremated!” forcing her to get with life.

It all led her reconsidering her relationship towards her stuff was. We in the West have a love-hate relationship towards it. Stuff changes our behaviour, from using it as status symbols, to collecting and hoarding, but also positively as an expression of our selves, the role of stuff in triggering memories. Wants and needs will be considered too, before turning to philosophy to consider the role of beautiful things in our lives. I was intrigued to see that she ends the book with “the science-backed ways that allow you to truly buy happiness.” – not a concept I was expecting from this book, but the discussion of pausing before you buy and related psychology was thought-provoking.

Throughout the book, the author talks to experts, psychologists and the like, and talks to all kinds of people about their possessions, including a nun, who owns nothing, which is both freeing and confining.

“Owning nothing and having no children, means she has trodden very lightly on the earth, and sometimes Sister Monica worries that when she dies, there will be little left behind to show that she lived.”

I loved the way the author built in cultural references, from a discussion of the Hermès ‘Birkin’ bag, to the pivotal speech in which Miranda Priestly explains the theory of the ‘diffusion of innovations’ to intern Andy in The Devil Wears Prada.

Each of the nine main chapters tackles one topic, or lesson if you will, and finishes not only with a conclusion, but a section of ‘final thoughts’ which gives some advice on how to implement positive changes or questions to ask yourself such as:

  • Why are you collecting?
  • Be careful with discount shopping
  • What objects make you feel like yourself?
  • Have at least one thing that you find beautiful in every room of your house. (and it doesn’t have to be costly, shiny conkers will do).

As someone who a) owns too much stuff, b) has a tendency to impulse buy, c) can’t stop acquiring books, d) has too many boxes of in case it might come in useful oddments, e) could never ever be a minimalist, but f) is a cured Star Trek memorabilia and phone cards collector, this book spoke volumes to me. I loved reading about the psychology of ownership of stuff and I’ve learned a lot from these lessons. Now to put some of it into action. Highly recommended.

Source: Review copy – thank you. Aster/Octopus hardback, 303 pages including notes.

BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link (free UK P&P)

10 thoughts on “Lost & Found by Helen Chandler-Wilde – blogtour

  1. griffandsarahthomas says:

    This does sound fascinating – and I fall into the category of ‘acquiring too many books’ too – but …it is going on my want to read list!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I really liked her balanced approach in that it’s okay to have stuff, just think about it first.

  2. Lory says:

    Very intriguing! It reminds me of the time when I had to downsize to move across the Atlantic. I didn’t lose everything, but a lot, and it was not unlike a death in some ways. I think it’s valid to grieve for lost stuff, when our identity is so bound up with it.

    I like that idea of having something you find beautiful in every room.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      It’s when you go to look for something and then remember you got rid of it!
      I too really like the idea of a few beautiful things around the place – to get a momentary gladness looking at them.

  3. Elle says:

    This is so fascinating. I hate having stuff—partly a holdover from the decade of moving once a year with no parents or car-owning friends to help. I also hate not having stuff—partly a holdover from the decade of moving once a year and not being allowed to have my own wall decor, pots and pans, shelving solutions, etc. I get rid of things pretty regularly, but the trek to a charity shop with something heavy is physically hard work, so there’s quite a lot I’d like to chuck but practically speaking can’t. Plus I live with someone else, who has their own feelings about stuff, particularly their own! One day I will unleash hell upon our study and under-the-stairs cupboard, though. One day.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I love your love-hate relationship with your stuff! Good luck when you tackle the study and under-the-stairs cupboard (mine is also chocka).

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