“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”. This well-known saying certainly sums up my quest to find new homes for many of my old things. Things that others might call junk, I still see as treasures.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a collector. It seems I’m in the majority, as collecting is a natural pastime for us human beings. According to Randy O. Frost, professor of psychology at Smith College and author of Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, “A passion for collecting is a healthy outlet and an activity that keeps people connected to the world around them. But it can become a deadly enterprise when it crosses the line into hoarding.”
The numbers are a bit staggering. According to research reported in a Scientific American piece by Ferris Jabr, there are between 5 and 14 million hoarders living in the U.S., with some 75 cities now employing task forces dedicated specifically towards working with hoarders in their community.
Given that the average age of hoarders in published studies is 50, researchers were also surprised to learn that indications of compulsive hoarding can appear early in life. Between ages 11 and 15. The drive to collect is common in childhood. By age six, most children have begun a collection of some kind—coins, stamps, seashells, marbles, action figures. However, these collections rarely become so all-consuming that they interfere with a family’s daily activities.Studies show that the average age of hoarders is 50. However, indications of compulsive hoarding can appear early in life. #collecting #hoardingClick To Tweet
Differences Between Collecting and Hoarding
What are the differences between being a collector vs. being a hoarder? Some people jokingly (I hope), have referred to my kind of collecting as hoarding, but there are very key distinctions. Both hoarding and collecting involve assigning special value to your possessions. Often value that goes beyond the physical characteristics of the object. To remain a healthy collector, however, your collection must not impede or interfere with your ability to function, or the use of the active living areas of your home.Both hoarding and collecting involve assigning special value to your possessions. Often value that goes beyond the physical characteristics of the object. #collecting #hoarding Click To Tweet
In Passionate Possession: The Formation of Private Collections, University of California anthropologist Marjorie Akin explores why we collect, and reveals that people crave a connection to past memories. Remember those old baseball card collections or marbles you cherished as a kid?
Akin reports that another reason people collect is to satisfy personal tastes. To show individualism through weird or unusual collections, and to fulfill the need to complete something. The desire to amass wealth and sell items for profit is another reason for collecting.Why do people collect? To satisfy personal tastes and to show individualism through weird or unusual collections, while fulfilling the need to complete something. #collecting #individualismClick To Tweet
A Collection is Never Complete
In my experience, I’ve discovered that a collection somehow never quite feels complete.
Take for example my collection of more than 450 elephants, which I talked about in my piece on saving the Toronto Zoo elephants. To me, this has become an incredible aesthetic collection, which I started back in the mid-1970s. Definitely no hoarding here, yet this collection appears to have no end in sight.
Others are equally amazed by its beauty and keep wanting to contribute to it by bringing me more. Elephants have arrived from all over the world, in all shapes and sizes, made out of every material imaginable. All well placed and displayed, they add character to my home.
To be honest, I have collections of all kinds. I like to keep things that have sentimental value to me. Kind of like a human pack rat accumulating memories. When I put all my 1960s, ’70s and ’80s fashion magazines up for sale, one very serious collector quickly showed up. He was disappointed that the magazines were somewhat water damaged and therefore not collectible by his standards. He was kind, but strongly suggested I throw them out. Immediately.
Collector that I am, I couldn’t bear to recycle them after all these years! Believing that they were valuable to someone, I reworded the ad and voilà. I found a writer/photographer who was delighted to buy these slightly soiled magazines. She saw them as the perfect addition to further her research and feed her lifelong passion, which she was turning into a book on style. I was thrilled they were going to someone who would value and use them.
Everything Old is New Again
Before that, my antique bedroom set sold to a lovely Mennonite couple who are woodworkers and saw the workmanship in the sturdy old, almost impeccable set. The 1970s vintage leather couch and chair went to a young couple who were creating a spare room decorated retro style. They were excited to see the solid construction and truly loved its well-worn charm. Maybe it really is true that everything old is new again.
My years of designing jewelry using recycled antique watch parts left me with thousands—I do mean thousands—of individual parts that I wanted to go to someone who would appreciate them and actually put them to use. Enter a man studying the lost art of watch repair who bought a large part of the collection.
An enthusiastic art teacher who was struck by the incredible beauty of the pieces, bought the rest of my collection. She had already purchased thousands of buttons I’d amassed, (also during my designing days), to create Native button art with her high school students. Her delight and excitement reminded me of how I always felt when I found new additions to any of my collections.
New Uses for Old Things in Our Disposable World
It seems overconsumption has led to a society where so many of us seem to have too much “stuff”! Yet we continue to amass more. The issue continues to worsen as more and more people continue to add to their “collections”.
There is no contesting that we live in a disposable world. Personally, I’ve always loved the idea of reusing, and recycling as much as possible, reducing my need to always be buying something new. With the glut of stuff we all seem to continue amassing, the idea of reducing, reusing and recycling stays top of mind. At least for me.
As we all are hopefully becoming more aware of the need to green our lifestyles, it’s now less about talk and more about putting these principles into action. Finding ways old things can find new uses.With the glut of stuff we all seem to continue amassing, the idea of reducing, reusing and recycling is a wonderful way to repurpose things headed for landfills. #recycling #repurposing #environmentClick To Tweet
My basement is filled with lots more stuff, I admit. My friend told me that old-fashioned typewriters are making a comeback and that a store in New York that has been selling and servicing them for 52 years, is experiencing a boom. It’s the younger generation who are rediscovering the typewriter, with “type-ins” becoming a new kind of social event.
Hmm, come to think of it, I still have my old Smith Corona portable typewriter from the 1970s in its original box. Maybe it’s worth something to someone, too. Some things I know I may never give up. Like my collection of playbills! A favourite came from a 1964 trip to New York to see the original Broadway production of Funny Girl with Barbara Streisand.
Someone Wants What You Have
The bottom line is that it’s possible to find someone who wants the things you no longer want. I’m always delighted to find new homes for these old things. And I’ve met some incredible people in the process. It’s great hearing what my collections will be used for in the future. My treasures, are now their treasures, making it a little bit easier to let go at my end. Could I be making room for something new, some unknown collection of my future? Once a collector always a collector, I guess.
It’s fascinating to hear about other people’s collections. What do you or someone you know collect?
Oh my! I was talking with a friend yesterday about my dad’s hoarding. He was a huge hoarder and it definitely impacted heir lives.
I love books and collect them. I also collected ceramic angels. I used to collect shells, playing cards, Christmas ornaments, and magnets.
I like the distinction between collections and hoarding. Great article as I reflect on my various collections throughout life.
It’s so interesting how many people from earlier generations are considered hoarders, Tandy! My mother has a hoarding mentality, but isn’t official one. I believe that generation who grew up during wartime, are much more likely to keep stuff, fearing a shortage.
It’s great that you have a love for books and I get the angels too, as I have a small collection of angels in my home. Yes, to the shells and I even collected matches on my travels! I wonder if we inherit a bit of that from watching our parents.
The distinction between collecting and hoarding is very important! So many people conflate the two, unfairly, may I add. Glad this article gave you some pause for reflection too.
You are a serious collector. The only things i collect are postcards and small souvenirs from travels. I also take a lot of pictures but they are just all in my computer. My husband collects Hard Rock Cafe pins so we have to actually go out of our way just to get those pins when we are traveling. Aside from, that he also collects some other lapel pins and caps representing the country where we went. I am just glad that our collected items do not take a lot of space. If ever we move in the future in time for retirement, we do not have to pack a lot.
It is nice to hear that the things you collect are small, Lorii! It takes up so much less space. Your husband’s collections sound interesting too. I remember when my daughter was collecting Olympic Pins…I have them somewhere in a drawer. You are right about moving and having a collection small enough to take with you too!
There are not many things that I find myself attached to. Somehow, I know that I will regret being a person who quickly disposes of things when I am older. I am becoming more and more ruthless towards my possessions lately. I have never hoarded things and, in fact, I have always loved a minimalist look. Knowing that old things become new again, I’d still prefer to dispose now and purchase again later than necessary. Unfortunately, I tend not to recycle or even give away because when I am ready for something to be gone, I want it gone immediately 🙁
It sounds like you have a very practical approach to your possessions, Rachel. It is healthier indeed. Although I would encourage you to recycle and give things away, for the sake of people in need and also for a clean environment. There are many local places that would probably love to even pick up the stuff you don’t want that is still usable.
I try hard to keep stuff to a minimum. Emphasis on “try.” I still have a University of Florida Gator sleep shirt that I bought when I was in college…um…a few years back. 🙂 The good news: I still use it.
Love that you still use your University of Florida Gator sleep shirt, Jackie! I can almost relate as I have a lot of promo clothing from my years in the home video industry. I just can’t seem to give them away though…or where them. Keeping stuff to a minimum is a sound plan. Once you have it though, like me, it is harder to let it go.
I used to collect things and then I stopped. I think it was because of what I heard from Wayne Dyer about how he let go of all his possessions to free himself. I do enjoy seeing collections though. I also started throwing out something every time I bought something to avoid having too much stuff and blocked energy around me like feng shui references. I was back at my moms for a few months recently helping her make changes in her life. I spent 3 months clearing out bto asements, sheds and more by having week long sales, auctions so others can enjoy all her collections and stuff. I came home overwhelmed by all of it. 🙂 But yet, I would love to see your elephant collection and I still enjoy watching The Pickers tv show.
I know how overwhelming it can be to try to manage other people’s stuff, Teresa! My mother has so much stuff that I find it challenging to go to her place. You did your mother a service by helping. It’s wonderful that you’ve been able to let go of things, knowing how it impacts our energy field. I believe spring is the perfect time to do that and I am committed to doing more of it here.
My elephant collection is quite wonderful! Elephants from around the world, in all shapes and sizes and materials. I’ve tried to take photographs but they do to do it justice. If you ever visit Toronto, you are invited to visit and see all of my herd. 🙂
Collecting and Hoarding. When watching TV one evening and going through channels I came across the show Hoarders. I couldn’t stop watching. As a therapist I may have counseled clients who were hoarders, but not for that issue. It would be a good question to ask on my psychosocial interview intake. It was sad to watch and clearly there was nothing about collecting in the disorder.
My tendency is to get rid of things because I often think – Do I have this or does it have me? I do collect books and love them, but mostly I pass things on. Everything has an energy to it and being a psychic medium and a HSP it can be overwhelming to have to many things.
I love that you cherish your items and find them good homes.
If I let myself I would probably choose to be a collector of typewriters. I love them! This was a fun read!
It is an interesting distinction and often the line is blurred when it comes to collecting vs. hoarding, Candess! I am not even sure that people would admit they are hoarders, as I believe they still see themselves as collectors. It would be interesting to see.
It’s wonderful that you are able to easily get rid of things, knowing how they impact your energy. I have started recycling or passing on items (mostly newer ones) to others too, although it is harder to find people for the things I have had for a long time. It is wonderful for both me and the people who ‘adopt’ my stuff though. Seems the world has a passion for typewriters and there was a film recently about an upsurge in portable typewriter collection.
I love this. I think we go through stages. My mom told me that she didn’t understand why some things were important to me and others weren’t. I’ve released furniture, clothes, cars, …over time but I have every single book I’ve ever read. My mom, sister and sister in laws used to turn shopping into a sporting event. I’m not a collector of junk. I told my husband I was going to turn him into the hoarding show. He’s got screws and jars and old outdoor furniture and decorations…he even has hockey jerseys and lockers and hasn’t coached hockey for 15 years. I need to wait until he goes someplace to get rid of things. …Well obviously, your post was thought-provoking, thanks.
Thanks Cathy! I appreciate hearing that this resonated with you. I also find it fascinating how some of us have a deep affinity to certain things and not to others. My daughter comes from the disposable generation and really seems to have no attachment to any ‘stuff’. My mother is the opposite and I believe my brother and I learned our tendency to collect from her. It’s interesting that you are less likely to collect stuff and your husband more likely to. I do believe it comes from our upbringing and background. He sounds a little bit like me. Hard to get rid of things, regardless of how long it has been since I used them. Good like with stream-lining his ‘collections’ too. Glad this was a thought-provoking post for you!
So interesting to read this again, Beverley. I’m in the process of clearing a bit but some things, I just have to keep. A few weeks ago we had a bushfire just two kilometres from us. We had to put our bushfire plan into action, even though we couldn’t really see smoke (the wind was taking it away). It felt weird packing a few cherished possessions along with necessities, knowing that a change in the wind could destroy everything. In a matter of hours, the danger was over, thanks to lots of helicopters waterbombing the flames to help out the ground crews. It was an interesting exercise, seeing if what I’d put on my packing list (I have lists for everything) matched what I actually packed. It mostly did.
Thanks for taking the time to read this one again and for commenting, Tami. It’s so interesting to hear the impact it had because of your recent personal event. I personally do not have a plan on what I would take in the case of an emergency like your talk about. What are those few cherished possessions each of us just has to take with me. I’ve begun to consider it, but do not have a full-proof plan. So happy you weren’t forced to evacuate and that your home and possessions are all safe. It’s interesting to hear that what you got ready in that moment, in case, was also the things that were on your packing list. Thanks for sharing your experience!
It was interesting to read about how many hoarders there are in the States. My mother has a strong tendency to be a hoarder and so I’ve made a more conscious chose as to what I save.
We made a big purge of our belongings when my husband and I sold our home and decided to live in our RV full time and only keep a small fraction of our stuff. It was great to have several garage sales and donate our things to those that were interested in them.
What I did have the hardest time to part with were my books and some of my art stuff. Luckily, we now have a house that I can enjoy both.
Still, I’m always mindful of the quantity of stuff that comes in. There needs to be an equal amount of stuff that needs another home other than mine.
The topic is quite fascinating to me as well, Claudette. It is hard to imagine so many people hoarding so much stuff. The U.S. seems to have a larger than normal proportion too. It’s interesting that observing your mother, has helped influence you to act in the opposite. It’s wonderful to feel that purge when you are moving or just want to streamline your surroundings. Sounds like living in an RV was the perfect precipitating event for you. I am happy to hear you kept your books and your art, as that would personally be two of my biggest challenges too. And then of course my elephants. I like your philosophy that when something comes in, something also has to find a new home.
My dad was a hoarder but when my mom was alive he kept it under control. It’s like he knew he needed her. He suffered in sile nice from a very tumultuous upbringing
Your dad was very fortunate to have your mom help him manage his stuff, Lori! There are many theories as to why people hoard stuff, so thank you for sharing a bit about your dad and his background.
As a kid, I tried to become a collector… but never quite made it past a handful of acquisitions. As an adult? Lots of moving. Then the merging of two households.It is a process that has made me aware of having fewer possessions and then, only those I love. As a family, we have shifted our gift-giving to time and experiences. I do, however, have an art space full of interesting images, colors, and textures. And the best husband in the world found an exquisite manual typewriter that lives in my office. Great post. Thanks.
It’s amazing that you tried to collect things, but didn’t, Andrea! I believe I have been a collector since I was a child and still don’t give up my collections very easily. It sounds like your life circumstances set you up as a non-collector, which is good in many ways. I love that you have an art space though, as I can imagine that is a joyful place for you. And the manual typewriter…I get that. Having one somehow ties us to our younger days. Thank you!
I had to giggle about young people pecking away at typewriters. I couldn’t wait to get rid of my typewriter for a word processor. LOL! A lovely article.
There is a big trend back to typewriters, Jill! There was just a documentary produced by Tom Hanks as he is an avid collector of them. I hear you about the speed and efficiency of a word processor, but there is still something about writing in an old-school way and having it private…an experience between you and the keys. Glad you enjoy this article!
I resonated with this very much in my need to let go of certain collections and find someone who could appreciate them.
I especially love “your collection must not impede or interfere with your ability to function, or the use of the active living areas of your home.” Even though mine doesn’t impede in my living area, I feel the need to simplify in order to expand in other areas. Thank you
Yes, it seems those of us who collect things, really need support letting go of those collections, Laura! I can’t imagine not having my elephant collection, but realize that at some point some of them have to go. Mine doesn’t impede my living space either, I think it adds to it, but at some point, I agree that enough is enough and we have to pass them on for others to enjoy!
After collecting teddy bears for so long that they needed a bedroom of their own, and still spilled over into the rest of the house, I finally made the break and pared down my collection to less than a third of what I had … and it still takes up two bookcases and a few on my bed. I gave my dear furry friends to an organization that works with victims of violent crime, especially women and children, who need something real to hold on to as they go through the scary process of police and doctors. It gave me a wonderful feeling to know that my bears were bringing healing to those who needed it.
Love hearing that you have been collecting teddy bears for a long time, Barb! It’s wonderful that you were able to give away some to people who will really cherish them and who they will help. I know how hard it is to let go of part of our prized collection, but it sounds like you found the right balance of which ones to keep for yourself, and which ones to pass on to those who will really benefit and find healing from them. Thank you for that inspiration, as at some point I do need to let go of some of my elephants!
Your title alone made me smile. Father is a collector, of coins, stamps, motors, and so much more. I definitely have his collect gene but on a much smaller scale. As I embark on the task of cleaning out his collections so they can sell their home/farm, I have to remember that others will see value in many things that he has kept. My siblings do not share the same gene therefore they do not see the potential value of items he collected. It is going to be huge task but this reminds me to do it with love.
It is always interesting when we see value in someone else’s collections, yet the people around us don’t Heather. It sounds like the majority of the task for your going through your father’s stuff will be left to you though, so that you can make sure the things go to someone who will value them. And yes, doing it with love makes a huge difference. Enjoy the process!
I do believe that things come and go in cycles – and my mother was a prime example. She always saved things because “someday” she might need it for a creative endeavor or project. Hers never quite took over the home; though it was out of control (in some of our minds). Though I have to admit, there were times when I needed something and my mom’s “collection” helped me out – she had what I needed! My aunt also collects elephants; though she follows only those with the trunks up for good luck. Thank you for sharing your story!
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The generation your mother and my mother are in did “save” things, as they grew up during a time of scarcity. I still keep so many things myself and yet often once I’ve given it away or sold it, I find there might have been some use for it. I’m happy to hear that you were able to find a use for some of your mother’s things as that is the lovely part, Tamara. When someone else in the family finds a value in it. Thanks for sharing about your mother and her collections and your aunt’s elephant collection too! They are so easy to collect and I’ve had to stop until the next unique and unusual one shows up.
This post came right on time! Yesterday as my husband and I were completing last minute Christmas shopping we found ourselves at a loss as to what to get his mother. She has so much stuff..lol. She even jokes that she is a hoarder. I tried to reframe it that she is a collector of great things. But every time we make the trip to visit her she has more stuff! Not to perpetuate this problem we decided to get her a necklace. Thank you for defining the difference between collecting and hoarding!
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It’s amazing how many of us either are collectors, or know serious collectors, Sharise. I love that you bought your mother-in-law something personal like a necklace, rather than contribute to her growing amount of other “stuff”. I think depending on the generation, some people are more likely to keep things because of the times they grew up. Thanks for sharing and hope she loves your gift!
Bev, I kid you not…as I was reading your blog post and typing this comment, Joe is cleaning out his workshop. I can here him say “where did this come from” and “what do I need this for”. Along with a few creative words he’s using, I think I can see him donating the tools he doesn’t need. I mean, who needs 5 cordless drills… Joe does!
I had to weed out my collectibles a few months ago and I found a good home for them where they will be appreciated in 20 years. Sent everything to my daughters to keep in storage for my granddaughter. This Christmas we are also giving the grand kids huge oversized stuff toys of Bugs Bunny and Taz… Joe gaves these to me 20 years ago and they are true collectibles. It’s a great feeling when something you treasure goes to someone who can really appreciate it’s value in happiness…not the price tag.
Thanks so much for sharing this, Gisele! I truly believe that once we start collecting things, somehow the collection gets away from us and it is hard “not” to keep adding to it. I’m happy Joe is willing to let go of some of his tools, as you’re right, so many people could benefit from them.
I think it is great that you are keeping the toys in the family too. I still have so many stuffed animals and often wonder who I can give them to as hospitals are very careful what they take in because of the concern over dirt and germs. I liked selling my things, as I knew 100% that those who showed up, really, really wanted them, which was important to me. I love your last line. Yes, the value is not in the money, but in the knowing that someone else will appreciate it.
Really enjoyed your post 🙂 As a “collector” of all things “asian” I absolutely agree that when you have a collection of anything that it does seem like all of your stuff seems new 🙂
Thanks for sharing the differences between being a “hoader” and “collecting” 🙂 I have seen a few shows on tv about hoaders and I just can not understand how people can have so much stuff that they can organize it enough to be able to move around in their own home!
I do understand it is an “illness” 😉
Thanks for the awesome and interesting post!!
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Thanks for sharing that you’re also a collector Joan. All things Asian sounds really interesting.:) I imagine that gives friends and family a lot of room to choose things for you as gifts. And yes, the number of hoarders is growing and some believe it is a foreteller of future dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers. There is also much conversation about how our brains are being altered by electro magnetic frequencies from technology. There is a big difference between having a big organized collection and having so much stuff that it overwhelms you and your home. An interesting topic and definitely one that seems relevant as we as a population continue to amass more “stuff”.
Very interesting and I have met “collectors”. I have a few things that have sentimental value but otherwise I do not hang on to things anymore. after meeting a woman who was a bonafide hoarder and seeing what her house looked like (I tried to help her but it was no use) I realized that things are just things and if you have them in piles, boxes, or taking up valuable space where you could be creating, writing, or sleeping, then it has to go.
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I agree with all you say Renee. The challenge is once you store something away, returning to it and actually letting it go. I was truly happy my “stuff” went to others who would value it and had a use for it. I have a cousin who has a friend who is a hoarder and no-one has ever been in her house. I was in her van and it was a bit disconcerting, as it was so filthy. I love your thought about getting rid of stuff to use your space in the name of creation! Wonderful…
I try to stay as minimalist as I can. Of course I don’t have control over everything that “needs to stay” in the house. Someone’s comment reminded me of a bunch of webkins (stuffed animals) my kids had and that were catching dust in the basement.
Luckily I convinced them to donate to poor children. We were all so happy to make someone’s life merrier while getting some stuff we did not need out of the house.
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We live in a society that makes it challenging to not collect stuff, Delia, so it is very admirable when someone attempts to simplify and minimize. And yes, when we have a lot of things that others might enjoy, it is lovely when we give them away to someone in need. I am sure that your kids feel good about making other kids happy too.
Very informative! I am a Professional Organizer for about 20+ years and have gotten overwhelmed myself seeing all the hoarding shows and how people live. I have worked in some basements and attics that were filled with stuff and we found mice and other dead animals. The clients are always mortified. They didn’t realize rodents love clutter. It wakes them up and they feel more motivated to clear the clutter. Thanks for sharing the stats. I will share with other organizers.
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Thanks for sharing some of your experiences with this ever growing issue, Sabrina. Yes, the “hoarding” epidemic seems to be increasing. I had a healer indicate he believes all these people who are officially considered hoarders, are in early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s. It must be shocking to work with someone, find all these rodents loving their clutter, only to find they had no idea what they were breeding in their own spaces. I appreciate you sharing the staggering stats, as like so many things we are dealing with in our world today, this issue seems to be getting worse!
Beverley! I love this post! You know I am a junk queen, and I love to repurpose things, give them a new job, like my favorite pair of jeans that I could not bear to to toss so I had them made into a skirt.
I collect a lot, but only some things are held as very dear to me.
My photos are priceless, I have so many old ones, I just love them, they are history…much of my family is gone so they are even more important now.
Wow, old typewriters are making a come back, that cracks me up. I happen to have an oldie sitting right next to me as I type away on my laptop. It keeps me company and reminds me…get to work, finish that post. Great article, LOVE IT and will share!!
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Thanks so much for your enthusiasm Lisa! I know you love collecting and the fact that you repurpose makes it even more fun to be a “junk queen” as you call yourself. I love that you turn something like your jeans into something else. Like a skirt. Photos are very priceless to me and I have thousands of family photos as well. I am delighted to hear you have an old typewriter too. Yes, they are making a comeback and in some places they are reverting back to typewriters for security purposes, believe it or not. Maybe everything old is new again at some point in time.
As a long time collector I really enjoyed reading this piece and hearing about your treasures Beverley. I collect dragons, but I’m pretty fussy about the type. My mother and her mother, like you, collect elephants – only those with their trunks up, to keep the luck in! I too love to reuse and recycle – my arts and crafts school for kids encouraged this so much. All my little treasures have their special place and memories attached but I have a six-month rule for kitchen and linen cupboards – if it hasn’t been used it gets given away.I lived next to a proper hoarder in attached terrace houses in Sydney – the problem with cockroaches and rodents was endless and depressing. When she was finally evicted, the clean-up crew had to wear hazmat suits! A timely and lovely post. 🙂
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It must have been interesting to be a collector yourself, and then live beside someone who was officially a hoarder, Tami. That must have been very challenging indeed. As someone who has Venus prominent in my chart, I love beautiful things, plus I love supporting artisans, so a lot of my collection has come because of that. My elephant collection started rather innocently with a gift in the early 1970’s and for some reason, elephants became and remain a passion for me. I think reusing and recycling things into art is a great way to repurpose and create something new. I found that with both my buttons and my watch parts. There are now so many clever and interesting artisans using all kinds of things to design and create everything you can imagine out of items that otherwise would be heading to landfill. Glad you enjoyed this and thanks for sharing about your “collections” too. 🙂
Beverley, your delight when you discuss your collections and when someone sees the value in them is obvious in your words. My husband’s minimalist outlook (and now mantra) would have him stomping around the house after reading your post! (Seriously, he’s as passionate about getting rid of stuff as you are about keeping it.) I can’t help but assign emotional meaning to some of my things, which makes me a bit of a packrat. I have an old typewriter as well, but I have begun to downsize my book collection (although I keep telling my husband he’ll be sorry when the apocalypse comes and there’s nothing to do, lol!). As a society, we do put too much value on stuff, and I find that I spend too much time managing my stuff–which leaves less time for more important things. I greatly enjoyed your article, partially because it made me feel less insecure about holding on to my things/memories!
Meghan…your husband would definitely be stomping around my house, if he is now a confirmed minimalist! It is challenging when you do have a lot of “stuff” to go from that to streamlining and simplify. The more stuff I give away or sell, it just doesn’t seem to make a dent. I think that things do have emotional meaning to us and some people are more attachment to their things than others. I have many, many books and also have a challenge giving them up. Although I don’t buy books anymore. As a society, we are very much about amassing more and more and we do seem to be overly attached to the things we have. I’m glad reading this gave you a sense that you are part of the norm. I hope you and your husband can come to some harmonious place in the middle of “stuff” and “minimalist”.
My IBM student-sized typewriter was sold years ago in one of my yard sales. I hated to let it go, but refused to let it sit here collecting dust. Once upon a time, I considered collecting Barbie dolls but that idea was soon squelched (by me of course) when I realized there’d be no one to pass it down to.
As I’ve had this Smith Corona typewriter since the 1970’s, it’s unlikely it is leaving my basement any time soon, Trish. I’ve often wondered who is going to care about my elephant collection, as it is pretty unlikely my daughter will care. My collection started very innocently and has become a very key part of my life, although I rarely add new ones to my collection…unless they are super unique and I don’t have any at all like it.
My best friend in Jamaica collected elephant statues, Beverley. Your post reminded me of her living room!
I’ve been through phases of keeping things thinking I will use them again later and then given things away because I needed the space. I think it used to help that my job changes coincided with changing countries and I could not justify the high cost of a container containing what could have qualified as clutter. 🙂 The best part was giving away or selling items to people who had an immediate need. Gratifying for my wallet and my soul. LOL
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The fact that you have been called to move frequently definitely contributes to clearing out stuff and giving it away or selling it, Vatsala. I’ve lived in this same house since 1983. And I have a huge basement where it is convenient to store my stuff. I think when you give away or sell things to people who really need it and will treasure it, it does make the letting go process much easier. This is what I found and experiencing that is what prompted me to write the piece originally. That, plus the staggering stats on hoarding.
Okay, so this gave me some pause! I’m not a collector of much except books. My house has books, books, books everywhere. A friend recently came to visit, and took it upon herself to organize my book case. Gulp. And yep, there wasn’t enough room! So she had me sort through as she went, putting into a pile those I didn’t, um, need. My, how difficult it was to give a few away! Maybe I’m bordering on hording? LOL. But books are my treasures 🙂
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I also have so many books, Susan Mary, yet I probably don’t have nearly as many as you. I have books piled on books on book shelves and honestly have a challenge giving any away. At one point in time I did go through them and took some to a local used book store to sell. I think I ended up trading them for more books. 🙂 I still love books and have been reluctant to buy any new ones, until I read them from the library and decide if I want to own it. Good luck finding a home in your home for all your treasures!
I’m a minimalist — mostly because the more crap you have, the more dusting you have to do. 😉 However, I have been known to keep things that have a special meaning to me, like stuffed animals. One day my mom said, “Jackie, don’t you think there are children out there who have no toys who would really enjoy these?” Yes indeed. Thanks, Mom. More dust-catchers — gone!
If I told you I still have a bag of stuffed animals from my Sweet 16, you might want to commit me, Jackie. But I do. 🙂 It seems now they are so outdated that there aren’t kids who would want them. My daughter gives away her stuff much more easily than I do, so we’ve given her stuffed animals away and many of her baby things, that I wanted to keep. “In case”. It’s great to hear that you are a minimalist. Something I aspire to, but still have so much stuff. I refuse to add any more though.
I am not good at weeding out my treasures. Maybe I’ll need just the one I discard. If I don’t really display them anymore and can give them to people who really like them, that works for me though. I’m glad to say that I don’t hoard; everything I keep is special and I do toss the rest. Nice article.
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It’s so interesting, as the longer I keep some things, the more challenging it is for me to give away, Beth. Often I think I will need it someday and yet sometimes even if it does cross my mind, I might not know where it is. I have so much stuff from long ago and wonder what will be the impetus for me to finally let it go. Giving it to others who will appreciate our stuff is very rewarding. And for me, the process of listing and selling some of my things, made sure the people who were buying it, really wanted it.
Yes – a timely post, Beverley. We do tend to amass so much stuff, sometimes it appears for the sole purpose of having more stuff. I’m working hard to keep / add only those things that really serve a purpose for me, while passing on pieces of my collections to those who can appreciate them. The concept of minimalism is intriguing – not particularly for me, but elements are really helpful in keeping me focused, moving forward instead of tripping over (literally and figuratively) the clutter in my life.
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I’d agree that our North American society certainly does have a propensity for collecting “stuff”. Some of us more so than others. In my mother’s day it was referred to as being a pack-rat. I wonder the psychology behind wanting to keep so many things, and like you, am really working to give away or sell things I don’t need. I remember when paper recycling started, I was much more inclined to recycle old magazines and papers. Some of those I now wish I would have kept. Congrats on streamlining and being conscious of what things are useful to unclutter and move forward, Deb.
Elephants pointing to the door is from Feng Shui where it will bring in money & abundance.I have my little elephant sitting on the upstairs staircase facing out toward the door.
I started saving glass paper weights in the 60’s. Not only did I love each one I hand picked on travels, but it helped others with selecting gifts for me. Each time I moved, I discarded collections, like playbills but my paper weights remain dear to me. I also started giving my little boxes to my grandchildren. I think how much you collect & keep is a function of space & memories.
It’s always so interesting to me to hear what other people collect. Glass paper weights would appeal to me as well. I love all things glass and I imagine you have some stunning ones you’ve collected over the years. I never gave much thought to which way my elephants were facing, although I always arrange and place them so they work with the space and have an aesthetic appeal. Like you with your paper weights, people always know what to get me, yet I really am running a bit out of room for more elephants. Unless of course it is something so unique that it must find a home at my place. Yes, some people are more inclined to collect and keep things, although I find the longer I keep a specific collection, the harder it actually gets to give it away.
Beverley, this is such a great idea! Finding people who will love what you are selling is always a good feeling, too. However, don’t you DARE give up or sell your typewriter! Those things are way too valuable to writers!
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I think the reason I have kept my typewriter is exactly this, Liz. I have no idea what its sentimental value is to me, however, as a writer, I probably wrote some memorable things on that machine. And yes, they are becoming more and more valuable as there is a shift back to typing. For many reasons, including security. And fun hopefully.
Do you have all your elephant pointing towards a door? It’s a sign of good luck.
Hi Ashleigh. I have my elephants pointing in all directions, actually! I’ve read so many different opinions on this. Some say trunks up and facing east, brings good luck. Others say it doesn’t matter if the trunk is up or down. Thanks for this one, pointing towards the door, as I don’t remember hearing this before. Appreciate you stopping by and reading and commenting!