I do understand that there is a fine line between collecting and hoarding. If I start to waver on that point, Maggie stands ready to remind me – and her dad – in no uncertain terms that she does not want to be the one to someday have to deal with all our stuff. We hear you, Maggie, but sometimes it is hard to resist a new treasure.
I started thinking about this concept of collecting last month as I was setting our table for my bookclub luncheon. I started wondering why I collect what I do, and what will happen to my collections down the road. Will they end up with a child or grandchild? In a quirky museum? In a yard sale? Or scattered to the four winds?
I digress. Back to my table setting...to the trio of glass vases filled with branches and bulbs, I added a large glass paperweight that had belonged to my grandmother. Then I searched in various cabinets for two oval paperweights that I inherited from my great aunt Melta, the small Venetian glass one that Ira Lee, Ed's dad, carried back from WWII as a gift to his bride, and the one that Ed bought me years ago. All of a sudden, I had amassed a collection. And now that they are gathered together, I can't seem to tuck them back into their cabinets or give them away. I'll catalog this collection as 1) collecting with memory by association.
Then there's my Natural History collection that resides on our back porch. It is a mishmash of odd items that we have picked up on our wanderings around the farm: a bleached turtle shell, deer skull, fossils, a horseshoe, glass medicine bottle, fungus conks, a snake skin... I don't need to keep any of these items, but they seem to capture the attention of young visitors and squeamish older ones. This collection I claim as 2) farm history.
Let's move on to my collection of pottery – which I do love, but which may be getting out of control. I recently gathered many of the pieces and arranged them on our mantle. They are too many. I mean, really, how many bowls, pitchers and vases does one need? (They did, however, come in handy for Maggie and Nate's wedding.) Let's put them in the category: 3) practical.
In that same category, I could put my wooden spoon collection. I use one or more of them everyday. Most of these spoons come from our travels; they make great souvenirs and are easy to pack. I think they deserve their own category: 4) souvenirs.
Let's move on to our collection of wooden horses. It started with one that we found 30 years ago in an antique/junk shop in Windermere, Canada. Once we had one, the others just seemed to follow and now we have nearly a dozen. I'm not sure why we collect them: perhaps because we live in horse country; perhaps because I was a horse maniac as a 10-year-old; perhaps I just like how they look, individually and collectively. Let's call this collection 5) just because.
And finally, our art collection, especially the paintings that hang high above our bookshelves. All of these are by self-taught artists, many are family portraits, and most feature red-heads. It's a weird collection, but one that sets the tone for the quirkiness of our home. 6) Home-making.
That's enough about my collections for one day. Even though Ed keeps asking about the whereabouts of his antique shaving mugs, I'm not ready to start digging through the boxes that are still unpacked in the basement.
But I'm curious, what do you collect? And why? What do you think will become of your collections once you are no longer able to tend to them? Will they end up in a museum or a yard sale? Do tell.