Collecting Collections

>> Thursday, January 28, 2010

For the past several days, I've been pondering the art of accumulating "collections". I've decided to call it an art because it's more than a hobby and no other word I can come up with sounds polite.

Why not "hobby"? (I think I heard one of you ask that.) Well, to me, a hobby is something you do, whereas a "collection" goes one step further and involves something you HAVE -- quite often a lot of something, if we are being honest. And with "having" something, you also have to have a place to put it. I know of some marriages that have broken up over this very question. So, when you add in all the issues, the negotiations, and the storage space, I think we have to say that, "collecting" is a hobby of a whole new level.

Sadly, many of us start out very young, with baseball cards, stamps, coins, stickers (um .... mom, what ever happened to my sticker collection anyway? Five books of stickers don't just disappear ....) and the one that I am still suffering from in our closet -- comics.

Of course, you have the kids whose parents don't support their collecting habits, who end up collecting odd things like the cardboard tubes from toilet paper rolls ... not that I know anything about that ... or anything. Not me.

As adults, many of us have trouble shedding our old collections, and we carry them on to burden our children. (Stuffed animals, anyone? How about comics? Lots and lots of comics.... all for poor Toddler who now can't have anything new of his own because he has to deal with all our crap.)

Then, there are those who accumulate (or inherit) other kinds of collections ... the kinds not everyone has ... or wants.

My grandmother had a collection of ugly things. These were cigar holders shaped like statues from Easter Island with big open mouths; or weird candles; or funky ashtrays that looked like demons. Why? Because she smoked? No. She didn't smoke. She collected them because they were ugly. I can't explain it ... nor can we figure out what to do with all this treasure now that she is gone these past 8 years .... Nor can we explain the strange collector-gene that seems to make us unable to part with the worst of them. My mother now has a donkey in her bedroom that sits like the Thinker. Don't you want one?

My father had a beer can collection. That is odd enough. DH's grandfather collected Eagle Rare whiskey decanters and Wild Turkey decanturs. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm not sure which is worse. Well, the beer can collection is easy to recycle, and Dad didn't collect multiples of everything to gift to each of his grandchildren for their homes. (I'm not saying ... I'm just saying... what do you DO with all that?)

Collections can be a saving grace for the gift-giver. After all, if you are stuck, what does s/he collect? Buy it! Job done! In fact, a known affection for something like Mickey Mouse or dolphins will actually cause some desparate gift givers to start a collection FOR someone. If that happens to you, I hope you are gifted a collection you actually like. I know a man who claimed that his entire family gave him "Grinch" memorabilia each year while under the mistaken impression that he was fond of that particular Dr. Seuss character. Woops! In their defense, that man was terribly hard to buy for. This poor family was probably grasping for anything.

Finally, and perhaps most tragically, we have the collections of "useful" things. My grandmother (yes, again), had the biggest collection of old hosiery containers that the world has ever known. She had the old egg kind, and the big plastic green kind. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, then either I'm old, or you are too young to have children. Go ask your mother. We'll have to add this to the "Chances are ... you are over 35" post.) She collected them because she might need them someday. Of course, as soon as anyone found out she liked them, then she got all of their hosiery containers every time they bought one, and so on and so forth. By the time she moved the last time, we needed a special permit from the dump to dig a new hole for plastic hosiery eggs.

I swore I was not going to fall into that same genetic trap, but alas, I briefly found a use for the plastic zipper bags that sheets come in, and before I knew it, every kind of plastic snap and zip container was on its way to my house. In less than a year, I had a plastic bag collection in my basement that needed its own address. I've seized my life back and thrown most of them away (trash bags full), but every once in awhile another one surfaces....

So, what is an entropy and chaos fighting family to do? Of course, we want our drawers and our closets back, but the true nature of a collection is that it is too big (or too ugly) to display, and too "valuable" (ahem) to store in an attic or garage.

Something has got to give...


Susan January 28, 2010 at 1:13 PM  

My mom started me on a collection of antique silver napkin rings. The best thing is that they are useful and SMALL. And I hear I am difficult to buy for. So I guess I'm an example of someone who was gifted a collection. And another friend had people start her on an eggplant collection (towels, salt & pepper shakers, dishes, figures). She did like eggplants but didn't want to collect them. I'm pretty sure she now has a certain distaste for them. My grandma collected elephants and teacups. I think they are still in boxes in the shed (she passed). We don't know what to do with them. Collecting is a funny thing. It would make a good TLC show.....

Karin Kysilka March 28, 2010 at 6:26 PM  

Napkin rings. Eggplant. Wow, I don't have those. (I don't honestly want them, either, but I'm intrigued.) I am even more intrigued by that TLC show idea. I am imagining that it would be a cross between "Clean Sweep" and "Cash in the Attic." What do you think?

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