vintage tablecloths
Simplify Your Spaces

Collecting without Clutter

I’m what you might call an “Old Soul”.  I’m in bed most nights before nine and up every morning before the sun.  I enjoy a good casserole, deviled eggs, and mayo heavy pea salad.  I hate cheap furniture made in sweat shops that comes with instructions for assembly and I get damn near giddy when I find a crocheted afghan in bright colors at a thrift store.

I love “old” things.  In fact, I collect them.  The collections are everywhere in my home and just seeing them fills my heart with happiness.  Some of the collections, like my swirl graniteware, I started soon after getting married nearly thirty years ago, some are pretty new, like my landscape paintings and tablecloths from the 50s and 60s.  I remember finding my first “real” piece of swirl graniteware at an antiques store and having to have it:  a stunning deep red serving tray that costs $40. 

Have a One In – One (or Two) Out Rule

When you first start collecting something you tend to buy every piece of it you can find, because the thrill of the hunt is part of the fun and having one more makes us collectors feel a strange sense of accomplishment.  But over time you find the same things in better condition so you buy those too.  That’s why I follow the One in – One Out Rule.  If I find something in better shape (or a color or pattern I like more), it replaces something I already have in the collection that’s etched (cloudy), torn, or rusted.

For example, I collect old soda bottles.  When I first started I grabbed every kind I could find, not worrying about duplicates, mostly because I never pay more than five dollars for each of them.  As my collection grew, I started to weed out the ones I really didn’t like and when I bought a newer one in better condition, I got rid of the rougher looking ones. 

A few weeks ago I found a vintage Sprite bottle in great shape so the cloudy one got donated to a thrift store, where someone else will find it and love it and add it to their collection.  It’s the circle of life for junk.

declutter collections

Admire but Don’t Buy

Collecting can get out of hand in a hurry.  For most collectors most of the fun is in the hunt.  Planning an entire day around a flea market trip is our idea of the perfect weekend.  Sorting through boxes of “good junk” at thrift stores makes us happy.  Having our favorite antiques stores on rotation, going every few months so we don’t miss anything new, seems perfectly rational to us.

BUT …. there are times when we have to stop ourselves.  We have to learn how to admire something, recognize it for its fantabulousness (not a word … don’t care) and move on.   We know we can’t own everything we love and that’s okay.  We have to learn how to Admire, but Don’t Buy.

For example, a few months ago I wanted a 1960s metal doll house.  I saw it at an antiques store when we were spending the day with our nieces.  It was in perfect condition; no rust, no dents, no damage.  It even had a little covered patio on the side and tiny little red awnings above the windows.  It was so darn cute!   I didn’t buy it that day, just admired it from a distance.  I didn’t even know the price.  

I couldn’t get it out of my head though.  I loved it!  I had nowhere to put it and didn’t really need it, but I couldn’t stop thinking about getting it as a birthday present to myself.  I planned for a day off just to drive nearly an hour away for it. 

We get there, climb the stairs to the second level and as I turn the corner I see that IT’S GONE!  In the few days from seeing it to going back for it, someone bought it.  I asked the lady at the counter if maybe it had been moved, but she informed me it had in fact been sold … to a really nice lady who had been looking for one just like it for years.

Owning it wasn’t meant to be and it went to someone who will truly cherish it.  I convinced myself it all worked out the way it should.  I didn’t need it.  I didn’t have anywhere to put it.  Plus the person who has it now will take wonderful care of it and probably pass it down in their family. 

I could appreciate that metal dollhouse without actually owning it.

We all want our homes to be filled with our favorite things, stuff that gives us moments of happiness.  But we also want simplified lives and that means knowing when too much of a good thing really is too much.

Do you need to thin out your collections?  Are your collections turning into clutter?


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