The Family Home Blog

Purposeful Collecting

Cathe Holden

Purposeful Collecting 

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s it was quite common for people to decorate their homes with collections of curios, or “knickknacks” as my mother called them. Themed groupings of trinkets were often displayed on shelves and glass-front cabinets, or peppered throughout the house. My mom kept her collecting to a minimum, as she didn’t want too many objects gathering dust. However, I used my allowance money to buy a menagerie of porcelain animals, which I housed on my windowsill, and kept interesting “tchotchkes” that came my way.

For many of us, collecting is more about the hunt than actually owning goods. The hope of discovering treasure, and finding it, can be a very satisfying pastime. Today, shopping for vintage goods is one of my favorite hobbies. Additionally, we often save items that we are certain we may want or need in the future. All of which can quickly lead to over-accumulation of “stuff!”

Collecting versus hoarding can be a real struggle. In recent years, in order to discipline myself against over-accumulation, I created ground rules that I am careful to follow with few exceptions. I love to shop at thrift stores and flea markets, so low-priced treasures can easily tempt me into a purchase. To help combat impulse buying, I have three rules I try to stick to when pleasure shopping:

1. Only collect items of purpose. Items of purpose include things that I find attractive or would love to display as decor, but must serve a practical use. For example, I adore typography and vintage graphic design found on old product packaging. If the price is right, I will buy containers such as tins or cans to hold pens, pencils and brushes in my craft studio. I occasionally purchase items purely for decoration, but am careful to use the “less is more” rule of thumb when decorating my home. Fortunately, for me, I have both a studio and a home to decorate. My studio is quite full and eclectic, but extremely organized (see rule number 2, below). My home is more minimalist, as I share it with my family and want to respect their space.

2. Keep collections organized. Objects collected, such as thrift shop finds for crafting, are to be placed in labeled bins, boxes, or drawers if possible. Back to rule number one, many of my bins and boxes are found/collected items themselves.

3. Treasure in, donations out. In order to keep a fair balance of “stuff” in my home and studio, it is important to let go of items I don’t use, haven’t used in many months - or that I simply no longer adore. Sometimes I let go of entire collections to allow room for new items that catch my eye. Many items I donate back to thrift stores, sell or give to friends.

Practicing self-discipline in collecting has now become quite routine for me. By placing parameters on my shopping, I’ve created a satisfying challenge to the hunt.

If you are a collector, could implementing your own rules of collecting help you?

Photo courtesy of Cathe Holden.

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