Last Friday, I spent an exhausting day helping my elderly aunt find, display, and price her household as she prepares to move. She was lucky to be able to sell her collection of Bossons heads and Royal Doulton figurines as a lot. Like many of us, she had china dinner sets, an assortment of crystal stemware, petit point pictures, hand-stitchery pieces, and more. She marvelled at how much she had and wondered why.
I have theories. Some things we collected because every young woman/bride of a certain era did. Getting a place setting or completer set of your china pattern as a gift was a welcome thing and served as a passage into womanhood. Same goes for silver flatware. Why we all needed a crystal ashtray, candlesticks, toothpick holder, decanter, candy dishes, dinner bell and more is a mystery to me. Let’s chalk it up to naiveté and not yet understanding what we like, need, and value. A decanter, for heaven’s sake! You only see liquor decanters on soap operas for those middle-of-the-day pick-me-ups.
My sister has a collection of music boxes. When our friends had a dairy, they had Holstein cow everything. Sometimes a person will buy (or receive) one cute whatever. Oohing and ahhing ensues and then everyone (wrongly) assumes that if one is good, 38 whatevers must be better. Pesky decision making when shopping becomes a thing of the past. we’ll all just get them a cow apron, napkin holder, wall hanging, or a musical something or other.
Sometimes, we collect because we think something is a good investment. Heaven help anyone who believes that. Roy has several boxed, never been fired commemorative rifles. When he tried to find a market for them, we learned there were far too many made for them to appreciate in value. How do you sell a firearm when everyone needs an FAC (Firearms Acquisition Certificate) these days? We also have millions of carded and boxed John Deere farm toys in all sizes and scales. Yes, I know I could be opening an account; inventorying, photographing, and pricing the stock to sell on eBay. Or maybe we’ll spend every weekend of our golden years flogging them at flea markets.
Sometimes, as parents we become enablers. Hilary was a preschooler when we all fell in love with My Child dolls. They had skin as soft as peaches, movable joints, nice hair, and beautiful clothes. She ended up with 17, I think. When she left home, we needed to sell them. We lined them up on the deck of Roy’s flatbed trailer and did a photo shoot of her with all the dolls. I kept a black doll that I loved; she kept two or three and the rest had to go. One day, if she has a daughter, we’ll have stories to tell.
Maybe some of us have addictive, acquisitive personalities. Watching a few episodes of Hoarders or Hoarding: Buried Alive shows us mental illness plays a role in these extreme cases.
Maybe the recession and green movement will teach us that less is enough.
If we only buy and keep what we truly love or use, we’ll have gotten our money’s worth and years of pleasure. After that, does it really matter? At least I don’t have collector plates or Beanie Babies to sell, from where I sit.