Are you a Collector?

The hobby of collecting: - seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, maintaining.

For the first time since its inception many years ago, I’ve been working in the Carriage House Thrift Shop. In years past there have been faithful volunteers who have helped out. I watched the crowds of visitors come and go, to the barn, through the windows of the Rogers Mansion. I was always curious about what goes on out there. I am a collector and the barn is a temptation to me. This year because of COVID-19 there has been a need for staff to work in the barn. And so this year I found myself sitting in the barn and sure enough, I saw a bowl. The bowl was calling to me. I tried to avoid looking at it, and concentrated on greeting the people as they came and went.

What attracts these visitors to the barn I wondered? Each vendor has different things to offer. Each visitor seems to be on the hunt for that certain something that they have to have. For some there is success this week and for some they’ll be back. It’s the thrill of the hunt! I am very impressed at how well informed young people are when it comes to designer clothes and accessories. I’ve observed that some couples shop well together and some do not. I read once that it is human nature to collect. It goes back to primal days when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers out of necessity. We no longer need to hunt and gather to survive but the need to hunt and gather is still in us. All of us? My mother is not a collector. My in-laws were not collectors. My father was. My husband and I both are. I believe my paternal grandmother coaxed me to collect starting at a very young age. I have not figured out how my husband got started. As a child, before I knew him, he collected books and model airplanes. He had the planes hanging by strings from his bedroom ceiling. He shared the room with his younger brother. I’ve heard the story a million times about the day he arrived home to find that his brother and his brother’s friend had flown some of the planes out of the second story bedroom window with not good results. My husband keeps his first book, a gift from his aunt, in a box now because it is so worn that the pages are starting to fall out. He would never part with it. He has turned what was once our kid’s tree house into a mini museum for his antique tools. Not long after I met him, he started spending Sundays with my father. They traveled up and down the south fork antiquing together. My father knew all the good places. This continued after we were married. Things were accumulating fast. Over the years their destinations became further and further away and the rewards became bigger and bigger until one day a full sized antique tractor arrived in our yard. He named her “Elizabeth”. I was becoming alarmed. We have no basement and no garage. Over the years he has far surpassed me with his collections, and I must admit there have been a few domestic squabbles about too much stuff.

What is the difference between hoarding and collecting I’m thinking as I sit in the barn. A bowl is very practical I reasoned as I continued to look the other way. I looked up the definition of collecting and it says a collection consists of just three of similar or like items. I think that would put just about everyone in the collectors category. It’s just that some people are happy with more and some people are happy with less.

Two bowls that I collected

Mary Randolph Carter has written many books about collecting. She offers these five tips to collectors:

  1. Remember: It’s not clutter, it’s evidence of life.

  2. Forget the word need.

  3. Embrace the power of multiples.

  4. Let contradiction lead to harmony.

  5. Trust your instincts.

There is also the problem of “DUST”! In our house there are many shelves of things that need dusting. The rule is, if it’s yours you dust it. My husband ignores dust. He has no problem with it.

Toy manufacturers have obviously studied this human need and profited from it. Every year they come up with a new something that becomes the must have for kids. And every year the supplies run low. Remember Cabbage Patch Dolls and Transformers? Parents were out there frantically trying to find them. McDonalds came up with Happy Meals. In every box a collectible. They’ll be worth something someday we’re told if they survive childhood.

I like old things. Things that have been loved and worn and passed down. There is something comforting about your home when you “have your things about you” as Mary Kate Danaher says in the movie “The Quiet Man”. Your home is your refuge from a stressful world. Hopefully you feel happy and secure there. But, does there come a time when we must stop collecting? And, maybe start parting with some stuff? Taking care of “stuff” is a job. It’s overwhelming. Space is running out. Your kids will be resentful someday if they are stuck cleaning out your house. I often wonder, will they look twice before it ends up in the dumpster?

I was curious about my co-workers at the museum. Are they collectors? I requested that they contribute to this blog.

Are you a collector? Tell us in the comments below what you collect!


Tom Edmonds, Executive Director</