Collecting things-22nd Mar 2022

Number three

Collections. Why do we collect things? More specifically, why do we collect numerous examples of the same type of things? How does this start and why do other people in our lives encourage us to entertain such madness in the first place?

I was pondering these questions when I took the first photo for yesterday’s post. That photo was really supposed to be about the two Ginger Jars in the alcoves within the inglenook. I have had these three Ginger Jars, a modest collection as my collections go, for so many years now that I cannot remember when or where I came by them.  Being blue and white-they saw me coming. Had to have them. But, why? What use are they?

The one in the photo above sits in splendid isolation on the Music Room mantlepiece and is an ORNAMENT. It serves this function well. I love the colour. I love the shape. It raises a smile every time I see it. It is not in ANY way precious in a monetary sense.

I just like it.

The ones in the inglenook are serving a very odd purpose. I once read, many decades ago, that if you got a pair of ginger jars and you kept rice in them, and if you wrapped coins in red paper and stored them in the rice, and if you just kept the rice and red paper-wrapped coins in there at all times- not for eating- that this process would bring the household very great luck and was a symbol that you would never be hungry. Good Fung Shui Thingymebobs…whatever.

I think I have been very lucky and, if you saw me, you would say I have probably never been hungry either. So, there’s no way I am ever getting rid of that rice and its accompanying coins now!

I once collected many different types of things. It started as a kid when I had a “rock collection”. It was kept in a little child’s suitcase and, where I grew up, “rocks” were any type of stone from the mineral kingdom, even if they were very small. Mine were all very small. I had many different types and this collection was something that my Mother started for me and encouraged by adding pieces to it for Birthday and Christmas presents. I think she must have been interested herself. Once upon a time, she even bought us a little kit for polishing stones at home at a “Rock Collector’s Fair”. The kit contained a little barrel with a screw on lid, the stones were put inside with water and varying grades of grit polish added and it was then tumbled on a little motorized cradle, day and night- for weeks. I bet she regretted her purchase as the thing was set up just outside my parent’s bedroom. What a racket! The results were only ever going to be as exciting as the stones we put in it in the first place-so not very- but I loved it anyway.

Many collections followed: stamps, coins, jewellery, blue & white china, fabric for sewing (still have too much of that and some of it is fabric from my Grandmother’s hoard), knitting wool, knitting everything else that goes with knitting wool, books to read (OMG! The books!), books to cook from (!!!!!) – FAR too many collections!

I think when we collect things in this way, it can be about feeding our “fantasy selves”. For years my life has been a chorus of “when I have time, I am going to…”) We may indeed have burning passion to do x, y, or z when we start the collection but time or circumstances can change us and learning to let go of old and outdated ideas about who we are is almost harder than clearing the clutter associated with the passing fancy. But I think some of this clearing is absolutely necessary as we age. If we don’t, our homes develop their own version of atherosclerosis. Everything just gradually grinds to a halt. And then later, someone else comes in to clear the clutter that was our responsibility to deal with in the first place.


This type of personal responsibility clearing is a thing in Sweden. They even have a word for it: döstädning. And this lady has written a gently funny book about it, too.

Another world zeitgeist heroine of clearing up is Marie Condo. I guess most of us may have used her method to tidy up our underwear drawer by now. If not, I highly recommend it. I did it nearly 8 years ago and the method sticks. This video contains very irritating music, so just watch it without the sound.

It’s important to know what you’ve got and to be able to access it easily. And, any type of collection, no matter if you love it or just use it, can really get out of hand in a hurry. The point is this: learn to curate what you do have. Keep ONLY what is either precious to you or things that you really do use. And if you feel overwhelmed by it all, start small. Pick up ONE thing, ask your body what IT thinks of that thing, close your eyes and open your heart. The body responds really well if you get your intellect out of the process. Clear a drawer, then a shelf, then a corner of the room, and then go on from there, as it feels right. Take as long as you need. Bit by bit, keep going. You will probably need to do it all again someday, as it is a process of layers. I have decided that life is mostly about maintenance. Doesn’t really matter what we are doing, we will probably need to keep doing it if we are to carry on going forward. Cleaning house is one of those things. It doesn’t matter. Just keep going forward.

Our homes reflect the time and love we can find to inject into them. When we are time poor it is important to keep seeing the home we love beneath the dust and love it anyway. And as for the things we collect- if you are tired of dusting it, moving it, falling over it, putting it away, taking it out again, misplacing it, buying another one, insuring that one- if your heart doesn’t absolutely sing every time you see it- ask yourself why you have it in the first place and just get rid of it as responsibly as you can.

My home is very much a work in progress in the clearing department and, even after 20 years of regular purges, I still feel I have a long way to go before I pop my clogs. I know this much, when the time comes and someone dredges this little fella out, I wish I could somehow see the look on their face as they ponder, “What on Earth is this and why did she keep it?”


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