Collection Correction

Jessie: Amidst the voluptuous green of late spring in New Hampshire

I was raised in a household of unrepentant collectors. My mother collected frogs and music boxes and books and sewing supplies. One of my sisters gathered up Barbies and books and every paper she ever turned in throughout elementary school. The other sister couldn’t get enough of anything vaguely Asian in influence.

My father was the most hardened collector of all. He collected rocks and dolls and books and stamps. He hoarded old farm tools, picture frames and art supplies. Chess sets, antique furniture and vintage bottles of patent medicine filled all the nooks and crannies he could wedge them into.

photoI fell victim to the same plight, unable to resist the lure of pretty pebbles, salt and pepper shakers in whimsical forms, teapots of humorous ilk, hats, unicorns and, of course, books. But at some point in the last few years the yearning to collect and to dust and to store so many items has faded. I’ve winnowed and decluttered and evaluated item after item in my home until I’ve reduced the contents to a degree that would have been unimaginable years ago. What’s left is what suits my life now and is a reflection of what brings me joy.

When I first started writing seriously I was certain I had no idea what I was doing so I fought my natural instinct to write with bloated abandon; collecting words and ideas like so many buttons in a cookie tin. I was certain my intuition must be wrong and my first manuscript finished the first draft at around 60,000 words. It was so lean pioneer provisioners could have sold it as jerky.

As time has passed I’ve become comfortable letting my collector out to play. In much the same way that three teapots seemed more appealing than one, I’ve discovered that often times I need to allow myself to say the same thing several times in just slightly different ways in a first draft. After that I winnow the offerings down to the one that best conveys my meaning or most compellingly moves the story along. I’ve found now that I am better at evaluating my physical environment, I trust myself to choose what is best for me in my work world as well.

But no matter how much I winnow in my work or my world I never can resist a pretty photopebble.

Readers, do you consider yourself a collector? If so, what treasures do you have tucked away?

31 Thoughts

  1. What a fascinating connection between your physical world and your writing world, Jessie. I have a collection of African cloth that I treasure, but that I don’t mind cutting up to make something out of, either.

  2. Rocks. Sea shells. Salt shakers. Coffee mugs. Antique kitchenware. Books, of course. (The 69 bone china tea-cups I inherited–but have I gotten rid of any of them? Nooooo…)

    I agree with Edith–that’s a great analogy about collecting things versus collecting words and phrases. Sometimes you aren’t sure where the words belong, but you know you want them somewhere. The trick is making sure you save only one example! (Somehow Search and Replace doesn’t quite work that way for me.)

  3. I enjoyed reading this. . . I would have to say I love to collect books, jewelry and anything with birds and butterflies. I am a nature lover at heart and love to fill my home with beauties we see around us. I love to conjure up books and characters in my imagination. Maybe I too, will put pen to paper and write a cozy.

  4. It’s been the same list for thirty years: I collect children, weeds, and bills (and now that the kids are young adults, I still have all their stuff).

      1. Yes, my daughter moved out four years ago and we haven’t touched a thing in that room. I will say she has some interesting CDs and DVDs that we have raided from time to time. And poetry books.

    1. I think that is the way it is in most families, Margaret. I knew of a retired couple who moved into an RV so their adult son and his stuff would have to move out. He was in his forties and couldn’t join them on the road because of his job.

  5. Hi Jessie–Like you, I used to collect, but have pared way back. My mother-in-law is a hoarder and dealing with all her stuff has sucked the joy of stuff right out of me. I still have too much, but have much less trouble letting go. My brother always says it’s amazing how through most of our existence human beings were preoccupied with getting enough stuff to live. Now us first worlders are preoccupied with getting rid of it.

      1. My mother always tried to clear out the attic during the summer. With the heat it was nightmare. Perhaps you could save your basement job for a heatwave and enjoy the cool of the basement.

    1. I think part of what makes decluttering hard is the guilt of not valuing what previous generations or people in other places do. That guilt so easily grinds the decision making process to a halt and it feels far easier to just let the stuff pile up.

  6. One year I wrapped a friend’s Christmas gift in paper that had Scottie dogs on it. It was quite pretty paper. For some reason, she thought I had an affinity for Scottie dogs, and since then, she’s given me all things Scottie (mugs, salt and pepper shakers, needle point pillows, etc.). So in my case, I’ve ended up with a collection of items that I never intended to collect, nor had any interest in. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings the year she proudly gave me the first Scottie item, and since then it has mushroomed. It has become quite a joke in my family. So beware of what you admire or give a friend. You just might continue to receive a similar item–forever.

    1. I have a friend who once put up a penguin shower curtain in the bathroom that also served as guest bathroom. OMG. The gifted penguin paraphernalia mushroomed!

    2. Grace, that is exactly what happened to my mother with her frog collection. She never really meant it to become so large but once that ball got rolling there was no stopping it.

  7. I’m sure this won’t be a shock to anyone here. I collect books, DVD’s and now Blu-Rays, CD’s, and Christmas ornaments. You know, those things I review on my blog. The one collection I haven’t really spent much time review is Disney pins. I resisted for about 5 years, but then jumped in and have way more of them then I will ever be able to display. But they are so much fun!

      1. I don’t have a storage unit yet. But every storage spot in my condo is full. Keep in mind I have two roommates, too.

        And I’ve become very very very good over the years at using reviewing as a way to justify buying something I’m on the fence about. “But I can review it!”

        I’d take some time to declutter, but I have another review to write….

  8. Vintage tablecoths, turkey and Thanksgiving decor, and (albeit unplanned) scarves.
    Also, journals. My god, I’d have to write all day, every day to fill these journals. So I bought 2 more at lunch.

    1. Vintage fabrics are so hard to resist! I refrained from mentioning my vintage hankie collection. Fortunately, they don’t take up must room. And journals! Every time I go into Staples I do myself a mischief. The worst ones are those that I get home and then are too good for my handwriting. I have two pink, letter-bound ones in my office right now staring me down.

  9. I collect things from rocks to chairs to end tables to the letter “H”. I also have vintage fabrics and cobalt glass. It skipped a generation in my family — my grandparents were collectors buy not my parents.

  10. I was already “blessed” with the “collecting” gene, and I coupled it with an opportunity to live somewhere exotic (okay – got stationed overseas). The driver was always the thought that I needed to get these things while I lived there, to remind me of the wonderful time I was having. So I have collections of books, British dishes and mugs, maps and guidebooks, cookbooks, Persian rugs, Japanese kimonos, obis, and fabric, sea glass, porcelain dishes and vases, and kokeshi dolls. I am also storing my daughters’ pig and duck collections, my son’s comic book collection, mother’s yarn, displaying my mother’s elephant collection, and sorting through my late sister’s cookbook collection. And although it isn’t a “collection”, I probably could open a cross-stitch shop with all of the books, magazines, kits, and supplies that I have.

  11. We have so much in common! I collect antique bone china teapots. Hand painted tea cups and saucers. One at a time. I inherited my favorite tea pots from my Irish grandmother and great-grandmother, and Steve’s mother. But all my beautiful old cups and saucers came from an antique/collectibles shop in Somerville.

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