Collector's Shame: Moving as a Wake Up Call & Healthy Collecting Strategies
-"I just know I left that Arc of the Covenant around here somewhere..."
I just moved from Chicago to Charlotte. I knew we were moving when I took my new job in late April and that I had to be in Charlotte August 1st. I thought that I had started early enough to not make it a horrible experience...but alas, I think that there is no way that moving is anything less than a horrible experience. I liken it to a root canal only slightly less enjoyable.
Quite possibly the worst part of it was the severe wake up call that I had in regards to my spending and collecting habits. It was abundantly clear after two weeks of packing that I had a metric crap ton of stuff. Insane amounts of stuff. Ludicrous amounts. More stuff than anyone should have. Fabric, yarn, fiber, magazines, books, action figures, dolls, makeup, clothes, etc... I wistfully looked at those festive hipsters living in tiny houses in exotic places like Portland and wished I could have such restraint. While packing I quickly began to make hard choices about what I could keep and still live with myself...and what I could sell or donate. It was brutal. I did end up selling quite a bit and made enough money to help cover a decent chunk of my move. I was not able to sell everything that I wanted though due to time. I left a lot of money on the table and ended up donating a bunch of stuff that I could have easily sold on eBay if I had been more organized. But I also could have been restrained in the first place and let go of things I was hording well before I got to this crisis point. I let my collections go unchecked for years. The intense amounts of stuff became a weight on me. As I made what had to be the last of fifteen trips to the thrift store, I felt a strange mix of regret...but also the unmistakable feeling of freedom. It felt good to let it go.....which was extremely surprising to me.
But let me be clear. My distress was not in the fact that I collect and have a ton of stuff...it was that I was in denial about the amount that I had. There was a surprising amount of collected/hoarded objects that I had just swept from my memory. That doll I got to re-root. A whole box of repaints in progress. One that I thought I had sold but the sale did not happen yet the doll remained out of sight and out of mind in a package addressed to no one. Much of that stuff came along for the ride. Much of that is now sitting in my new guest bedroom...or shoved in a closet where I will have to face it soon. Or shove it somewhere in the attic only to be rediscovered during my next move...hitting the rest button on my 'collector's shame' again.
This move was all about new beginnings. We are starting a new chapter and I am trying to apply that to all aspects of my life. So with that lofty motivation, I am trying to keep my urges in check. Being more frugal in spending and getting rid of the things that are likely to occupy those boxes left unpacked and ignored.
The new house is great but I have much less room to display my collections (and little to no room to store what is not on display). We are trying to maintain a more respectable (read "grown up pants") look so I have currently cut back my collection space to a new Ikea Detolf cabinet in my bedroom. The cabinet is glass and can be locked to keep sticky toddler fingers off of Mommy's toys (another reason for minimizing the collection). The only drawback is with the shelf height of the Detolf. It is not conducive to the taller Tonner dolls. I can display some of those on top of the cabinet perhaps or seek another display option just for a select few of them. I am also bringing a few things to display in my house at work. I think a small selection of my Wonder Woman swag will end up there. Perhaps the Tonner superheroes can work in my office?
Why the cutback in displayed collection? We wanted to keep the dolls out of the guest room. Some of this is at request of my husband but I am also getting tired of the everyone calling my dolls creepy. Whatever. I will go into this in another post (read RANT). But I also thought that cutting back would have a couple of added benefits for me.
First, a smaller display place would make me focus my collections. I would have to CURATE what would be on display and ROTATE what would not fit. Rotating would encourage PLAY. It would mean getting dolls in and out more and changing them. This was something that I got lazy about when I had more space. I had multiples of dolls and characters but things were also crowded. So even though I had more dolls out, I played and actually saw less of them. It could also allow for more diorama type display which would indulge my love for miniature creation. I could make some mini-furnitures as such (in my copious spare time).
Second, a smaller space would force me to REDUCE and keep only my very favorites and PURGE the rest. Then, if I have dolls that fail to make it into the rotation after a year, I can take that as a clear indicator that they be purged.
Third, the display case is in my bedroom, so I see it regularly and often. Having it there will let me enjoy it more.
And finally, I am choosing a select few dolls to bring to the office for display. I figure it is my office...and I can do what I want with it. This is something that I love and if I want to have a shelf of Wonder Woman swag...why the heck not. It is no weirder than the Anthropology prof with a shelf full of fertility gods. It means that I will also enjoy my hobby throughout the day. I like that idea.
So the new plan is to Rotate, Curate, Reduce, Purge, and Play. (and Document).
The new game plan is also to Document. I have been spending time listing my dolls in a spreadsheet and recording prices, place of purchase, dates, sculpts, skin tones, etc. This is crucial for insurance purposes of course. This is also a great way to get a handle on just how much you have in a collection. I have been tracking what I still have out on pre-order and what I am planning to sell. I can make more informed estimates about saving for future purchases based on previous spending habits. It is a real eye opener to see it all laid out before you. I plan to further document each doll as I unpack it for display by photographing them all. I was thinking of using CLCTIN. It is sort of like a social media/facebook presence for your collections.
My big question right now is about boxes and storage. It would certainly free up a ton of space if I ditched the original packing and shippers. However, it is so easy to store them in the original packaging and of course makes it easier and sometimes more valuable to sell with the boxes. I have an attic space but have not investigated it yet. Oh how I wish I had a massive garage. But of course, I would expand to fill the spaces if I had them. My current restrictions are likely exactly what I need in order to learn some better habits.
So in addition to documenting everything, I am really trying to make better choices. As I begin to unpack and curate, I am definitely going to be making some hard decisions about who stays and who gets kicked off the island. This cabinet has four glass shelves. My Jem collection alone would barely fit this thing. In addition to Jem, I have the Tonner Superheroes, my steampunk vamps, my Audrey Hepburn movie dolls, Poppy Parker spy dolls, Fashion Royalty/Nu Face, and a few color infusion guys and gals. I also need to really check myself before I jump in and pre-order something new. How does this new doll fit with my current collection? Does the new doll repeat something that I already have? Will the new one replace an old one (meaning I sell the old to make way for the new)?
Right now the Jem collection is the largest, followed by Wonder Woman. I have repeats in the Wonder Woman stuff that could go away without too much trauma. With Jem though, I currently have every doll made so far and I am finding it really difficult to think about selling some of the repetitive dolls. Oh decisions, decisions.
So what do you do to keep yourself in check? What has worked? What has failed? Have you just given up and bought a trailer out back for your dolls?