the 73 elephants in the room

First, the formalities: Happy New Year, everyone! 2016 was rough, and not all of us made it. I hope 2017 brings you nothing but happiness, love, and no pants!

Okay, hi. I set up several goals-not-resolutions for myself for 2017. Most of these are fairly obvious: travel more, don’t wear pants, continue not going A2M – but I’m also hoping to write more this year. I spent Q4 2016 in a dank haze, and I’m using the new year to throw off the shackles of apathy and get back into the game (the game in this case is more words on the internet). I’m off to a bad start, as I had excellent intentions of writing yesterday .. but by the time we got home from the traditional NYE party in Seattle, I was too tired to do more than be horizontal and weighed down by cats. It was lovely, but warm. 33 pounds of cat is a lot of potato.

This isn’t just a generic “gonna write more, pinky swear” post – I actually have something to get off my (ample, fabulous) chest: internet, I have a problem. I have a problem with collections.

I’ve been doing some soul searching lately (because what else can you do when you are pinned down and also outside there is snow) and thinking about stuff – literally, as in all the stuff in my house. With the exception of the appliances, Ed, and myself, there is not a single one of anything in here: every single thing I own is multiplied far beyond what any one person actually needs. Now, some of this is basically a hobby: it’s fun to collect things and have awesome stuff everywhere you look. Most people have a collection of one or two things they’re really into: model cars, rare import CDs, human teeth, fancy spoons that are not meant to be used for snorting coke, etc. It’s fun! It’s a hobby! It’s a problem!

I do not regret any of my collections. Unfortunately, that’s the problem: I collect collections. If I like something, I have to have it ALL. I have to amass as much as possible of whatever it is that I like. It goes far beyond my Optimus Prime collection or my wall of pop culture figures, too. It’s literally everything, and it can be traced to a specific period in my life when I was really into that thing. Here are just a few of the things I have way too fucking much of because I was super into it and started a collection without being aware of what I was doing:

  • Yarn and Fabric: I went mad for knitting and sewing at two different periods in my life. I have a huge stash of fabric that I’ll probably never use now, because I don’t have anywhere to sew (or the patience, or the skill)
  • Cosmetics: when I decided to start wearing makeup, I binged. There is enough makeup in my bathroom to give an army of makeovers. It’s more than I’ll ever use in my lifetime, especially since my favourites keep evolving (and when I like a product, I stockpile it)
  • Lapel Pins: I like these right now, so I have dozens of them on my wall
  • Technology: I have a stack of tablets and devices on my desk. A literal stack. Why? Why do I have all these?
  • Nintendo DS Games: I used to buy almost every DS game that was released. There’s a large collection of games in a box in the living room.
  • Bags: Not just purses, either: small wallets, makeup bags, clutches – lots of them.
  • Hello Kitty phone charms: I have a lockbox full of these that probably number in the hundreds
  • LEGO: I have hundreds of minifigs, because I liked minifigs for a long time. Even now I still buy them, because I love blind items (and a small part of me really wants to have 17 different LEGO pirates on hand)
  • Wrap Bracelets: I only have two wrists. I probably didn’t need 25 of these.
  • Portable Batteries: I like always having power, so now I have power upon power upon fire hazards.

This is just the stuff I can see in my room; there’s more in the house. I have a lot of dresses. I don’t need to buy every pretty dress I see, but I do. Food? Yep. Remember my chocolate hoarding? That’s part of it. In fact, the food collecting is even more problematic, because it doesn’t get eaten. I’ve got a half dozen bars I brought home from the UK several trips ago in the freezer, just in case there’s a shortbread emergency. YOU NEVER KNOW (right mom?).

It’s kind of eye-opening to realize the extent of my problem. I’m sure it was obvious to others, but I’m kind of slow sometimes. And I hate to admit it, but I take after my mother in this. She doesn’t collect, but she’s a bargain hunter: if something is on sale, she’ll buy 80 of them because it was a good deal. Sometimes it’s handy to have that much toilet paper on hand, but when it starts piling up in the living room and blocking the TV, it’s probably a problem.

So, now that I know I have a problem and being pretty confident that I am not trying to now collect problems, what am I going to do about it?

This isn’t any sort of resolution or anything, because the first step in all of this is simply being aware of what I’m doing. I already know the why, so now we concentrate on stemming the tide. There are some things I can get rid of by donating or recycling. I’m not going to disassemble my collections, but I won’t be adding to them (or starting new ones) if I can help it. I’ll never be any sort of crazy minimalist, but I can at least make things easier to manage for myself (and probably relieve Ed of that 15-year-long headache he has when he thinks about all of the shit I own).

There’s a trendy Japanese method of decluttering that has you hold each item and, if it no longer brings you joy, discarding it. It’s a noble idea, but one that won’t work for me for several reasons:

  • Even if I hold each item for just one second to determine joy, the sheer volume of stuff in my house makes it a 50-year task
  • I’m ridiculous, and almost everything brings me joy
  • I would inevitably start discarding things that should probably be kept. “Property taxes do not bring me joy. Throw it out! I don’t like it when Ed wears pants. Out they go! The stove brings me no joy BE GONE!”

I can do this, though. Perhaps I will collect free space and empty drawers.

morbidity

I disappear for two weeks and come back not with a song in my step, but with deep unsettling questions about the futility of my own existence. Is this the start of my mid-life crisis? How exciting! What do you wear to a mid-life crisis, anyway? I hope it involves tulle.

My determination to be the girl with the most cake toys has seen my collection flourish and grow. My lady cave is covered in awesome things as far as the eye can see – entire shelves dedicated to my favourite pop cultures; a mishmash of genres and universes and lifestyles. I have a lot of cool stuff.

Unfortunately, I am starting to question WHY I have so much cool stuff.

At the end of the day, it’s just .. junk. Brightly coloured pieces of plastic moulded to look like someone else’s money-making dream. Why do I have it? And what will happen to it when I’m dead? There isn’t going to be any sort of museum exhibit filled with artifacts from my pointless life; no one is going to look at my collection of things and think how awesome I must have been to have spent so much time and money amassing all these lovely things. In the end, it’s all just garbage. No matter how much we may dearly love our hobbies or curios or collections while we live, when everything goes dark it’s nothing more than a burden to those who loved you. You may keep an item or two as a memento – I recommend anything from my Optimus Prime collection – but you can’t keep my entire life together. None of my things will mean as much to anyone else as they did to me, and that’s pretty depressing. I keep thinking back to my dad’s record collection – he loved his records. He had thousands of them, and had been collecting them since his radio days. After he died, what happened to them? My mom let a close friend of his go through the collection and take what he wanted, and the rest were donated or thrown away. Everything he poured into his collection – all the time and money, the thrill of a rare find, the delight in an old favourite, the love of a good memory – gone. The collection wasn’t a comfort or joy to my mother, it was a burden. She stressed over what to do with the thousands of records – toss them in the garbage? Leave them on the curb? Donate them to some organization?  The neatly lined shelves that made my dad happy for decades were nothing more than a huge pain in the ass for my mother to deal with.

Will that happen to my things? When I draw my last breath at 114 (I’m nothing if not optimistic/terrified of death), will Ed be left with a house full of dusty plastic reminders of a movie we once saw or a video game I once loved? Will he look over all the faded memories of the ridiculous things that made me happy and curse the need to clean up after me one last time? Or will I have long since caved in to the nagging voice in the back of my head that wonders if I wouldn’t maybe be happier living a minimalist lifestyle that would fit in a duffle bag so that I may come and go as I please?

I love my things, but I am questioning why I have things. If all my cherished items are nothing more than a burden for others to deal with after I’m gone, is it better to not cherish anything at all?

Mid! Life! Crisis!

future landfill