Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Controlling Collections

They say that the world is divided into two types of people; those who collect, and those who don't. I never thought of myself as a collector, but I do know that I accidentally accumulate things, and I am sometimes reluctant to let some of them go.

Never a fan of sameness, I tend to like things for all different types of reasons. I buy necklaces for their uniqueness, used-worn-down pencils (not sure why, but they always make me smile), photographs of people being happy and spontaneous, and old childrens books (I love the stories, the care with which they were created, and of course the words...). I also like to see, or use what I have, so I don't buy something unless I really want it. I guess it still counts as a type of collecting, but I rationalize that if they are labors of love, and in neat little categories, then I am not really a collector.

(Sometimes, when I am having a moment, the word collector conjures up visions of a Star Trek Convention, with grown men wearing plastic, pointy ears, waiting for Captain Kirk to sign their original lunch box from 1969). Although I am a big fan of William Shatner, I don't fall into this category of collecting. If you are a person who does, then collecting is probably a constant quest to accumulate everything connected to your favorite subject or hobby, and where you will put it is a secondary thought in the process. The fun thing about this type of collecting is that it is never-ending, and the joy is definitely more about the chase than how you intend to display it in your home.

Some collections often start out as gifts. We might notice that a friend likes to drink tea, so we buy them a new teapot for their birthday. She loves it so much, that we decide that surely she would like three even better than two. Before we know it, other people have noticed, and they are thrilled to give her a gift that she will automatically love. We remember that she always wanted to visit Paris, so we order a Parisian teapot for her online. Before you know it, it has become a bit of a gift-giving game; we discover the wonderful new world of teapots, and we present her with a new one for every occasion.Years later, she still looks at them fondly, but realizes that all she really wants is a cup of tea (made with a teabag) not 57 teapots scattered throughout her kitchen...

Whatever may have prompted you to collect, here are some thoughts on living happily (and decoratively) with your favorite obsessions:

- If you don't absolutely love it, store it, sell it, or give it away.
- Be realistic. Don't hang onto it just because "it may be worth money some day". It may, but will you, or your children, ever really sell it?
- If it's very important to you, label and date, or catalog, each item when you get it.
- Choose one or two areas in your home for your collection; a shelf, a room, a basement, a wall etc. Don't expand these spaces as you collect; just pack away what doesn't fit, and rotate the items every now and again.
- Be creative, not formal, with your displays. If it is something small, consider piling them in bowls, jars or boxes. Layer items on shelves, instead of lining them up like soldiers. Not every single thing has to be seen completely at all times.
- Don't be afraid of change. If you are getting bored with your collection, store it away for a while. If you miss it, bring it back, if you don't, then don't.
- Store it properly. If it is worth taking up space in your cellar, then take care of it, and invest in proper containers and packing materials.
- If it is useful, use it.
- Tell your friends and family, kindly, if you are getting tired of collecting something. They won't know unless you tell them, and no-one wants to give (or receive) gifts that are no longer appreciated.

I have to confess, that sometimes I buy fruit just because I like the way they are going to look in my cast iron bowl. Perhaps this could be called a temporary collection? Would love to hear what you collect. Drop me a line, and I will post it on my blue giraffe Facebook page.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Themes - Love them, or Leave them?

Whenever I return from a holiday by the sea, I always find my home to feel a little boring; a little dull, and not quite as cheerful as I imagined it had been the week before. I know the light is different by the ocean, and the place where we stay is decorated kind of "beachy", but for some delusional reason, I still expect to walk in my front door and feel like I am still on holiday.

Crazy really. After-all, a holiday should be different. Even if I stayed home, wore my bathing suit for a week, listened to a CD of the ocean, and spritzed salt water in my hair, it still wouldn't feel like I was on vacation.

After a week or two, I settle back into my home, enjoy my new tan, sort through the bathing suits, and vacuum the sand out of the car (which is a little like trying to clean up the pine needles from your Christmas tree). The lawn gets mowed, I prune and water the plants, and I try to remember what was normal. I make long lists of things that I should be doing, I get distracted by thoughts of sand between my toes, and I find myself longing again for blue and white nautical accessories.

Truthfully, there is rarely another time when I like a theme. But, immediately after vacation, I understand why so many people go in that direction; wanting to recreate a permanent space in their home that evokes a happy memory. Unfortunately (as I bust my own post-holiday bubble) those places exist somewhere else for a reason. It gives us something to look forward to. Something special.

People who live in the English countryside, don't dream of a quaint, thatched cottage, because they already have one. Nestled in a quiet village, or a beautiful, abandoned field, their home feels right; the colors compliment the English weather, and their home perfectly suits their relaxed lifestyle. While we are dreaming of castles and long, brisk walks to the pub, they are dreaming of sunny skies, sandy beaches, and an extra large bathtub.

With themes, a little does go a long way. If you want to remember a place, or a holiday, choose just one or two elements to decorate your home. It can be as simple as a pile of shells from the beach, or as bold as painting your kitchen a gorgeous, deep ochre. Whatever you decide to do, think of a way to remember the happy times, without trying to duplicate them....

The photograph above is a still from the delightful movie "The Holiday".