I come from a family of collectors. My parents collect art and antiques, my maternal grandparents collected art, antiques, and midcentury modern Scandinavian furniture, and my paternal grandmother was a hoarder. While collecting seems to be more thoughtful and intentional than hoarding, I think it is still a form of hoarding. In stride with familial traditions, I began collecting objects when I was in high school. After going to countless auctions and estate sales with my parents, which I hated as kid, I began to sense a taste for certain objects when I was in high school and I felt a need to create a collection of objects of my own that spoke to me. This desire was further fulfilled by the discovery of a fair store in my hometown, and not only did I love the objects themselves, I loved knowing that they were made by artisans who were perfecting their craft, carrying on artisanal traditions, and getting paid fairly in order to live a good life. I also added to my collection with trips to antique stores and garden stores. The curation of my collection resulted in these objects accumulating in boxes that I stored in my parents’s attic because I didn’t have space or a need for them at the time, but I dreamt of how I would use them in my future apartment in the city when I was “all grown up”. I have slowly taken things from these boxes to my various apartments in my adult life, and now these boxes reside in my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house for easy access.
I really connected with this letter to the editor by Hanya Yanagihara in The New York Times Style Magazine, as I’m constantly battling between wanting to collect and to live a full life surrounded by my collection, and navigating the overwhelming feeling of burden by these objects and the desire to go in the extreme opposite direction and become the queen of all minimalists. I have no resolution for this battle at this point in time, and I don’t foresee having such a resolution anytime soon. I love these objects that I have slowly and intentionally collected over time, and I will be sad if I let them go, but I also cringe at the idea of having a plethora of cluttered objects around me with no purpose but to sit pretty on the shelf.
This struggle is particularly top of mind at the moment as my parents and I have been going through the painful and stressful process of cleaning out my grandparents’ home to get it ready to sell. It is full of things that we all love and want to keep, but of course the dilemma of what to do with them and where to put them prevails. With the addition of these things into my collection and my parents’ collection, this struggle isn’t going anywhere and it’s about to get worse. I fear that “add it in, take it away” will be a driving force throughout this upheaval, which while completely logical and rational, is a gut-wrenching process for those of us who are collectors at heart.