“The first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a Partridge in a Pear Tree...” and a whole bunch of other stuff I didn't really need. I think I have too much 'stuff'. All my life I've been collecting 'stuff'.
Back in time, when I was in Grade School I got to work as an humble page,in the school library which was a subset of the Chatham Public Library. There I learned to shelve book according to the Dewey Decimal System and to repair books. I developed a taste for peppermint library paste. It was not harmful, being a lot like flavoured flour paste. It was used to apply leatherette to the spines of books. When they were past mending, no longer popular, or dated, guess who got her pick of the discards? Yes, me! The discards were added to my book collection.
My book collection, now the size of a small elephant, started back there. I found a second-hand store that had antique books, not really good books but interesting books because they were old. Someone's collection of sermons, in an old binding with yellowed pages, with the stamp of history upon it. You don't read it. You just collect it and I did. I got one of those.
I started in on records, 78 rpms at first and then 33 1/3rds. I collected Gene Autry and popular jazz.
Stuff, stuff, stuff! It was starting to pile up a bit.
When I moved to New York I became moderately expert at finding stores that siold odd things, Ethiopian crosses and strangely-patterned fabrics and so forth. I collect fabrics because I sew. In collecting the components of a hobby you end up with a stash. If your hobby is knitting you end up with a wool stash. If you're into sewing or quilting, then it's a fabric stash and on it goes.
Like my mother, I have had multiple crafting and hobby ventures throughout my life. I remember that one of her crazes was for shell jewelry. She collected tiny little shells that came from beaches in Florida and elsewhere. I know she bought a lot of these shells when she went to Florida on vacation. They were dyed in pretty pastels – pink and blue and yellow and green. You used the kind of glue that makes you high, airplane glue, and put it all together on a piece of clear round plastic. This would become a rose made up of little pink shells with a fake pearl in the centre and little green leaves. These shell rosettes were actually quite attractive. Not built for the ages but while they lasted they were nice.
I've gone through, oh my goodness, so many hobbies. One was cloth doll making, the components of which take in almost every art and craft, so you end up with materials from painting, stitching, beading, weaving and you name it. It all goes into a design and an embellished cloth dolly comes out at the other end, a so-called art doll.
I started knitting. I have 4 bins of wool -I will never knit it all - and there's always more wool to buy. My Stitch-and-Bitch group every now and again has a yarn swap where everybody tries to get rid of their extra yarn, their stash. They end up walking away with more yarn than they came in with. Everyone has come in with their extra yarns and they're begging you to take their yarn and you do. Thus, instead of diminishing my stash, I somehow increase it.
I remember collecting spices. I use 5, at the most 10, common spices,condiments, herbs and so forth, in my cooking. Still, I had to have them all because some recipe someplace, sometime, would probably need fennel, so I got some, as well as everything else featured in the store's spice shelf. They sit around for years. I have more than one spice rack where they're all in alphabetical order. Sometimes it's useful. If I happened to need ground cloves I can find them. Others I will never use but I had to have them. It's called being a 'completist'. You have to have them all or the collection is incomplete.
When I worked downtown I made more money than I actually needed to live on and, instead of sensibly saving it, I would go out each lunch hour and look for something to buy. Something to buy was usually books. I haunted the sales tables in bookstores. I have shelves and shelves of books. I'm gradually now giving them away. I try to find out whether they are going to good homes because books are sacred. You don't burn them. You don't throw them away. You pass them on. I'm trying to do that.
I was a seller, for about a year on eBay. My main stock items, aside from doll patterns that I was no longer using, were books. I did fairly well because I had a really large occult book collection. There are people out there in search of a means to power who really dig this stuff. Occult magazines were collector's items and sold well.
Speaking of magazines, I was into cross stitch and I had to have all those magazines and innumerable patterns. I have a pile of maybe ten cross stitch projects on the go, many of which I'll never finish. I sort of nibble away at them from time to time. That fever has passed. I no longer have to cross stitch all the time. Part of that came from a pseudo Fibromyalgia caused by the statin pills I was taking for blood cholesterol. They gave me muscle weakness and pain. All I could do was sit in a corner and cross stitch for about nine months. Other activities were too much. Then, I figured out it was the pills, after reading several reports on the Internet. I threw the pills away and I was better in two days. <sigh>
I have a lot of cross stitch and embroidery stuff and books on the blues and music in general and books on folk music. I have a awful lot of reference books on everything from wild birds to pharmacopoeias that I got before the Internet was as popular as it now.
Now, I collect graphics from the Internet, and Mp3s which I buy legitimately on line to avoid possibly picking up nasty viruses from the free ones. I have lots and lots of software, much of which I also buy on line. I need an ever-increasing hard drive size to fit in all this stuff much of which I use once and then forget. Still, you never know when you might need it. Software that I do use is just utilizing the tip of the ice berg. The rest remains unknown to me while I just twiddle around fixing the colour balance on some photograph or some other simple task.
I'm trying to get rid of my stuff. I really am. One of these days I'm just going to have to bite the bullet toss out all that stuff, like the obsolete computer hardware sitting around in bins. There is a lot of computer hardware stuff the purpose of which I’ve forgotten: all of that has got to go bye bye. I'm hoping to have a technical friend of mine over to look at it and tell me what it is and if it's okay to throw it out.
Just cataloging what I have is an effort in itself. I must simplify. I must practice non-attachment. I must get rid of all this stuff. I don't own stuff. Stuff owns ME.
© Sonia Brock 2007