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Hoarding or Collecting?: A Thin Line

I am a lover of vintage items! Of my many hobbies, searching for treasures at flea markets and thrift stores is one of my favorites.

I love junk!! I'm sure this started when I was a kid growing up in the projects in Brooklyn, NY. We didn't have much money. My parents were trying to keep us fed, clothed and save enough to move us out of the projects.

I remember getting a secondhand doll set for Christmas. I'm not complaining. To this day, I remember that set fondly. I actually kept it and gave them to my oldest daughter. So from an early age, I learned the value of used items.


Some of my "Treasures"

I bought about 15 of these when I got the bright idea to replace all the light switch covers in my house. I never did it.

I bought about 15 of these when I got the bright idea to replace all the light switch covers in my house. I never did it.

This was a hideous pink trash can. I repainted it with the intention of selling it at a flea market or on ebay. It didn't sell.

This was a hideous pink trash can. I repainted it with the intention of selling it at a flea market or on ebay. It didn't sell.

This is a table I refinished. Looks nice but really useless. Also didn't sell.

This is a table I refinished. Looks nice but really useless. Also didn't sell.

Another project from my black and red period. I think this is in the crawl space under the house. I took the 2 other shelves back to thrift shop and hung one in my daughter's room.

Another project from my black and red period. I think this is in the crawl space under the house. I took the 2 other shelves back to thrift shop and hung one in my daughter's room.

Over 200 Christmas cards, I purchased on sale. Problem is I don't send more than 20-30 a year. And I have more.

Over 200 Christmas cards, I purchased on sale. Problem is I don't send more than 20-30 a year. And I have more.

Creepy Clown

My father also loved junk. Once, my sister and I came home to find a giant painting of a circus clown hanging on the wall in our bedroom. Our father found it in someone's garbage and was so happy with his find. We pretended to like it. But it was creepy with eyes that followed you wherever you. We were like, what the...???!! It was hideous. It took almost a year for us to finally beg him to toss it. To this day I hate clowns.

Killer Mirror and Junkyard Bugs

Then there was the huge, ornate mirror my dad found on the sidewalk. He brought it home and hung it on the wall above my sister's bed. One night, she got up to go to the bathroom. There was a loud crash. My parents came running into the room and found the mirror laying on her bed. My sister returned from the bathroom. Everyone just stood silently staring at the mirror, then at my dad. The thought of my sister squashed under the heavy mirror was a sobering one. He removed it and donated it to the cooperative committee. They had it professionally hung in the hallway in front of the elevators. It looked very elegant.

One of our favorite places to visit with my dad was the city junk yard. I think I loved going to the junk yard almost as much as going to Coney Island. If we went to Coney Island, my parents were not going to spend much money on frivolities. But the junk yard, why the sky was the limit!! Everything was free and you never knew what you might fiind

Once we brought home a huge pile of beautiful, fragrant flowers for my mom. Unfortunately, when she got home from work, insects were zipping around the living room. My mom snatched the "flowers" out of the vase and ran down the hall to the trash compacter, fussing the entire way about bugs and weeds. I thought she was a real party pooper as she scrubbed my sister and I in the bathtub. But then not so much, when later that night, she applied calamine lotion to the strange, itchy bites we had all over our arms and legs.

Treasure or Junk

I don't go to junk yards any more but I do spend time searching for treasures in thrift stores, junk shops and flea markets.

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I live in rural Pennsylvania now. One summer, I found a flea market that opened at 7 a.m. I thought I would explode from sheer joy. I stood there clutching my chest as I gazed down from a hill on the huge field filled with vendors selling their treasures. By the time 11 a.m. rolled around, the sun was beating down and I had made three trips to my car. With all my money was spent, I walked back to my car, sipping a cool drink. I turned to look at the rows of vendors and vowed I would soon return.

About 45 minutes later I pulled into my driveway. As I unpacked my treasures, to my surprise they didn't seem like treasures anymore. The doll with one leg squashed flat and the other turning yellow didn't seem like such a great find anymore, even if he was anatomically correct. The 11 dusty embroidery kits no longer seemed like a steal at ten cents a piece. The 15 yellowed, vintage books were kind of smelly. My treasures suddenly looked like a huge pile of dirty smelly junk. And where was I going to put it?

The giant tin box filled with wooden checker, backgammon and Chinese checker board sets weighed a ton. Four sets of jump ropes for toddlers. My daughter is ten! Another mini ironing board. I don't even iron. Brass pencil sharpeners in the shape of cannons. What was I thinking?!? I was sweaty, tired and coming down off my buying high so fast it was all I could do to find places to stash everything before my husband saw the junk I had brought home.

Tips on Avoiding Clutter and Dumping Junk

These tips are relatively pain-free and will hopefully cause very little emotional trauma.

  • Glass vases: These seem to multiply on their own with almost no help from you. If you have more than six glass vases for flowers. Throw away the duplicates. Leave yourself the tall thin one for a single rose. Throw away any with chips or that you have not used in the last two years.Toss all duplicate colors.
  • Newspapers: If you have any newspapers that are yellow and do not have birth or obituary announcements for a significant person throw it out. If it does have announcements for a significant event in your life toss all but one.
  • Miscellaneous papers: If you have bags of papers that you have not looked in for more than two years, dump them.
  • Crafts: The craft kits (this is for the craft clutter bugs) you have for crafts you have never tried, gather them into one box, okay two if you have to. Write a date on the box. Put them away. In one year, without opening the box throw it away or donate to your local Goodwill.
  • Yarn: If you crochet or knit, you know you have some worsted weight acrylic yarn that is hideous and scratchier than cheap wool. Please do yourself or everyone else a favor. Throw it away! Do not make anything out of it. No one wants that old 1970's butt ugly orange, lime green, hot pink, mud brown, etc. yarn made into ANYTHING and given to them. They will smile until you leave and then throw it away. (I had a cousin make an entire outfit for me out of kelly green, scratchy worsted yarn. My mom forced me to wear it to a holiday function so my cousin could see me in it. Then, mercifully, my mom tossed it in the trash compactor.
  • Stuffed animals: Well..... My sis and I once had an old brown bear, name of Frosty. Frosty kept springing leaks. One day, mom came home to find that Frosty had leaked spongy filling all over the house. Even at a young age, I could tell Frosty had a terminal case of dry rot. After a short and hurried funeral, with mom tapping her foot in the doorway, Frosty left this world via the trash compactor. Sometimes they just gotta go...
  • My mom has every greeting card anyone ever gave her. She is over eighty years old. That's a lot of cards. When she moved to another state she packed them up and took them with her. They weighed a ton. She also keeps every funeral program, even if she didn't really know the person. I toss greeting cards about a month after receiving them. Guess I'm not sentimental.
  • Do not buy not a Christmas craft kit if you have one from the previous year that is unopened or unfinished.
  • Every month, try to throw away at least one useless item. If you don't do anything else, at least at the end of one year you will have tossed twelve items.
  • Last but not least practice leaving thrift shops empty handed.


I don't let myself fill the garage anymore and for the last four years I have been able to park my car in there. My home is not cluttered. And I can actually go to a thrift store and leave empty handed!! I've come a long way baby. Hope you can too!

© 2012 Veronica Lewis

Comments

Veronica Lewis (author) from Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania on January 16, 2012:

Thanks so much for commenting on my hub!!

Clutter reminds me of a child's movie my daughter watches "Mouse and Mole. They clean up the house & take all this junk to the junkyard. But Mole sees a mirror and giant wire springs he thinks he can use. He carts it all back and then is trying to figure out where all the space went. Mouse tells him, "You can have stuff. Or you can have space. But you can't have stuff and space." I looked at the pile of Christmas cards this morning and I'm going to have to donate them the Salvation Army thrift store. But if I'm honest, even thinking about doing it makes my stomach queasy. Might have to get my husband to do it for me. He will do it gladly!! I know I could probably throw everything away that we have in the crawl space and never miss it. But as I said, baby steps, baby steps...

freetron from Florida on January 16, 2012:

Very nice article. Clutter is like a thief. It robs you of time, money, energy, space, etc. etc. Your story makes me want to unclutter.

alexandra-t on January 16, 2012:

this is such a good article! I'm something of a junk collector myself, though not as bad i suppose, but i do have lots of paper/magazines (i like making handmade cards for people's birthday etc, but really, that only happens like less than 5 times a year when i can really find the time to make the card), second hand items, knick knacks and buttons and whatnot. i've been steadily throwing them out though, my mom is a neat freak and since we moved into our new place together she's been throwing out the useless things we moved from our old place (and making me do the same) daily lol. now our home looks so much less cluttered and clean and minimalist! i'm with you on this, no more thrift shops/flea markets for me!

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