These people even have their own reality shows now (more than one!), and they'd be funny if they weren't so horrible. I mean, one woman managed to lose not one but two cats under the rubble in her family room–they were found years later, flat and mummified. Ick. Double ick. Their kitchens disappear under piles of stuff, and so do their bathrooms. What's really strange to me is that a lot of these people hold down responsible professional jobs–and then come home to chaos. It's a sickness, definitely.
That's why I'm happy that I work in an institution that collects things, and then keeps them. The Pennsylvania Antiquarian Society has been collecting things for over a hundred years, and even we don't know all of what's stashed in our storage areas. When I write grant proposals, I say we have over two million items, but that's just a guess. An item can be anything: a book, a letter, a doll, a desk. One of my favorites is a horseshoe that's been turned into an inkwell, all nicely encased in Victorian silver. It belonged to a famous nineteenth-century actor, and came from a horse that was named after him. Not your typical artifact, but kind of charming, in a weird way.
Because I work at the Society, I don't have to collect things myself. Which is a good thing, because I live in a tiny house that started life as a carriage house. You know, where they kept carriages, and the horses that went with them. Over the past century it's slowly been converted to living space, and now it's four rooms plus bath, two up, two down. I created the kitchen nook myself when I bought it, but it's not big enough to be considered a room. As you can guess, there's not a whole lot of storage there, so the only things I collect have come mainly from my grandmothers. There's no room for anything else.
Back to the Society: when I wander through the storage areas there, I really do understand the desire to hoard. There are so many interesting things. I don't necessarily want to own them, but I take pleasure in handling them, so I understand the impulse. Each one of those items teaches us something about the past, about the people who owned them or created them. Each one gives us a little glimpse into a different world, if only for a moment. That's why I'm happy to work at the Society, and happy to preserve all these wonderful "things" and make them available to the public.
So I count myself lucky, because I have the best of both worlds: I'm surrounded by great bits and pieces of history, and I don't have to worry about them. What about you? Do you collect things? Will you notice when your collecting gets out of hand?
What's the weirdest thing you've ever collected?