Friday, 3 May 2013

Why do I collect?

I have had this post in my mind for a long time but just haven't been able to write down what I wanted to say and I think its because this is actually quite a personal post.  I have often wondered why I have this compulsion to collect and wanted to explore the reasons why I do and where it stems from.  It certainly isn't just because I like pretty things so with that in mind I looked to when I was younger and the influences I have had.

My toy cat collection

As I started looking it became very clear that I am a product of my parents, absolutely!  My dad used to collect books and our spare room was filled to the ceiling as was the loft.  My mum and I would go out and leave my dad with his books where we would find him several hours later.  We also used to have to go into every secondhand bookshop and charity shop to look at books and I remember getting very annoyed with him because I didn't want to!  Now though, I love books and can hang around an old secondhand bookshop for hours, taking in the old books and smell.  My mum also used to collect things but everything always had its place, there was just a lot of it!   Obviously my parents had it in them to collect and you sometimes follow by example.  However that isn't the only reason why.

My Mabel Lucie Attwell collection

When I was 13 years old I decided that my pocket money wasn't enough for all the things I wanted to buy so I went and got myself a paper round 7 days a week and a job as a chambermaid at the weekends.  I think I earnt about £9 a week for the paper round and £2 an hour as a chambermaid, I was rich!  It also meant that I could buy what I liked without anyone questioning my decision on what I was buying as it was my money and I earnt it.  At university my bedroom was just full of stuff I'd made or collected, definitely not normal student digs as it was all colour co-ordinated and the items chosen very carefully.  After university I kind of lost interest, went about finding a job and becoming a responsible adult and my collecting stopped.

Some brooches

When I was 25 years old my life changed forever when my mum became ill with dementia and Parkinson's disease.  She became a different person over night and I found it incredibly hard to deal with especially as I have no other blood relations.  Luckily I have Mark and he was my rock but ultimately I was going through this on my own as she was my mum and no-one can understand the pain because its so personal to you.  Once she went into a nursing home my collecting really kicked in and I'm sure its because I was desperately trying to fill the gap my mum left behind.  I didn't have much support from the professionals and being an only child, I didn't have any siblings to take some of the pressure.  The things I collected made me feel happy and gave me some joy in an otherwise miserable time.  It allowed me to escape to a happier place.  It was a way to escape the pain and momentarily forget what was happening.   I also felt a constant need to keep on finding things and this must be because I was unable to find a solution to make my mum better.  I was continually searching and searching and once I found something, I'd go onto the next thing.
I feel that collecting gave me a consistency I so badly needed when everything else was changing around me.  The objects I collected were always there, they never left me.

Something that did make me genuinely happy at that time came when I was clearing out my mum's house.  I found a photo album from when she was 21 and in it was a photo labelled "My collection of dolls" (my big love is vintage cloth dolls, I have a large collection) not only that but there was a photo of a doll which was nearly identical to the very first one I ever bought.

My mum's collection of dolls
My mum's doll
My doll!
This made me feel very close to my mum as we had more in common than we realised, definitely a case of like mother, like daughter!  THEN I came across an album she had made when she was 21.  Again I had no idea she had done this until I came across it but what was really exciting was that I had done one in virtually the same way as her without ever realising it when I was 21!  There was one big difference though, my mum went on a cruise with her friend, I went to Bella Pasta and a club in Brighton and got hideously drunk! ( I also decided that wearing a blue velvet shirt was a good fashion choice, why did I think that, WHY!?)

Mum's cards
My cards
She stuck her birthday cards and bits of wrapping paper in her album, so did I.

Mum's entertainment
My entertainment
We included that nights entertainment.

My mum at fancy dress on the ship
Me not looking too drunk
Me feeling (and looking!) rough the morning after
And photos of us on our birthday evenings.

I also found some scrap books that my mum had put together full of old postcards.  I don't have any scrapbooks but I do have a collection of postcards.

Mum's scrapbook
My collection of postcards

Everyone used to say that I looked like my dad and took after him and I think my mum used to get a little bit annoyed about that BUT I think we were far similar than either of us ever realised.

Its clear the impact my mum's illness had on me and my collecting habits but there is also another reason and this is quite hard to admit and I'm certainly not saying it for any sympathy, this is truly how I feel.  Sometimes I don't feel very pretty.  There I've said it and it feels like a weight is lifted!  Sometimes I don't feel very pretty so by surrounding myself with beautiful things it gives me some kind of validation that I do have good taste and my home can at least be pretty even if I don't feel it.  Its certainly no coincidence that if I lose weight or feel good about myself then my collecting slows down and I concentrate more on clothes and myself.  It is also a form of escapism for me and I can transport myself back to a time that with rose tinted glasses, seems a much easier, attractive life full of the most wonderful, beautiful things.

I also have a slightly obsessive personality and get fixated by things that I just have to have or need to find. I'll also really really love something whether it be food, something to collect or a tv programme and then once I've satisfied my urge I'll move on to something else that I really really love.  Thankfully for Mark and my friends I'm not fickle at all when it comes to my relationships, just everything else!

All the things I have written above are just some of the reasons I collect but the most important thing is that I just love it!  I love the thrill of the chase, of finding that elusive item and receiving it in the post.  I love the story behind the items and how they allow me to use my imagination and take me somewhere else.

Old french fabric boxes

The fabric boxes I love because of their prettiness, fadedness and the fact that I can fill them with all sorts, go back to them a few months later and discover things I'd forgotten about so its like Christmas!

Old prints
I love old frames and prints and am particularly partial to a cherub or cupid being the romantic that I am.

Naughty French prints
And finally my little collection of naughty French prints.  I love the fact that at first glance they look just like any other print until you get closer and realise that actually they're a bit racy, ohh la la! 

I am lucky that I have a lovely husband and friends but losing my mum and dad left a huge gap in my life and I turned to collecting to help bridge that gap and ease the pain somehow.  Collecting is in my blood as can be seen by my mum and dad's habits and it somehow allows me to feel a little closer to them as though they are with me all the time.  At a young age I decided that I wanted to buy 'stuff' hence the need to get a job for no other reason than I liked 'things.'  The reason I collect is due to a number of factors some of which you may relate to albeit in different ways and some of which you won't as we all have our own story to tell.  At the end of the day though I really do love it, simple as that.  Its an addiction that gives me so much pleasure and as long as I'm not hurting myself or anyone else, I'll carry on!

I found this quote the other day from Sally at Mrs Plumbridge

People would say they are only materialistic objects but I don't know! if they add something warm to your life and make you smile when you look at them then do they, in some way develop their own soul?  for to me one of the meanings of a friend is somebody who gives you comfort and makes you happy so are they if not at the very least a little friend!!! 
I think she sums up perfectly how I feel about the objects I collect and that makes me happy!


  1. This Blog has touched my heart - thankyou dear Fi for sharing your treasured thoughts and communicating so eloquently your passion for collecting 'stuff' - and make no mistake ... you ARE BEAUTIFUL xxxxxxxxx

    1. Thank you so much for your comments and for taking the time to read my post. I found it a very cathartic post to write so I could understand and admit to myself the reason I love collecting so much.

      Thank you again, your words are very much

  2. Wow Fi, just wow. You are amazing, and very pretty too (and I'm not just saying that, I've thought it since we first met!). xxxxx

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    2. Thank you so much Debbie.xxxx I finally got round to writing it after your comment on my Facebook page and I'm glad I did! I hope that people can somehow relate and know they aren't on their own when they are going through heartache.

      Collecting is so much more to me than just having pretty things. Its opened up my life completely to a world of like minded people who also share and understand the passion. It has meant that I have met some really lovely people I may not have otherwise met (and I'm including you in that Debbie!)and it has allowed me to explore my creative side. Yes it is sooooo much more than just having pretty things! xxx

  3. You have bought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. What a beautiful piece of writing and the emotions and feelings behind it are so intense. I love your collections - all so unusual and interesting. You are a beautiful person - you have heart, love and passion which shine through your words and your being. Your mother and father would be so proud of you. The coincidences are amazing - it must have given you such a lift to see how much you and your mum shared the same taste and ideas. This is one of the best pieces of writing I have read - by opening yourself up you have allowed us in so close, which is brave. But those of us who know you, now understand more about you. I think you are a very brave lady - losing your parents and coping so well is a huge achievement. Most of us don't have to do this alone. Glad you have the rock that is Mark, steadfast and loving, to support you.

    1. I don't know what to say Julia apart from thank you for understanding, it means an awful lot.xx

  4. Dear Fi,

    I just wanted to respond to this very powerful and poignant piece of writing! Firstly I feel very privileged to be quoted as I KNOW this couldn't have been the easiest blog to write. But as you have said "Cathartic" no doubt. I very much admire and am intrigued by you as your life and my is uncannily similar to mine, it did make me emotional as it was very much like reading my own life story. I had to get my Dave to read it afterwards just in case I thought I was imagining it. So maybe that's why my thoughts on collecting touched a chord with you.

    I too am an only child and lost my Mother VERY suddenly she died dropped down dead one Sunday Morning and being not only my dear Mum also my best friend my life changed forever. I was 29. Then 6 months later my Father was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease and was not coping well so I decided to move back home and look after him until he died a few years later.
    I then entered a totally new life in the cottage I grew up in and kept a lot of things that brought a sense of nostalgia to the life I had known. I have the one track mind and obsessiveness you speak of but I too did get on with my life and meet a smashing chap who is also now my absolute rock but I do COLLECT!!!

    I hanker back to a life when I had a sense of responsibility and worry free abandon and also surround myself with beautiful things to create this fairyland I live in!!

    MMMmmmmm very interesting Fi!!

    You are a brave and smashing Lady the more I speak to you and read about you the more I like you!

    Sally x x x

  5. I feel very privileged that you have shared this with me Sally and I wonder if now was the time we were meant to meet and share our story? I was 30 when I lost my mum and have found it very hard over the years to deal with the pain I feel at losing both my parents so young. I have found that my collecting has given me a focus and an outlet for my grief and as I say allowed me to escape for just a little while.

    As soon as I read your blog, I knew you were a lady after my own heart and now I know why. I am very touched by your story and am glad that hopefully we can both take some solace in the fact that we aren't alone.

    I am very much looking forward to meeting you in person Sally and I have a feeling we may have rather a lot to talk about!

    Thank you again for sharing and I want you to know that I am giving you a big virtual hug!

  6. Amazing post Fi. You are such a sweetheart.
    Jean xxx

    1. Thank you Jean, glad you liked it. When I bought the laundry box from you, it reminded me of my parents and I living in Eastbourne as a family. That was why I had to have it! xx

  7. Another post from the heart, Fi, as your writing always is. I think a lot of people would love to be as brave as you are in their writing and their analysis of their lives, but they hold back for whatever reason. Believe all the replies you have had and all the comments because your posts have struck a real cord with a lot of people. You are an amazing person to be around and the energy, warmth and honesty that surrounds you touches the people you connect with and makes them proud to call you a friend. xx

    1. Thank you so much for your very kind words. I hoped that by writing it, it would allow me to move on to the next stage in my grief plus hopefully help others not feel so alone as I so often have.

      I was very touched by what you said so thank you

  8. Your writing is beautiful Fi ~ I think I mentioned that when I saw you at Hartley Wintney, even before seeing this post! You do write from the heart and that is a very special gift in life. Be true to yourself and you will continue to have much happiness and success in your life....a very talented young lady with a great passion and eye for detail and this shows in your collections and the way in which you sell your pretty things. It is lovely to know you... Ali xx

    1. Thank you very much Ali. I listened to what you said at Hartley Wintney and made sure the next time I went buying, I stayed true to my style and you know what, it worked! A much more pleasurable experience.

      You were one of the first people whose blog I followed Ali so thank you for the inspiration and encouragment. A real pleasure to get to know you and the person behind Betty and Violet.xx

  9. Thanks for this lovely and insightful post Fi. I can understand your passion to collect and I am sure that after a loss it gives a form of therapy. I'm so glad that you do collect as I am the proud owner of two of the loveliest dolls from you x

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment Donna, it did indeed give a form of therapy for which I am very grateful for. So glad my dollies have found a new home with you, I think you were destined to be together! x