Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Starting A Collection: Be Selective and Have Fun

So you've decided to busy yourself starting a new collection; you even know what you want to collect, how many items, where you will put them, and so on. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work like that. You may be entirely certain you know how many collection pieces you want, and then another "perfect addition" will show up and you won't be able to resist it. Collections can get huge because they always keep growing. You could decide you only want ten rocks, and then find three more that you can't pass up. How do you set some rules without taking away the fun?

Decide what you want to collect. Some of my own collections include shot glasses and bells from my favorite places; model ships; nautical-themed items; and models of historic buildings. When I was younger I collected pencils, book marks, and business cards, until I learned that it's very tempting to just sharpen one of those pencils when you need one, and I usually don't put a book down until it's finished so I didn't really need book marks. If you think the collection you're planning to start could get huge, make sure you have space. It's probably not wise to start a model train collection if you only have a tiny room in which to store your pieces; then you're forced to end your collection much sooner than you would have wished.

If you're collecting something small like rocks or shot glasses, you might want to make a note of when and where you got each piece for future reference. I keep a list of where I bought each item I've collected, and what the occasion was. If model ships are your thing, consider building a shelf and making cards that tell what ship they represent, where they were bought, and maybe even some interesting tidbits about the original ship. Collections are fun and unique, but you can still take a scientific approach and choose to document everything. Collections can be serious or lighthearted depending on your style. If you have a few decorative pillows stashed around your room, you could say you "collect" them, without having an actual collection. If you have shelves full of mugs that are numbered, labeled, and cleaned daily, however, *this* is a serious collection.
Make sure you know how to clean the items you collect. Some things can be cleaned easily, others can not. I've made the mistake of thinking I could clean my shot glasses with lemon wipes, but this leaves a shiny, sticky residue and only makes it worse. My models, however, look great with these wipes. Intricate items like model ships are especially hard to clean. If you have an air can, you might consider gently blowing the dust and grime out from any small crevices. You can also get in there with a damp cotton swab, but most people probably won't want to take the time to do this. If you don't know exactly how to clean something, don't be afraid to ask. The last thing you want to do is take the wrong cleaning approach to something that cost you more money than you care to admit. You'll probably want to dust or wipe the shelf frequently, but make sure to move the pieces to a safe place until you're finished. It is especially important to have the shelves high enough that they won't tempt any pets (or children) that may also live in the house. Animals are drawn to bright, shiny things, after all, and kids just love to play with something new.

Decide if your collection is going to be in your bedroom, and if you'll have room for anything else after you're done accumulating items. I have a few collections in my room, but some are in my travel room on the second story, such as items from other countries and Native American pieces. You can certainly have more than one collection. Some of the most common are rocks, shot glasses, special collectible spoons, bells, models, framed art, and plates, but you can collect anything as long as it doesn't take over your room, any other people in your house aren't allergic to it, and you know how to take care of it. Collections are a great personal expression; anyone walking into your "domain" can see what you love and how it defines you.

By Lacie R. Schaeffer

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