how to start a collection

The best news! I invited Karey Mackin back to talk to us about resolutions (remember her holiday style story that made us all belly laugh?). You’ll love this post! Here’s Karey:

(I have a lot of goals for 2017. Gabby’s letting me tell you all about them, so I have accountability. It should be noted that I have issues with accountability.)

I want to start a collection. Not just any collection, though. Hers.

I did not know ginger jars even existed, but now that I do it’s on. I am Veruka Salting all over them.

But here’s my issue with collections: They take way too much time. And, what if you change your mind midway through collecting? Mmmm, I’m just not feeling pigs-in-flight anymore. Now what?

I think what I need is an insta-collection.

One of my first jobs right out of college was a production coordinator for a tiny publishing house inside the guest cottage of a Dallas mega mansion. The company was comprised of me and the owner, with special appearances by her husband who whisked his wife away for boozy lunches.

He was one of those guys who made his bazillions selling “If you like Chanel No. 5, you’ll love our Mademoiselle Pink imitation scent!” perfume. Sometimes I’d have to make those posters you see on street corners. You know, the ones that read “Do you want to earn $10,000 a month working from home? Call us!”

I was making maybe $400 a week, so the optimistic all-capping and exclamation-marking of these posters really stung.

(Side note: When I asked for a raise, my boss gave me a job title adjustment instead. Vice President of Publishing. In a two-person company. You should’ve seen me, walking home that day like George Jefferson. Sigh. Remember when your image was more honored than your reality? I do not miss those days.)

So. The guy was trying to retire but was having a difficult time with it. He felt depressed, lost, and worthless, despite his net worth.

“Get a hobby!” his therapist advised. “Start a collection!”

See, collections aren’t just frivolous opportunities to buy more stuff you don’t need. They’re not “Give me all the pretty things.” They’re not a worrying study in maximalism and clutter.

Collecting is a thrill. A treasure hunt with no map. An opportunity to become an expert in whatever it is you’ve chosen to collect. A reward. (Like, Esme, my eleven year old, specializes in cute little spoons. She recently saved up for these by vacuuming the stairs ten times.)

When done right, collections hold meaning and help define a life as it’s been lived. Plus, starting something and sticking with it magically sets off a chain reaction of purpose and commitment and, as a result, contentedness and happiness.

It was a Friday afternoon. I was trying to scoot out a bit early that day to meet my friends for tennis and a margarita, but his Rolls Royce pulled up just as I was walking out the cottage door. I quick dropped my purse and pretended to be checking on the rose bushes while the gardener looked at me like I was insane.

They called me over to help with emptying the trunk. And the back seat. Not including the bags his wife – Ahem. My boss. The President of Publishing. – carried.

Apparently, he started his therapeutic collection at 3:30, and finished by 4:45. Seriously. He bought the entire Swarovski store at the Galleria. All those little figurines: the tiny mouse with cheese and the kitten with a ball of baby blue yarn and the absolute stab you in the heart with cute blowfish and the lovely, lovely turtledoves and the forget-me-nots and even the ducks and omg the baby ducks!

All of it.

He was so stinking pleased with himself. Collection, collected.

“What the ever-loving heck?” I thought at the time. “He totally cheated on the spirit of collecting!”

Now that I’m older, however, I realize the genius of that guy. The happiness found in a collection isn’t necessarily in the waiting. I mean, I’ve spent a grand chunk of my life waiting.

Waiting on hold back in the day when you had to actually CALL J. Crew on the PHONE to place an order from their CATALOG; waiting in line outside preschool with my paper-plate-on-a-popsicle-stick nameplate; waiting to lose that ten-fifteen-twenty pounds so I can wear this or at the very least this without eliciting the wrong kind of gasps; waiting for my babes to please fall asleep because I am done, and then waiting for them to wake up again because done should never be used when talking about babes; waiting for the VHS of Mulan to end just so we could rewind it back to the beginning one more time and once more after that because, man, when the dad says “The greatest gift and honor…is having you for a daughter” that right there is parenting; waiting for frightening fevers to sweat away and making frantic bargains with God until they did; waiting for college applications to hit and waiting for boards to agree wholeheartedly with me that this kid is going to start the world on fire, just you wait; waiting to stop disappointing other people, especially my own; waiting for other people to stop disappointing me, especially my own; waiting for results to come back and waiting for nightmares to end and waiting for my dreams to come true.

We wait a lot, you know? I’m sure you’re waiting on something right this very minute.

So I think an insta-collection is the answer. Or the question. Potato, potato. (Did you say that in your head the way I meant for you to say that?)

Ginger jars, it is. I will start here, add this much cheaper version, and then this one. Or should I just collect pagodas and call it a day? And also empty my girls’ college funds? (Dang it, Rachel!) Gulp. I think I may not be able to afford an insta-collection of this level.

But what about these little slices of Heaven? They come in packs of twelve, and I could probably buy three and – hey! – there’s my entire collection!

My slices of Heaven insta-collection. I kind of like the way that sounds, don’t you? Like…life, lived.

Credits: Written by Karey Mackin for Design Mom. Photo by the colorfully gifted Rachel of Pencil Shavings Studio.