Tonight, on a very special episode of fan/collector/geek, I'm going to cross a very dangerous line.
The line at the door to my storage unit.
Many years ago, as I was starting to accumulate collectibles in my one bedroom apartment (good-sized, but still one bedroom). I thought about getting a storage space. On reflection, this seemed like a ridiculous luxury. If I was going to spend money on a storage space, why not spend it on a larger apartment, with another room for my stuff? So I pushed the idea aside.
And slowly, my place filled up. First, stacks of boxes in the closet. Then, boxes in front of my shelves. Then - I filled my balcony with big plastic storage containers filled with collectibles. Finally, I worked out if I pulled the couch out from the wall, I could stack a whole lot of boxes behind it, plus get a handy shelf to set things on while watching TV. And, still I was getting more stuff.
It was about this time that I started to question the collecting urge. Why was I buying all this stuff? Why couldn't I let any of it go? Why was I letting it take over my apartment? And then something dawned on me.
If I got a storage space, I would have a bigger apartment.
This isn't quite the same has having a revelation that possessions were meaningless and giving them all up, but it was life changing just the same. My stuff had become a quite literal burden in my everyday life, and I wanted to put an end to it. So, I found a reasonably priced, secure 5 foot by 10 foot storage unit conveniently located halfway between my home and my office. I bought a cart at Home Depot (be carefully asking them where the carts are: they'll keep telling you they're up front. I said I wanted to buy one and he said they don't sell carts. I said I found them on your website and he sent me to the farthest end of the store. They weren't there, but It did stop me asking him annoying questions. If all Home Depots are laid out the same, which they seem to be, you'll find the carts in a secret half aisle on the far right side of the store that you can't see from the front - no fooling!). ...where was I?
Oh yes, so every morning I would load some boxes on the cart and drop them in the storage space on the way to work. Soon, my apartment was relatively clutter free. The balcony has a rack of cactus plants on it, plus a table and two chairs for enjoying the view. Admittedly, I rarely use them, because they get filthy very quickly with freeway soot (the freeway is two blocks away), but it's the thought that counts. And as you can see, the storage space was soon chock full of stuff and clutter, which is fine, because that's it's job.
I'll go more into how a simple storage space changed my life and my collecting soon, but for now let's look at one of the collectibles I keep there. As a kid, my grandmother often gave me and my sister Avon items for Christmas and/or birthdays. I imagine it was easy for her to get - maybe a friend of hers sold Avon - and now that I think about it, she pretty much knew she'd be getting something we didn't already have. One year she gave me this "hot dog and bun comb and brush." See the comb is the hot dog and the bun is the brush. Cute. This was a fine present; I was probably about 6-8 when I got this one, and I had more fun playing with it than a typical comb and brush.
What makes this interesting, though, is this isn't the one my grandma gave me. I lost it piece by piece years ago, but when I saw this at a flea market in Los Angeles for (as I recall) five bucks, I couldn't resist buying it. It reminds me of my childhood, it reminds me of my grandma... but now, it sits buried in my storage unit. It's not on a shelf in my living room, its not displayed as a nostalgic/camp decoration by the bathroom sink, it's deep in a box in storage.
In fact, I'll probably see this photo I've taken for this blog on my computer much more than the comb/brush itself. But still I'll keep it, because that intangible connection, knowing I have it even if it's where I can't see or touch it, is important. It somehow keeps that memory of having it as a kid alive. And that's what I find interesting; it must be a part of what makes me a collector: because having some things is better than just knowing they exist. That's a very, very simple principle of collecting, but I think it's a good place to start.
Ah, maybe next time I see this in my storage space, I'll take it home and use it a few times. For old times sake.