Life Lesson #28: Accumulation is a choice
Vintage linen collecting often starts quite innocently; at least it did for me. I picked up two little doilies at at estate sale 20+ years ago. Total cost: $3
They weren’t stored away with my few family linens but rather tucked into little vignettes in the living room bookcase–and enjoyed every day, their delicate, lacy faces adding a touch of beauty to the mundane. It was the early days of marriage with little money to spend on “unnecessaries”, and I was very content with my new pretties.
Fast forward many years… While visiting Daughter the Older in England, I found myself in a charity shop digging through a huge collection of gorgeous vintage linens. They were obviously once someone’s family treasures–and now they were discarded–and my heart broke just a little bit at the loss. The few with stains seemed to call my name, asking to be cleaned and enjoyed once again. Their prices were a mere pittance, so I bought enough to fill a huge duffle bag and brought them back home, hoping I could learn to remove the stains…
At that time in my life, I was selling collectibles on eBay, and so I considered my purchase a business expense–and vintage linens a potential new income source.
My quick success with even the major stains opened a new world of learning for me–and local auction regulars quickly grew to know me as the lady who bought all the dirty linens. And so for several years, I snatched up vintage pretties at auctions…and thrift stores…and bought them from estates–and I spent huge amounts of time laundering linens and getting them back into circulation.
And I loved it.
I also sold linens online and in a brick and mortar shop, all the while rescuing more and more linens, until one day I realized I had brought home one box too many.
My house was overflowing with linens. I no longer had the storefront, the recession hit, vintage linens weren’t high on people’s priority list… and I’d had a change of heart. No matter how pretty their storage places–or how I tried to color it–I was spending too much time and effort rescuing linens when there are children who need to be rescued. Children who need my voice–and yours.
And when the calendar flipped to 2012, I began a year of letting go.
Some of my nicest pieces were offered at an “upscale” market in conjunction with a fundraiser and style show benefiting a local university.
And then I passed along the pretties at a porch sale at My Place, the proceeds of which benefited Hope Unlimited for Children–an organization that rescues children and provides them the opportunity for a future.
But still… I had an overabundance of linens, and so I decided to keep what I wanted and take the rest to auction. Stack after stack was removed from my home–and I fought the urge to keep…keep… keep… even as clutter was slowly removed from my mind.
But still… I have more vintage linens than most people will have in a lifetime–and once again I find myself slowly letting them go. I was never a hoarder, but I certainly became an accumulator over the years.
Eventually there was too much of a good thing!
Being able to rescue dirty, discarded linens and return them to their original condition–decades and decades later–was pretty heady stuff for this gal. Sending them off to a bright future in a new home was exciting and fulfilling
… until it wasn’t.
Oh, don’t misunderstand. I still *love* working on linens, and I’m always thrilled when I can help you with your laundry projects. In fact, the only thing better than answering your questions while offering encouragement (and sometimes a little virtual hand-holding) would be standing beside you in person while watching your storage stains disappear and your treasures come back to life.
Wow, I really do sound like a vintage linen geek, don’t I? But seriously… I’m here to help, so email me anytime with your questions–and pics!
I’ve had to listen to that “still small voice” in my head…and admit to myself: Accumulation of vintage linens (or dishes or _____) can become an addiction. Fortunately, I’ve taken steps to remedy the situation: I’ve been giving up good things for better.
I’ve already let some really wonderful linens go to new homes, and–even as I continue to do so–I’m carefully reconsidering what to keep. Besides my few family linens, these pieces have “made the cut”…at least for now.
You know, it’s easy to take the “righteous” approach and say it’s all just stuff. I know. I’ve done that for years. It’s true. It is just “stuff” …but it’s MY stuff, and since I share it often with other people, it’s okay to have it. All of it. Lots of it. MORE of it.
See how I went from a GOOD new business venture and learning a new skill to the slippery slope of accumulation addiction?
I don’t know quite where this de-cluttering/downsizing is leading just yet, but I do know I’m on the right track. I do know I’m becoming less distracted by “stuff” and more focused on things that matter.
I do know it’s a constant choice–and takes a lot of practice–and I have a lot to learn.
Do not store up riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal. Instead, store up riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal. For your heart will always be where your riches are. (Matthew 6:19-21)
Are you (or have you ever been) trapped by accumulation? Do you recognize the symptoms of accumulation addiction in yourself? (I realize you may not want to leave your answer in a comment, but I hope you’ll be honest with yourself. The longer you aren’t, the more time you waste… Trust me.)
This is part of a 31-day series. If you missed a Life Lesson, they’re all available HERE.