Collections should be treasured, displayed

If you really want to get to know someone, ask them to tell you about their favorite collections. Those of us who live to collect everything from historic treasures to quirky curiosities know that our collections are intensely personal and say volumes about our passions and interests, dreams and memories.

Whether you’ve been crazy about collecting for years or you’re a newcomer who is ready to plunge in, here are a few ideas that will help you enjoy the journey.

Collect what you love

If you’re itching to start a new collection but are not sure what to choose, refuse to blindly follow the latest collecting craze or to be unduly influenced by what your friends are collecting. Stand firm and collect only things that make your heart flutter.

All of us collect for different reasons. Some want items that capture a certain country or time in history. Others want items that remind them of their childhood or a favorite event, like a dreamy vacation. Some collect items that celebrate the natural world, like my collection of birds and nests. So, before you start buying, find your bliss.

Sometimes your favorite collections may be accidental. I had long admired silver-plated serving pieces that sported a grape pattern that belonged to my mother-in-law, Mimi. So through the years, Mimi started giving me a piece from her collection for Christmas or my birthday. Soon, I was hooked. Now, every time I go to an antique store, I scout for new pieces to add to my set.

Have fun

Many of us who love to collect live for the thrill of the hunt and the high of finding the perfect new acquisition. But if collecting ever feels like a chore to you, or you feel pressured to constantly add more pieces, it’s time to find a new hobby. Who needs more stress in their life, right? Collecting should be pure, pressure-free pleasure.

Use your collection in your décor

Once you’ve built an admirable collection, don’t you dare hide it away in a storage box. Put your prime pieces on display where they can delight you daily and dazzle everyone who visits your home. The key to decorating with your collections is to subtly weave them into your everyday decorating.

I like to move pieces in my collections from one room to another, always using them in new ways so the collection feels fresh, not tired. For instance, sometimes you’ll find my assortment of small antique picture frames on my kitchen windowsill. Other times, they will be part of a display on my coffee table. And still others, I’ll use them as place-card holders on my dining room table.

Control your collection

If someone walks into your home and says, “I see you collect bees,” you know your collection is out of control. You never want your collection to be overpowering or to fill your home.

Dig deep for the power to edit mercilessly, getting rid of pieces that aren’t as nice or that don’t capture your fancy quite as much as the rest. Remember, a few fabulous pieces that are well displayed are far better than a mass of mediocre items that clutter up your home.

Allow yourself to fall out of love

It’s sad when the passion has petered out, but when a collection no longer gives you a thrill, it’s time to say goodbye. If you’re not quite ready to make the break, store your collection away for a time, then revisit it later. If it still leaves you cold, it’s time to call it quits. You can sell your old collection to antique shops, give pieces to friends who have long admired them or pass them on to your kids as family heirlooms.

Mary Carol Garrity owns three home furnishings stores in Atchison, Kan., and wrote several books on home decorating. Write to Mary Carol at Her column is syndicated by Scripps Howard News Service.

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