Are you a “vintage hoarder”? 12 ways to deal when your “blessing” becomes your “curse”

The time has come, I need to come to grips: I am a “vintage hoarder.” No: Not an old woman who hoards everything, although that day may be looming. Yes: A collector who has an extremely difficult time walking away from intriguing vintage — often “useless” — items, of all sorts, that must be rescued. Remember the 39 Fuller Brush spatulas? A high — and low — of my collecting life. But alas, a huge corner of my basement… the storage alcove in my garage… the storage hatch above my garage… two closets… and a significant portion of my attic are already full of such treasures. Yes: I am a vintage hoarder, and I must come to grips. In this post, I talk about the “blessing” and the “curse” of being so gifted in the art of seeing beauty in so many places and things. Yes, the team that wrote the book says it’s a gift. Maybe you have it, too? Read on for my tale, of how this strength can become a weakness, and for some of my ideas of how to deal. Perhaps you have some tales, and ideas, to share, as well?

The Diagnosis

I am not going into great detail on the potential drivers of Vintage Hoarding Disorder (I made this up, VHD, or Vhoarding) — because Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee already have done so in their book, Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things (affliate link, but seriously, considering the subject of this story: Get it at the library!) Important note: This post is not about full-blown, clinical hoarding; that requires professional intervention; yes, read the book to start, but more importantly, consult with a professional.

To better understand my own “lite” version of the compulsion, I read this book over the summer, and it was fascinating. Randi and Gail are both university professors, Randy is at Smith and as I recall, Gail is at Brown. They have studied the issue of hoarding — serious hoarding, not my vintage hoarding lite — for more than 10 years, and I think they are the undisputed experts. Six months after reading the book, here is what has stuck with me from key points in the books that rang true when I consider my own “diagnosis”:

  • Hoarders often are imbued with a very high level of visual and contextual intelligence. That is, they see meaning in objects… they give meaning to objects… much more intensely than others, who can let stuff go… discard it… with much greater ease. This book is amazingly empathetic regarding the issue; it was marvelous — not judgmental at all. Yes, this is it for me — and maybe you, too, I think: We have an incredible visual intelligence… and a huge heart, when it comes to things. I know for a fact, that I could NOT let those 39 Fuller Brush spatulas go to a dumpster! They were strange and wonderful relics of a time gone by. At another estate sale, the last day, I bought a dead woman’s entire life’s worth of personal photographs. I could NOT let those go to a dumpster. They were her life! This is typical reasoning of a hoarder. Just like the books’ title says, we have this incredible ability to give meaning to stuff. We are not really part of today’s “throwaway” society; trashing useful items or items that hold (or better said: which we ‘give’) sentimental meaning, pains us. However, when the hoarding starts to control us or to put crushing weight upon us — not so good.
  • The other thing I remember from the book that rang true for me, is that the act of accumulation can be social. That is: We go shopping, or spend hours on ebay, instead of going out for drinks with friends, or whatever. I know, for example that I am fundamentally introverted. I regain energy from my “me” time. At the same time, I have a very active mind — and as described above — I’m super visual. So during my “me” time, I might go onto ebay or go to the Goodwill — and end up buying stuff.

When a Blessing becomes a Curse

  • Analogy: If you are really detail-oriented in your research when you need to make a decision, the result is that you can make really good decisions. Flip side, though, is when you are so thorough you can’t make a decision at all — you are paralyzed. This is when a “strength” — thoroughness — becomes a “weakness” — indecision. The same principle goes for vintage hoarding. Today, my collections are not so bad that they have taken over my house — all the living and bedroom areas are clear. But, I know my passion has gone too far when … I can’t find what I am looking for… when I think about how, when I die, someone will have to clean all my stash out, and it will be an ordeal… and, when I feel “crushed” by the weight of those unattended piles, tucked away in their nooks though they may be. I know that to process my piles is going to take, like, a month. *Crushing weight of something big un-done = Stress.* Feng shui is all about creating spaces where positive energies can flow and flourish; any clutter and any piles above or below are impeding that energy.

The Cure

I have been *thinking* about strategies more than applying them, yet, alas. But here are some thoughts:

  1. I read the book, which gave me compassionate insight into my dilemma. It gave me facts to help understand why I have this problem. But not in a harsh, self-judging way. Au contraire, it made me feel good about this strength of mine. I am always more motivated by the positive than by the negative. Now, I am kind of super-proud of my book-recognized visual intelligence. Now, my challenge — a positive one — is how to channel that intelligence in a positive way.
  2. When I go to estate sales, I am only going to try to buy stuff that I can turn into art. Visual intelligence = artist. Yes! For example, I have this idea. I love these time capsule estate sale houses — for the stuff, but also for the lives lived there, that I can see through the stuff. Here’s how I will make art out of each estate sale: I will take a big plastic container box with me to each sale. I will look for a substrate (an old not-valuable painting or framed something… something hangable) and then, I will look for little its and bits and pieces from this house and the family who lived there. I will take a photo of the house. And I will keep a copy of the estate sale listing. Then I will collage all the best pieces to create a hangable vintage collage. Only stuff from that house, plus the listing ad and a small photo of the house, gets on the collage. After I have like 20 houses, I will see if I can get my artwork into an exhibition, even if it’s at a local coffee shop. Maybe I will sell them, maybe I won’t. But I think this artistic application combining all the reasons I vintage-hoard will be very gratifying. Please, steal this idea if you like it. Send me pics of your creations. P.S. I will try really really hard not to buy anything else at the estate sale, unless I really really need it, and I tell you, I need nothing. Some other ideas to shop-vintage-to-make-art: Only look for vintage ornaments and learn how to make vintage ornament wreaths like Suzy. Take them to craft fairs at Christmas time. Her wreaths — very well made ones — are selling for $100.
  3. Another strategy for estate sales and shops: Get a nice camera and learn how to use it, start a blog, and take photos instead. (Be sure to get appropriate permissions before taking photos in private spaces and posting photos to the web.)
  4. Get your visual fix by going to museum exhibits. Go on all the tours and to all the lectures — get smart. I once met a longtime boyfriend at a museum. Just sayin’.
  5. Be a decorating maximalist. Pull all your fabulous stuff out of all those piles and put all your favorite items onto your walls. As much as you possibly can. Holes everywhere. Fill every space. I recently began doing this in my office, and a friend who saw it commented, “Gosh, now the room really looks like you.” Well, yes, it does. What took me so long? :) Choose a great paint color then make your walls a collage… a glorious mosaic… of all the vintage lovelies that you have collected. Do this in every darn room, if that’s what you want. Your friends already know you have this thing about vintage. Who are you fooling. Get it all out there, let your freak flag fly. P.S. When you die and they have the estate sale, it will be a lot easier for them to sell it right off the wall than out of boxes. Not to be morbid, but.
  6. Sell stuff on ebay. But you really have to do it. Really really. If you decide this is a strategy for you, I hereforeto order you: No buying anything else, until you sell 10 items on ebay. Once you sell 10 items, you can buy 5 more. But until you whittle the piles down, no loading them up further. Also, you can think of it this way: If you spend three hours accumulating, plan for 15 hours moving the stuff out via ebay. Now, doesn’t that slow you down? Put a starting price of what you paid for an item — and just let it go, let it flow, out into the retro universe.
  7. Open a booth in an antique mall or become a picker for a dealer. See #3, though. You really really have to do it. No making piles.
  8. If you’re gonna be deep into vintage, buy ONLY vintage. Don’t buy new stuff, too. That way, it can still be about the hunt, and you will save money (only if you really buy what you really need) and save stuff from going to landfills. Anytime you can narrow your collecting focus, you make the hunt more difficult, which means you will acquire less. Theoretically.
  9. No “buying stuff to hold your stuff.” This is only enabling. I have cartop carrier, that we never use; it’s in the shed; I have stuff to hold my stuff to hold my stuff. Shoot me.
  10. But, do organize your stuff so that you can get at it for your art projects. Make yourself a beautiful craft space. This kind of organization has a goal: To make space to use the stuff to make art. You will spend more time making art with what you already have, than accumulating more stuff. Theoretically.
  11. Take your clean-up and organization projects slow or you will get overwhelmed. How about 1/2 hour a day.
  12. Become more social: Collect more friends. Call a friend for lunch or a drink after work or a cup of coffee and homemade muffins — even if it’s just once a week or one more time each week. I’m always reading that what makes us most happy — even we introverts — is people. That said, I still know I my “visual intelligence” demands I spend a lot of time searching out visual beauty. Surely, it’s all about maintaining a healthy balance.

So what do you think, dear readers?
Do you have a strong impulse, like me, to vintage-hoard?
What steps do you recommend to keep it under control?


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  1. chris says

    Hey Pam! Oh yeah — you will get all sorts of testimonials on this one, sister!

    I think hoarding vintage and the ongoing project of an older home go hand in hand. Take me and my husband, for example. Our house was built in 1934 — and badly renovated to be a rental house in the early 70s. The kitchen, especially, is sort of a nightmare. The cabinets are made out of the cheap, coarse particle board that gives one splinters. Cabinet fronts were put in with a staple gun. A coat of white paint worked wonders, but it still needs a lot of work and money to make it the cool kitchen we want it to be.

    Ironically, we have no money. Didn’t win the lottery again this weekend, dang it!

    We have a very good idea of what we want the kitchen to be — that includes displaying lots of kitchen stuff. I have about 10 shiny chrome waffle irons and toasters. Boxes of fun utensils with funky green painted handles. If I had the money for it, I would have a big old sink with super long drainboards built right in….

    When you have this sort of love of the old and authentic, you realize you won’t find that perfect thing just any day. If you see it and love it, you have to get it. NOW. It can wait for you to accumulate the rest of the stuff and finish the project.

    Our lack of money is both a blessing and a curse. At the rate we are going, we won’t do our kitchen for another 25 years. This means I’ll have lots of stuff sitting around for a long time!!!!!!

    And you’d better believe if I find a fabulous old stove at an estate sale, it’s mine! (Or maybe the Stove Fairy will just poof me an O’Keefe and Merritt into my kitchen one day.)

    So — vintage hoarding…. I’ll bet you have enough afflicted members for one heck of a support group.


    • chris says

      Just realized I forgot to make the whole budget connection — not enough coffee yet to make my brain work….

      I have the heart of a vintage hoarder — without a doubt. If I had more money, I would have an attic full of treasures. It is the lack of money that keeps me from buying every wonderful thing I see.

      And — coffee kicking in — neurons firing, here — I think loving and re-doing an old house requires a level of ongoing dedication and detective work that appeals to someone with a wee tad of OCD. (I know that sentence had all kinds of grammar errors. It’s early.)

      You have to be a touch obsessive to do what we do. And a teensy bit compulsive to snap up those deals when they come along — or else you miss them.

      I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find that many of us walk that fine line on the edge of vintage crazy.

  2. says

    Being visual is a blessing and a curse when we can see the possibilities in so many things.

    A tactic I started using recently has been very helpful for me. Before I check out I look at each item asking myself if I have a place for it, what am I going to do with it, does it fit in with what I have, etc. I always end up putting things back. It makes me take a critical look at what I’m purchasing and why. The net of it is I feel more in control

    • Laura A. says

      I have begun doing this. I hold each item in my hand for a moment or two, appreciate it, and then think about how, in the long run, I may come to resent having to dust it, find a place for it, pack it, unpack it, etc.

      It’s like a little ritual that blesses the item for its being so wonderful and then blesses me with the ability to say “I’ve got enough.”

      • Patty says

        I’ve also carried things around the store and realized I really didn’t love it and could put it back and not regret bringing it home. It also helps to tell yourself you are only buying thing on your “list” not just anything that is vintage or a “good deal.” Also, I’m careful about what I buy for others who may not want the items — leave for someone who does.

  3. says

    I always rescue amazing vintage finds if they are affordable, but rather than let my house sag under the weight of my hoard, I always rotate things out, give things away, you know. Rotate!

    I have an excellent idea about the FB spatulas, send two to me. I about DIED when you bought them!

    • pam kueber says

      Okay, Kate, I will email you and get your address and send you two. I’ll be very interested in what you come up with! I know you are a professional artist — so AMAZE ME!

      • says

        Thank you, Pam! But I have to admit that I want to use them in the kitchen, as spatulas.
        : )

        My entire kitchen is vintage stuff. It’s beautifully made and fits ith my Atomic Ranch and my St. Charles metal cabinets. And it’s all so functionally brilliant. A Pyrex baking dish with divided sections, with a lid that flips to become an elegant serving dish. GENIUS.

        I actually go so far as to feel pain when I see the wreaths with the beautiful, irreplaceable, vintage Xmas ornaments hotglued together. I’m not saying it’s wrong, just that it pains me personally, because I want to hang them on Christmas trees, and hot glue is kind of forever. What I would love to see is a wreath that allowed you to take the ornaments on and off, like if they were attached with little clips. That way you could play with them, but they could still do what they were made to do. To me, function is as much as part of beauty as form.

        Things I have a weakness for and admittedly find hard to give away: Vintage Pyrex, fabulous chairs, crystal martini and bar glasses, and my ultimate weakness: paintings. Real paintings, in real frames, found in thrift stores for a few dollars. I adore them and have what I think is a stunning collection. Admittedly, not everyone agrees.

        • AmyEbbertHill says

          This is me right now! I just bought a Fabulous factory art 24×36 framed painting of the Eiffel tower. Where to put it? I have another Fabulous painting of an Arab man pouring water into a bowl and I named him Abraham, and I love them both but they are definitely not compatible in the same room. I guess I’ll rotate Abraham to the closet for a while and display Paris in the living room. I also have this ginormous tacky gold plastic framed mirror in the dining room, DH says it came off the set of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and it’s supposed to help make that small room feel bigger. I had originally planned on putting Paris in the room but I have no place to store the mirror. (It’s full under the beds.) I am a vintage hoarder & I feel no need to repent at this time. Maybe next month.

    • Ann-Marie Meyers says

      Rotation has always been my way of (seeming to be) controlling my vintage thing. When I go into one of those homes where every available space is full of collectibles, I want to grab Granny by the collar and say, “If your display cases are so full of Fenton shoes that you can’t look at it and pick one out of the mayhem, you need to put some away!”
      I know a mid century furniture dealer who has come across a lamp collecting couple like that, their entire house, garage, and barn are full of 1950 and ’60’s lamps!
      I am working out the details of an etsy shop, so rotating things will be a little easier for me. I will just let other people decide what stuff is going away.

  4. Patty says

    It’s not really a deal if you’re going to store it in a box in the basement or garage for years. I saw a man on TV who was wealty enough to build an addition to his home to house and properly display a museum of his collectibles. Most of us will just become overwhelmed with our clutter. There are hoardes with mental illness who can’t get rid of anything (including trash) and then there are those who are cluttering up every space in their house. I think you might want to consider making your time capsule home collages digitally online and satisfy your creativitiy while saving the storage space in your home – but them maybe they really will get displayed somewhere. Also, how about giving away spatulas to the first 5 commenters today?

  5. linda Blackmore says

    This is perhaps the favorite posting I’ve seen in for ever. I am an altered art hoarder, and Pam, beware of that becoming a second hoard. I constantly see wonderful stuff for altered art. It’s cheap stuff–nobody else wants it–so, believe me, I could do art nonstop until I die(I’m old), and I’d still have a hoard. But you idea is marvelous–make it a book. I have constantly said if I weren’t so visual, I wouldn’t have all this stuff. I see wonderful treasures everywhere. My problem, most of my stuff isn’t marketable–nobody by me wants it. I have started doing classes at my granddaughter’s school to use and share some of the stuff. However, it doesn’t even make a dent.
    We really do need a group–oh, yes, did the antique mall bit–it just gives you license to collect more. thanks, Pam!! You have given me hope. Today, I’ll be tackling the garage again. That’s where I’m trying to organize my art stuff so I can find it when I want it so I don’t have to buy more of the same.

    • pam kueber says

      Yes, when I first wrote about collaging — which I love — a friend of mine, Susan, I think, commented that once you start collaging you can’t throw ANYTHING out. “Be careful.”

      • linda Blackmore says

        Pam–I have a garage, small sunroom and dining room full of my wonderful art stuff. Wonderful, I repeat, stuff. Few are worthy of having my good stuff to use on art–and a lot I haven’t come up with anything wonderful to make out of it. Pathetic! hahahaha

      • chris says

        Yeah — and in this area, I’m a schizophrenic hoarder! I have an undergraduate degree in art — use it! Create! Recreate! My graduate degree is in history and museums — preserve it! Don’t touch it, paint it, or clean it! Just save it!

        I stand there with the hot glue gun and a pile of antique buttons and just freak out. Should I make a wonderful piece to hang on the wall? Yes? NO! I should lay them out on neutral ph fabric and carefully sew them in place to keep their integrity! Then I worry about hanging them in the bright sunlight…. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

        I have lots of cool things in boxes in the closet.

  6. chris says

    OK — I’m on the second pot of coffee, so I’m awake now. Guess what? I think I’m even more of a vintage hoarder than I thought. But at least I have categories I hoard in.

    Chairs, anyone? This is a problem since they are so big. I don’t like new furniture, so I am continually on the lookout for wonderful old chairs. Some of them can be made lovely with some enamel paint, batting, fabric, and a staple gun. (IF I would get off my lazy butt and just do it.)

    I’ve rescued at least 5 chairs from the trash this way. One of them I did actually paint and have reupholstered. It is FABULOUS! But it cost me about $200.00 — which had to come out of my household budget.

    The best chair is from the late 30s, early 40s — very deco, very big. VERY expensive to reupholster. It’s sitting in the garage. Second coolest chair is late 50s, early 60s — super cool shape to it. I even have fabric waiting for it. Estimate to re-do — $400.00. It, too, is sitting in the garage. I have a chair problem.

    Also dishes. LOVE old dishes! Depression glass, melamine, china, pottery — FIRE KING! Love it all. Have lots of it in boxes in the attic. Since much of it can’t go in the microwave or dishwasher, there it sits, up in the attic. (My husband says the attic looks like that final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark — where the stacks of boxes go on and on and on.)

    My parents have a great set of dishes in THEIR attic — they collected them during the 60s from their local gas station. Whenever you filled up the tank you got certain pieces. As I recall, it has the cool metallic silver starburst in the pattern. Of course, this means no micro or dishwasher. But am I going to bring them home? OF COURSE I am! :)

    Yep, dishes and chairs that collect dust and never get used….. I’m a hoarder.

    • Vanessa says

      My daughter decided to count the # of chairs we owned, she did go a little extreme and count the camping chairsas well as every chair in the house, attic, garage, including little kid chairs and vanity stools and such. All I can say is that it really was an eye-opener when we had a number, I realized I really will never get to fixing all those, and at least half of them do need fixing. I would have the same problem with sofas if they weren’t so big. Oh and I fight the urge to drag home dishes because I know I already have at least 2 big boxes of them in the attic, because they don’t go in the microwave or dishwasher…

      Vintage clothes are my worst trap though. I’ve finally started selling them on Etsy, but they aren’t moving very fast, I need to keep posting more and make my shop more active. Once I’ve sort of “let go” enough to list an item, it feels like it would be easier to give it away if I needed to, course I’d rather sell it, but being able to let it go is a good feeling, and that initial “letting go” seems to be the hardest part. I never feel sad when I am headed to the post office with it, perhaps because it has a happy new owner anxiously awaiting it and I know it will be appreciated and not go to waste. Because a large part of my vintage obsession is based on “rescuing” old things that still have value, like Pam described.

  7. Clare Crigger says

    I can so relate to assigning value to things that seem like trash to others! I have to be very diligent not to let my things get out of hand. The worst part is when I do get rid of things, years later I will remember it and I am so regretful of having let it go!

    Love your site, Pam! I grew up in a 50’s house and that is still the style I adore.

  8. says

    I have this very problem. It’s all in boxes and bags. Most is kitchen things but our kitchen is still very unfinished. If I buy one more set of canisters I am pretty sure my husband will divorce me.

  9. says

    This is a very interesting topic! I think I was starting to slip down the slope of retro furniture hoarding when I lived at my last residence. I was buying chairs, chairs, more chairs, tables, etc. Lots of furniture. I couldn’t pass up a craigslist listing. But then a funny thing happened, I realized that I couldn’t walk around in my basement and attic anymore. It was getting out of control. I started curating my retro furniture, keeping only what I knew I would use when I moved (I was in the process of selling that house and moving to a slightly larger 1960s ranch at the time).

    Once I got to the new house and got everything unpacked, it was amazing how the furniture that clogged up my little 1800s house fit so well into the new 1960s ranch house. I have promised myself that I won’t clog up the new house with too much furniture because I’m not planning on moving again anytime soon and I am so enjoying my open space. I’ve since been very selective about my retro furniture purchases, only buying something when I know exactly where to put it or that I will sell another piece of furniture to make room.

    I also find it very interesting that hoarding vintage lite could also be an “introvert” thing. I am also an introvert!

  10. staci says

    I love utensils! And anything with a past. My cure for hoarding is to resale my treasures. I constantly update my collections this way.

  11. Kersten says

    Pam – number 9 almost made my coffee exit through my nose! Ha! I go through whims, and I’ve definitely attempted #6. It can be super fun to see something you bought for $10 sell for $250 on the bay! My biggest issues are lamps and chairs, and though I try hard to walk on by, they typically end up in my trunk. However, like Kate, I have a pretty easy time rotating things out when I find something I like better. (Who am I kidding, my house is small, and there’s no other choice!) If I have a day where I show restraint, I’ll wonder for months what became of it. Two years have passed since I decided against a pair of beautiful vintage polish paper cuttings- framed and everything, and I continue to regret that they aren’t on my walls! Can’t have it all, I guess. My step to keep it under control is to seriously ask myself if I can *really* use it. Will I *really* find a space for it? If I think I can, but can’t, will it be easy enough to pass onto someone else?

  12. Amber says

    This is a very good subject. Thanks for bringing it up! I believe that collecting (hoarding) is a creative outlet. It’s like painting or drawing using objects in space. I don’t think you should beat yourself up too much for living a creative life. My process started like this: i collected things to fix up my house. It’s true, my house is me in a tangible form. Once i completed that (though there’s always room for tweaking) I had to find a purpose for collecting more stuff. I have the habit of thinking that this ‘thing, chair, etc’ will go great in my future house but that’s not good. I think you art idea is a good one. I, too, love to learn about someone through their belongs after they have passed though estate sales but have not come up with a good way to convey this though art. I can see your collages hanging on a gallery wall. Though it sounds morbid, if you could find the persons obituary and add that to the collage it would speak to ideas about who we are, what we leave, traces of a life, the big mortality question. A quote always run through my mind thinking about this subject, ‘you can’t take it with you.’ good luck!

    • pam kueber says

      I think you are very correct, Amber, in saying that the very act of creating our home interiors — collecting for them — is an act of art. This idea that we retro-philes are Very Visual has stuck with me since I interviewed Jennifer Greenburg a few years ago. That’s the thread she pointed out. Why do we like retro stuff and our retro houses: They are Design Magnificence — and we can see that. I also agree, let’s not beat ourselves up — like I said, the book was very empathetic… we have an enhanced “visual intelligence”. The issue, though, is when it gets “crushing” – and that’s going to be a difference measure for each person.

  13. Kae says

    Fantastic timing on this post, Pam! I’m half-way through this book right now. It has been a tremendous help to me.

    I, too, have always seen the potential in items and felt an obligation to honor their history. This has led to the accumulation of more craft projects than I will ever be able to finish and the inability to part with items of “historical importance”.

    But, now I’m looking at things differently. Just because something is nice doesn’t mean it has to be mine. If I’m not using something, even if it is something that belonged to my grandmother, it’s OK to let it find a new home where it will be used.

    Just this week I parted with a truckload of “treasures” and I feel so much relief at letting them go! The feeling of being responsible for preserving them and the guilt of having them boxed away taking up space has been lifted! Now I’m free to enjoy the items I truly love and can use and the things I parted with can now be loved by someone else.

    • says

      I love this statement made by Kae about giving something away or letting it go: “… and the things I parted with can now be loved by someone else.” That’s what I want for those objects that I cannot afford (space wise) to add to my own quilt collection!

      Oh, I do love this subject! Because I live on an island, most of my shopping is by eBay now so I am not tempted by non-quilt related items (except books)….until I hit an antique mall, the few times a year I get within sight of one. Even then, I can usually manage to keep it to sewing related items. But I always do come home with a half a dozen new quilt related or needlework related items. Sigh.

  14. says

    My email and screen name has been Visualgirl since the early days of the internet as we know it, starting around 1998 or so. I have long believed my eye for the best in vintage was the root cause of VHD. Add to that a genetic disposition (many female family members have been collectors) and a minor artistic flair and voila!
    I started selling on Ebay in 1999. Thought it would be a great idea to run a business from the house and got rid of my beautiful 1930s oak dining room furniture and replaced it with shelves. Lots of shelves. The kitchen was a major display area and the basement and garage packed full with more shelves and more stuff. My poor family had to endure living with this stuff facing them every single day. BUT, I said, it’s VINTAGE! when they dared protest. Things got dusty and overrun as I moved them in and out. I finally had enough and when I decided to renovate the kitchen, the kitchen & dining room clutter had to go. I got a storage space and packed it all up and just left the really good stuff to look at. What a relief to finally be (mostly) clutter free.
    I have spent thousands of dollars in storage fees over the years. Mostly because I refused to take the massive collection of melmac to the thrift shop or sell the 35 fantastic creamers. You know…..
    After ebay, I developed and maintained (on hold right now) my own vintage web site for several years, got bored of that, went to an antique mall (too expensive, not enough room, too far away), tried to sell from my warehouse space YES! warehouse! (too cold in winter and no water or bathroom). Now I’m in a shared space locally and I don’t have to be there every day. Still have stuff in the basement and garage, but not as much. I’ve learned to let go. It doesn’t mean as much to me any more now that I’m not looking at it day in and day out, although sometimes I regret selling this or that when I think back. I still revel in the beauty of a well designed piece. I just adore vintage packaging, graphics, and oh! those marvelous decorated glasses from the 40s, 50s & 60s!. I have curtailed my thrift store and flea market trips because I will always come home with a bag or a box full of things too beautiful to let go. When I do go, I can put it down. Only a slight pang of regret follows me as I walk away, knowing someone else will see the same beauty and buy it. I’m not completely free of the disease, but I’m definitely better. Ask my niece who has helped me move 6 or 7 times, as she periodically cried HOARDER when I looked longingly at the plastic lettuce cutter I didn’t want to get rid of.

    Sorry to go on so long. Feels good to tell the story.

    • pam kueber says

      Me too “feels good to tell the story.” I am sorta a student of Buddhism. “Mindful living” is what that’s all about (basically). I think that if we can be mindful of our amazing visual intelligence and how to master it — we will be super happy. xoxo

  15. Leslie says

    @Pam, everything you said.. it’s me too! I look at my estate sale shopping as my personal form of entertainment, as you mentioned “me” time. I rationalize my vintage spending like this, I don’t drink, smoke, go to bars, etc. so this is “my” treat. I must say I have purchased items that I love so much and others not so much. I have recently looked at the things I’ve bought out of pity for the vintage item and decided I can donate them, I look at the $$$ spent as the price of the experience (like a drink, movie, meal) you don’t have anything to hold onto after those experiences either. For 2012, I am being mindful of purchases but still enjoying the thrill of the hunt! I love your art idea, let us see your creations!

  16. lynda says

    I think if you recognize that you are a hoarder, you are not in that much trouble. People I know that are real hoarders, don’t seem to even know there is a problem. It is a problem for their families, but not them.
    I have a serious dish addiction. Not necessarily old ones, but all types of dishes. I have given sets to my kids and to friends and I am happy they are used. I like to give things away that I feel will be used and appreciated. I have a little saying “I am in the non-acquiring stage of my life” and that seems to help when I am faced with another stack of plates to tempt me. I had enough wonderful mix and match dishes for a 120 person wedding. I gave dishes to people that helped with the wedding. I let them each pick their own plates and everyone was so happy. I seem to still have enough dishes to have another wedding. I do not have any dishes just stored, they are places I can get to them and I do use them.
    Spend time on Ebay and Craigslist and you will see what happens to all your stuff when you downsize. We should all be doing it now before we really have to get rid of the stuff.

  17. vintigchik says

    Thanks Pam, I needed this. I use to have time to sell items on Etsy. Not so much any more that I am going to school. But my collecting has not slowed down as much as it should as I find going to sales and the thrift store an outlet for myself. I come from a family of hoarders and I am very artistic, so it makes sense. When my grandpa died, there were so many vintage items left that it was hard to get rid of things as my dad and my sister both are vintage collectors. Alas, there was no estate sale. I was lucky enough to inherit my grandpa’s entire WWII uniform, complete down to the rubber hat cover, a chest he made in the 1930s that was supposed to go to his mother, but she died before he gave it to her. My grandma died in 1969 so everything in her kitchen was from before that era. I have many kitchen items, fabric, patterns, etc. Oh and all the photographs, just to mention a few items. I think my grandpa never threw anything of my grandma’s away except for her clothes. He missed her very much. I love to rescue vintage items so my entire house is full. I try to buy vintage whenever I need something so I can justify it. A fun outlet for me is vintage clothing. It’s fun to be able to take your collection with you wherever you go, and they are of such a higher quality than today’s clothes. I am to the point that I need to tone my collecting down. Since I am very visual, I don’t like to sell things online. I would rather have a booth that I can arrange. I know it sounds strange, but online selling is just so impersonal, afterall these are things I have “rescued”. I will try to pick up this book. It sounds like you are empowered after you read it.

    • says

      Maybe as an on-line seller, you could re-create the feel of a booth in an antique Mall! You just decorate a room in your home with the items you are selling and then let the buyer see that room as well as an up-close detailed photo of the individual object you are selling. I really like the sellers on eBay who do this for their quilts.

  18. Bronwen says

    Oh wow, this was a great post. I am such a vintage hoarder, especially when it comes to kitchen stuff, but I don’t limit myself to just that!

    I find that my biggest trigger for purchasing something is a long ago personal connection. Like a Pyrex bowl in a certain pattern that my best friend from grade school’s mom had a set of. Seeing it reminded me of my old friend, and her mom, and having fun at her house back in the 70s. Or an extremely ugly crudite platter just like one that my great aunt had. It didn’t have any special meaning to her, she didn’t even like it all that much, but seeing it and holding it reminded me of past Thanksgivings with my family so how could I not take it home?

    I’m not ready to address my hoarding, because it’s not that bad yet. And I just moved into a much bigger space so I feel like I have rooms to fill!

    And the spatulas? I am actually quite jealous. The city I grew up in was home to a (the?) Fuller Brush factory. I knew so many people who worked there! Lots of neighbors and many of my friends’ fathers. Everyone I knew had a crate in their basement full of Fuller brushes, toothbrushes, combs, etc. We all stocked up a the yearly factory sale. There’s my personal Fuller connection, so if I came across any Fuller product I wouldn’t hesitate to grab it!

  19. says

    I’ve been collecting for about 20 years, the last 14 have centered primarily on MCM furniture and houseware to fit into my 1959 MCM home. I guess I’m lucky because I’ve never liked or have been able to function in clutter, so I have to edit for a space to look correct to me. Remember, less is more! So, what works best for me is to only buy/rescue items that are better and cooler than what I already have. Then I sell the more expensive stuff that is getting replaced or if it’s an inexpensive something, I donate it so someone else can have the thrill of finding it.

    • pam kueber says

      My husband always says, “One thing comes in, one thing must go out.” Alas, he married me. He is pretty sympathetic, though, because he is highly visual, too. Even so, I know it makes him happy when I clean and de-clutter, so I use that as a psych-myself-up strategy, too. That is: Do it to show I love him.

    • says

      I am just beginning to start the process of trying to upgrade my quilt related stuff, especially my doll and crib quilt collection. But I guess I would rather have “more” examples (i.e. even if the condition is iffy) than pristine condition and fewer examples of the great variety of patterns, fabrics etc that exist in this field. And oh, how I love the stories attached to quilts! And they don’t need to be in pristine condition to have incredible stories to go with them!

  20. Michael says

    Very interesting story, Pam. My partner often accuses me of being a member of this club, although I think our home is much less cluttered than those of most of our friends and family, so I’m not really worried.

    I too tend to read meaning and back stories into almost everything I’m attracted to and/or purchase. My weaknesses are anything from an estate sale, but especially vintage Christmas decor and vintage upholstered pieces (sofas and chairs) for some reason.

    A perfect winter Saturday night for me is a glass of wine, a roaring fire and the laptop- seeing what’s newly listed on eBay, Etsy and Kijiji. Luckily our house is large enough with tons of storage to so far accommodate my finds very easily, but right now I have more Edna Looney Christmas craft kits than I can possibly assemble, and we do have more Christmas decorations than everyone else we know… combined! So I see a potential problem on the horizon… lol

    And I love your idea for the art project– I’d be first in line to check out that exhibition!

  21. char says

    I just moved into a clean, empty new/old house. So whatever I’ve placed in it so far pops out visually- I sold and gave away alot of my collection – not easy but now I can start over! I am enjoying the minimalist and controlled aspect of it all very much, although there are way too many fabulous thrift and vintage stores around here – it isn’t quite working to just “browse” and not buy… I have already given away some old chairs that looked cool in the store and terrible in the house. So, when I finish getting what I need (a coke bottle shaped thermometer for the porch, turquoise/green decals matching repro vintage floral grommet panels that match in every room)….what is functional (does the metal fished-shaped jello mold count?…but the Corningware sure does), I will zero in and only get things I can easily paint or recover so it will all flow visually. A couple of colorful Fiesta pieces sitting on the microwave, not he whole set – one glass block vase – not the whole wall – maybe one patterned concrete block – kind of an homage to what I love. And I LOVE mixing the very new with the very old, a great record player cabinet holds the cable and modem box & wires, the flatscreen is on the repainted turquoise iron bistro table. I am typing this on the white laminate rolling tv cart, perfectly holds the flat screen monitor. I will have to just take pix instead in the stores when I reach the point where my clean and perfectly thought out look starts to become CLUTTER. I guess I didn’t need the giant neon letters I put in the garden to spell my name, but they are way cool and that’s all the decoration I need out there, and maybe just one enormously giant retouched (by me) vintage print mural, matching colors of course.

  22. Annie B. says

    V-hoarding, for me, began with the classic symptoms: I bought everything MCM vintage I could find and squeeze within my paltry budget, the paltry budget being my main salvation. The joy I experienced at discovering a “trophy” really kicked my hunter-gatherer instinct into overdrive.

    I found myself buying the same vintage articles over and over again: Mirro cookie presses, coffee carafes, vintage afghans, copies of BH&G “Salads” cookbook. Not sure what that meant; probably heading into real trouble at that stage. At least, I’ve had some quality items from which to cull.

    Now, my acid test for any acquistion is authenticity, quality, price, and true usefulness. Selectivity has become my new best friend. I’ve learned to “trade up”, and to gift others who also love vintage with items I’ve rotated out.

    However, there are boxes of collage-making ephemera stuffed under the beds with which I shall not part. It’s like Christmas morning when I drag them out, play with the toys inside, and dream of having time to attempt vintage collage again.

  23. JKaye says

    Great topic. I, too, am artistic and introverted, and probably have a personality type to become a vintage hoarder. But, I have had some experiences that have kept me from going overboard: went through a divorce and became a single parent strapped for cash; moved a few times and got tired of lugging so much stuff around; met and married an artistic, introverted man with his own bunch of stuff; went through the experience of helping his elderly mother downsize from a big house of stuff to a small assisted living apartment, and then after her death had to dispense with all she had managed to accumulate in the small assisted living space. Such experiences make you think a lot about why you have certain items, and decide whether it is worth it financially and emotionally to have so much stuff.

    We do have a lot of stuff. But, we are trying to just have things we really enjoy using, and we try not to have so much of it that it is a burden. When I read Patty’s comment that something isn’t such a deal if you store it away for years, I realized that is the point I have reached regarding some things I have collected. For instance, last week I discovered that I have accumulated about 12 pie plates. I realized that I only use the three pie plates that have little handles on them which make them easier to get in and out of the oven. The others just take up space stored in a cabinet, and I get aggravated whenever I have to move them around in search of something else. The decision to get rid of them seemed like such a daring move, since they are all on the vintage side. Yet I know I could replace them easily and fairly inexpensively if I really needed to do so. So I’m trying to look at things and decide, do we use this a lot? Do we enjoy using it, or is it really rather aggravating to have around? If we get rid of it, will it be really hard or expensive to replace? Those questions are helping us a lot.

    • pam kueber says

      Always having to “Move stuff to get at other stuff” is one of my husband’s key points of aggravation. And no question, it is a time-suck. Whether one has to do this a lot is likely another good barometer of Exceptional Visual Intelligence Gone Too Far. Luv, always, JKaye!

  24. says

    So much thought provoking commentary here. So glad I read the original post. It really does help to know that you aren’t alone and not really that crazy!

  25. pam kueber says

    Going through some old emails just now, I coincidentally (but it’s never a coincidence is it?) found this intriguing story: “Downsizing Boomers Looking to Sell Their Stuff”. A snapshot:

    “Call it the great American sell-off. For years now Americans have been gathering and collecting at an amazing pace, filling homes that over the past half-century have more than doubled in size, to an average of nearly 2,500 square feet. And even that hasn’t been enough to contain our nation’s overflow of stuff. These days nearly one in 10 U.S. households maintains at least one self-storage unit, 65 percent more than did so in 1995….”

    and ….”As David Ekerdt, director of the Gerontology Center of the University of Kansas, puts it, “They’re not just things. They’re you.” But the disconnect between perceived value and actual value when the kids don’t want their parents’ stuff and the market is overrun can be a cold splash of reality. “What are people going to do?” asks Jane C.H. Jacob, a Chicago-based appraiser and trustee of the nonprofit Appraisal Foundation. “Dig a ditch and put it in a landfill?”


    • AmyEbbertHill says

      I just finished reading this article, thank you for sharing it! I downsized after divorce in 2007, moving from a 3200 sq ft to my present 972 sq ft mid century modest home. It was a lot of work to get rid of all the antiques I had accumulated over the years. I cherry picked what I wanted to keep, with one main rule…I had to be able to lift it & move it myself, or at least be able to help carry the item. I did not keep any piece of furniture that would require three strong men to move. I am no longer a spring chicken. I used the services of a local auction house. They were wonderful. They came out & loaded 85% of my posessions and advertised & got me good prices. The money came in handy when I started fixing up this place. I was very fortunate to have everything turn out so well.

  26. Wendy says

    Thank you for putting a name to my problem! It started when my husband and I bought our 1958 ranch and inherited my Grandparents Heywood-Wakefield furniture. We haven’t looked back and have the stuffed closets to prove it!

  27. Retrosandie says

    I am a vintage hoarder. There. I’ve said it. And I always have been. I think it’s in the genes as my mum loved her stuff, too, and she always wanted (and got!) more! It’s a bit harder for me now, though, because I am in a small retirement apartment. And since I moved in last May, I’ve done quite a job of bringing in wonderful finds from “my” era. Being a baby boomer, I love stuff from the time I grew up in! I feel better knowing that it’s a ‘visual’ thing, because I DO love seeing all of my fabulous stuff: from pink pop beads draped on the mirror of my ’60’s blond bureau mirror, my vintage shadow boxes with all of the cool vintage things I put on them, glassware (Georges Briard, Blenko, crackle jugs/vases, lady head vases,+) glasses/some dishes, Owls for the kitchen, the giant Sexton spoon & fork, collecting lots of pink items for each room (as it’s my apartment and I want pink!!! LOL) to my cute Edna Collins box bags and Vera scarves. My problem is that not only do I want to continue the hunt/find of vintage items, but CRAFT STUFF and CRAFT BOOKS!!! I’ve just admitted to myself that I’m a craft/craft book hoarder. (Yes, it includes vintage kits!!) And did I mention that I have things from my mom that I love and must keep? I only wish I could collect furniture, as I always seem to see great buys on good stuff, but no place to put it all here!!! I guess I ‘appreciate’ everything!! Are there any other readers out there, who don’t have adorable MCM houses to decorate, but apartments with limitations???? Any way, I’ve noticed that some of my tastes (collected items) have changed over the years, especially since I found your blog, Pam. With the information I’ve gleaned from your knowledge and the good ‘ol internet, I think I’m more informed when I buy things!! I intend to read that book, too! And I’m all for art projects!! Thanks for giving poor ‘afflicted’ folks like us a voice! :)

  28. Lynn-O-Matic says

    Exceptional visual intelligence. Aha! I used to ponder whether I’d rather go blind and still have music and books, or go deaf and still have art and antiques. Duuhh! I’ll keep the eyesight, thanks.

    I have one word for all the vintage junkies out there: PINTEREST. I do most of my collecting on Pinterest these days. I scarcely ever go on eBay or Etsy anymore, and when I do, I almost never buy anything. Even when I go to thrift shops, I fell less compelled to buy a lot. Curating my collections on Pinterest is remarkably satisfying. It’s also (somewhat) social, because after a while you develop a group of BFFs and you repin each other’s stuff and comment back and forth.

    It has also inspired me to actually DO more creative stuff and do some projects with the kids (of course one of those involved accumulating a bunch of fabric and felt and bric-a-brac to sew Christmas ornaments with my daughter’s class, so beware what kind of project it is!).

  29. Lynn-O-Matic says

    My family accuses me all the time of being a hoarder. “I’m not a hoarder, I’m a collector,” I say. It’s a fine line. They do have a point. It does look like hoarding, so maybe it’s the same thing? Although I’m messy and disorganized a lot of the time, I can and do have vintage yard sales with friends and have done a booth at a flea market, so I know I can let go. I plan to do a booth at an antique mall eventually. But I really, really need to work on the organization part, a lot.

    Pam, you say don’t buy stuff to hold stuff, and I completely agree when it comes to plastic totes, etc. But lately when I shop I look for what I call infrastructure–truly awesome vintage shelves, cabinets, etc., to organize and display my stuff. I want it out where I can see it and live with it. If it’s squirreled away in the basement or a closet it’s doing nobody any good, and then it’s harder to tell my family (and myself?) I’m not hoarding! 😉

      • Lynn-O-Matic says

        Yes, Pam, this is key! I’m trying to get handier so I can do stuff like hang shelves myself instead of waiting for a man to do it. (My hubby’s not handy, so somebody’s gotta step up!)

  30. Annie B. says

    I hate to admit this, but I’ve taken vintage items to our local consignment store, had second thoughts about selling a certain piece, then retrieved it.

    While reading all these posts, it’s occurred to me that, in the grand scheme of things, how lucky we are just to be able to “hoard”. I’m thankful that I can.

    • Lynn-O-Matic says

      That’s such a great point, Annie! I’m sure I’m not the only one who started out thrifting and yard saling partly because it’s the ethical way to recycle and not overconsume. But somewhere along the way it became about all the amazing stuff instead of just what I truly need.

      • Annie B. says

        Thank you, Lynn-O-Matic. I’ve always seen thrifting, etc, as a win-win proposition; i.e., the buyer gets something great at a terrific price and the seller, which is usually a charity, etc., gets a donation.

        I, too, have let the whole concept get a little out of hand, with wants far surpassing needs. Oh, but what fun it’s been.

  31. says

    Hoarding fascinates me, I read that same book this summer. My fascination stems from the fact that it’s the exact opposite of my personality, I attach no value to ‘stuff’, my kids call me a cyborg. I find it interesting to look into the minds of those who DO love stuff. The only vintage I’ll buy is stuff that I have a use for and everything else is fun to look at, but I won’t take it home with me.

  32. TroySF says

    Hallelujah! Great ideas Pam! I especially like ***9. No “buying stuff to hold your stuff.”*** I also agree you should find creative ways to display the collections that inspire you, rather than hoard them away in boxes in your garage. I just put some shelves back up in my living room which I’ve begun filling with a bunch of stuff I’ve collected throughout my world travels (like a set of earth tone plastic toothbrushes I bought in Prague in 1990) – it’s bringing back a lot of great memories and jump-starting my wanderlust again. And limiting the “stuff” to just those shelves is a great way to balance my chaos/control urges.

  33. Rosemary says

    For awhile, my husband and I said we collected collections. Vintage Fiesta, check, Manhattan glass, check, bakelite kitchen and bar utensils, check, vintage games, check, and so it goes.

    Then this summer, I was thinking of applying for a job in a state far away and pondered what we would actually pack and bring. That train of thought allowed me to realise I no longer need dozens of crystal necklaces since my 12 year old son is not interested. Nor the two dozen reversible purses or the 50’s fiestaware when I really just like the stuff from the 30’s. So I put items in my mother in law’s collectible booth. Lotsa items. And really even to my trained eye, there is still plenty of stuff still in our house and we could still have a cocktail party for 50.

    So for anyone else for whom space or mental health or money is an issue just envision a move and ask the hard question about what you would want to bring with you.

    • Susan K says

      I have woven in this topic to many of my posts. I think it comes with the territory, and every joy about a new find should be tempered with the realization that the item’s luster may be overshadowed when it’s jammed into a cacophony of stuff! (Did read this book recently–so in tune with the retro-reno crowd!)

      I like the “if I had to move” litmus test. I waver between being a Zen minimalist (no visual evidence of this in my house, but in my heart of hearts!) and a total vintage hoarder. I also have a tough time deciding how to donate–worrying that things will get broken or not appreciated or not identified as having lead or radiation in them. Obviously the hoarder side!

      But I take baby steps! I even sent a big chunk of my vintage aprons and tablecloths to an Etsy seller in exchange for store credit to cover the shipping.

      Two other great hints: (1) When I redid my kitchen, one of the best side effects of the long wait was having time to think and rethink how the dishes, etc. would be organized in the cabinets. I kept paring and paring down to what I really used. I think the hoarding gene also comes with the tantrum-throwing gene that is triggered by not being able to locate something in a closet or drawer without having to pull everything else out! Now, I have a great sense of satisfaction of enjoying my much-more-usable cabinets and things within them!

      (2) Visit THIS BLOG. Often! Seeing all the beautiful things, especially as they are used in someone’s real living space, can satisfy many a thrift-store urge! Also, when people post their finds on a Friday thrift-store day, it helps me re-see the many finds I’ve collected over the years that sometimes seem to fade into the background. HEY PAM–maybe that would be a good idea for a post: download a rediscovered treasure rather than a newly acquired one!

      Anyways, seeing this post makes me rethink my Franciscan jam & jelly jars…Should I keep or donate or….?

  34. Jay says

    Dang! missed out on one of those spatulas. What else would you do with them besides mixing cakes. But seriously, are they still usable? Time has a way of catching up with old rubber and plastic items. I wish I had more display space as I have a lot of my stuff in the attic. Vintage kitchen stuff – no way to show it off. I try to use the pyrex and I am always looking for more. Why??? I have to check this book out at the library.

  35. Ann-Marie Meyers says

    Yes, I am an artistic vintage hoarder, but part of my reason is I hate to see a whole era in our history just go to waste. There is so little appreciation for the things of the recent past. We are curators, in a way, of tiny museums.
    It started for me when I was a little girl. There was a woman who had a junk shop in our town, some antiques, some just interesting things. The other antique dealers hated her, because she sold things so cheaply, and would sell to anyone at all, including a 10 year old girl.
    I still have many of the things I bought from her. My favorite is an old sewing rocker. I use it as my spinning chair.
    In my case, I am the daughter of a woman who gets rid of things on a regular basis, and never bothers to ask me if I want them. I will visit, and notice a bare spot on a shelf.
    “Mom, what happened to that glass swan flower vase Grandma gave you when I was a little girl?”
    “Oh, that ugly old thing? I always hated it. Nobody wanted that. I threw it out.”

    No, of course she never asked me. I am NOT nobody.

    I collect a lot of things that remind me of my lost childhood, I think. Replacements for things Mom got rid of, or that broke years ago.
    Or things that evoke certain feelings when I see them or hold them.

    And, then there is the auction Spidey Sense, when an object I kinda like, but am not bidding on is going for a low bid, I will sometimes get a feeling telling me to bid on it. Don’t let it go for such a low price.

    I have had people at the auction house come up afterwords and tell me what a deal I got. I have a Villeroy and Boch set of spice jars that the company wants pictures of, because they do not have anything like them in their museum, although the backstamp appears to be authentic.

    I think I like Pam’s idea. Our local library has cases for people to display collections and items of interest. I have had collections of ceramic and pottery pieces in several times. I might see how I do with the little vintage moments.

  36. says

    I have so many thoughts after reading this that I can’t even put them together. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the past SEVEN hours shuffling things from one closet to the other. Some times you can literally feel like you’re drowning in stuff. Even if it’s great stuff.

    And how many black vintage purses does one person NEED? Sometimes, it just has to be about need, I’ve decided. And if we don’t buy that great vintage find, chances are someone else will and they’ll be so excited to have it. Maybe it’s like paying it forward – just admire it and let the next person have the score of the day. Well, unless it’s worth a lot more than it’s selling for and you can make a mint! : )

    My only other exception is if it’s something sentimental like journals, photos, slides, films, etc… that are going to be destroyed. There is too much sentimentality in me to let those memories go. Even if they are a complete stranger’s memories. Or maybe I’m just an addict making excuses. : )

    • Ally Cat says

      I have been a lifelong thrifter, hunter-gatherer, and at this point, unless it is just amazing-amazing, I can now leave it for the next person that will find it. And when I give to Goodwill and Salvation Army. I know that what goes around comes around, and what’s languishing in our attics could be having a useful life with someone else. And now-a-days thrift stores are so picked over that they need people to give good things, not just the new/old crap. Really moving has kept me in check because in times of stress, I can let go of good stuff—quick—and usually to friends. Goodwill gets what I can’t find homes for.

      “All dressed up and nowhere to go” has been a trait in my family. We have fantastic vintage party dresses, but no good jeans. Some of the lamps I own have cords so old it’s scary. So my criteria for purchase has gotten stricter: nothing so damaged that it becomes a “project” that I’ll put off, or a repeat of something I already have, or something that isn’t ready to be used. I broke this rule in the last year with a floor-model stereo that needs new tubes, and since it acts as my dining room sideboard, I figure that’s OK. It’s humming speakers don’t cause too much guilt, because I’ve given it a purpose that works for me.

      I still feel a protective and territorial pang when I think of all the good stuff that has come and gone in my collection, and some regret, but I have to put that ego in it’s place. Objects have a right to be used, and be useful, and who am I to say that someone else won’t love it and be good to it? I sometimes have to let the cool thing go and live it’s own life, rather than just languish away in my care. And regret is more romantic than the binge-purge panic of my firesale moments…the stress isn’t good for my heart. But misty-eyed regret? Nothing a bottle of wine and listening to the Cure can’t fix. Sigh.

      If I were more of a photographer, I’d take portrait pictures of these items, but since I’m a painter, I’m considering painting portraits of things I think are beautiful, and then if I don’t need them–get rid of them (I’ve an ochre pair of 1950’s heels that will be my 1st subject, they don’t even fit me!) Then I’ll just have to deal with all of my strange “things” paintings. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it :)

      • JKaye says

        Had to laugh at your comment regarding the floor model stereo that doesn’t work. My parents got such a stereo, with a colonial-style maple cabinet, in the early 60s. We used it a lot, and by the mid-70s it was no longer working. They decided to keep it around and turn it into something, such as a liquor cabinet. That never happened, but my mom still has it and it has been used as a sideboard for decades. It’s where the nativity scene goes at Christmastime, and throughout the rest of the year different decorations go on it. I’m sure there are younger members of the family who have no idea there is a broken turntable inside. They just think it’s the place to look for the bowl of jelly beans at Easter.

      • says

        Digital photography! Great idea! It is a great way to house the things we would love to own but know it would be best not to drag “one more item” into the house because it would just go into storage. We could even start blogs and share all our digital “finds” in our blogs! Then we can go look at them any time we want or share them with whoever we want — and we can add stories, if we are so inclined. And none of this would take up space. We could actually do this with everything we have hoarded too…..if we can stop long enough to unpack and photograph them.

  37. Ann-Marie Meyers says

    It is a good thing I don’t have unlimited wealth. I would start hoarding vintage houses to save them from the invasion of the greige monsters.
    Leaving stainless steel and granite in its wake, who can stop this horrible freakish beast?

    • SusieQ says

      I’m so over whelmed reading everyones comments and it’s so true for me also.I’m visual and an introvert and my mind is just always designing something.So far I’ve been OK because I renovate houses for a living but my own stash has been growing since my mom passed away 5 years ago.All of a sudden I ‘m obsessed by the 50’s and 60’s and the way things were.So glad there are so many others out there with the same thoughts and feelings.

  38. Ima Pam says

    What an appropriate post to sit down to as I take a break from boxing sets of winter dishes and unboxing sets with mod roses for February! That’s how I enjoy having more vintage dishes than anyone actually needs…rotate patterns with seasons, or on a whim. If I get too busy or don’t feel like it…they are still there, neatly packed, until I’m ready.

    So many insights and helpful tips in this post and comments. Good to see I’m in great company! In particular, I try to put things that fit a theme and look good together out where I can see and appreciate, packing other treasures that go together until I’m ready for change. As I pack, unpack, organize and reorganize, I try to pass things on that aren’t as appealing anymore… maybe I’ve found better, narrowed my focus, or have moved on to another collecting interest (obsession). As others have noted, taking pictures is a great way to acknowledge vintage wonderfulness without actually taking everything home. Haha, catch and release vintage hunting! Even so, like probably all of us, my treasure hunts do result in acquiring more than I need or even want…it really is about finding that balance….and being able to let go…

  39. says

    We are visually intelligent! Yes! I’m gonna make my husband read that book. My gateway drug was frothy vintage lingerie, then doilies and embroidered table linens, and now it’s bottlecaps and stiff plastic packaging. My etsy shop is my justification. If i can create two intricately handstitched dresses a month I won’t self-flagellate.

    “I have found my great love of acquisition for its own sake replaced by a more consuming passion: upcycling.” — from my post, How to Stop Hoarding and Start ‘Green Stockpiling’ at

    • pam kueber says

      Let me guess: The “frothy vintage lingerie” was when you were single. The “bottlecaps and stiff plastic packaging”, soon… too soon… after marriage. 😉

  40. says

    I echo so much of what I’ve read here. Very visual, introvert. I’ve been collecting for about 10 years, branching from clothing to household, wall art, movie posters etc etc. Love and use most of my things, and I also have dedicated items to sell.

    This fall I had some counselling and I think that in my dysfunctional family as the third child I’m what’s called The Lost Child. Lost Children withdraw. Here’s a tiny quote: “The Lost Child often has few friendships, and commonly has difficulty finding a marriage partner. Instead, he or she may attempt to find comfort in his or her material possessions, or a pet. ”

    This is me! Does it ring a bell with any of you? Anyway, just my 2 farthings lol

  41. Jeff says

    Do what I did- become a dealer! It’s lead from being a “collector” who couldn’t part with anything to a dealer who CAN part with anything.

    It frees you up to seeking out new undiscovered things, and keeps it interesting.

  42. Ann Bloom says

    I can’t believe I found your site today…this very ‘issue’ has been weighing on me for awhile. I have such an affinity for vintage items, and they seem to show up in my world in droves. What to do??
    You’ve given me a lot to think about. Your research and suggestions are so helpful! Thank you.

  43. Stacy says

    I’ve moved from 4000 sq. ft, to 3500, sq. ft., now down to 1500 sq. ft. (my mid-century modest) in a conscious attempt to curb this “problem.” I love to hunt, find, and collect, but it can get out of hand.

    What works for me is to figure out what I’m distracting myself from by “hunting” instead. Like when my vintage Hall teapot collection reached a total of 35, all on display, when my husband and I had trouble conceiving. That one was easy to figure out! Not that there’s anything wrong with loving teapots-I still do! But I collect at a much more reasonable rate if I stop and make a list of the things in my life and home that REALLY need attention.

    I’ve been trying to make myself tackle a few things on the list before I get the reward bringing stuff home. Anyway, just thought I’d add another way to try and turn what can become a problem into motivation to do things differently.

    • Sam says

      Question: if your husband, friends, family weren’t telling you that you have too much stuff, would you feel ‘crushed’? Is this guilty, overwhelming feeling of having too much found mostly in women? From the responses above, it seems the two men that responded have more positive view towards their stuff. Maybe that’s why the majority of collectors on American Pickers are men? What would happen if women said it’s ok to do and have things they enjoy? Just questions, I have no answers…

  44. says

    I was at the tail end of a house wide de-cluttering when someone set fire to our home in a random act of arson. My family was home and in our beds. We escaped with the clothes on backs.

    I did pull a few things out of the ashes, but mainly I just wanted to walk away. I have mourned the loss of specific paintings, letters, journals and my kids’ artwork and writing. Other than that I haven’t looked back.

    I own the book “STUFF.” I bought it because my mom is a vintage hoarder. When we rebuilt we made a little 500 square foot cottage that connects to our house via a breezeway. My family’s year long odyssey after the fire: moving three times, struggling with PTSD, insurance and the stress of building a house paled in comparison to the angst of moving my mother out of her house. We moved her into her new place (liberated her) and then dealt with all the crap left behind.

    “If Martha Stewart was a hoarder” is the way I describe my mother. Beautiful things but TOO D#*N MUCH!

    Our baby and childhood pictures, beautifully framed were mouldering in her basement where she had shoved them in boxes to make room for vases and planters and pedestals and platters.

    It has been seven months since we moved in and I find myself reluctant to buy things. Before the fire I was trying to get our life down to clothes, books, art on the walls and food because I too love pretty things but hate feeling overwhelmed by having more than I can manage.

    I like that “STUFF” addresses the stress hoarding places on children. It can’t be overstated. It is so stressful and shame inducing having a parent who is completely out of control.

    My mother is a kind and loving person. She would do anything for me, and what I wish, is that she had gotten a handle on her belongings long ago.

    Thank you for this post.

  45. says

    I was just rereading this post and the comments today, and then I found this sad article about hoarding being a fire hazard. It says how difficult it is for firefighters to navigate a house because the usual markers are obscured by stuff:

    Then get the last paragraph in the article: a problem becoming more common?

    As much as I love vintage stuff and as much as I am visual, I still cannot be a hoarder. My mom is a hoarder (not to the point of being on the cable show, but still). Then, my sister became one when she entered her 50s. When I look at something I see how useful, or not, something is. If it has no use, out it goes. My mom and sister don’t see things, they see memories, feelings, possibilities, protection. I told my DH to give me a good talking-to if I start doing that.

  46. Pyrexmaniac says

    where do I begin?
    I don’t think of my collecting as an illness or a fad…..I think of it like money in the bank. The way that values of good quality vintage modern furnishings have increased over the past several years, I consider my “inventory” a safe and secure investment. Fortunately, I own a large home with lots and lots of storage space, in addition to income property with more and more storage space, including a 2-car garage and full basement. Will I ever part with the stuff? Yeah, eventually…..but I have to be ready and willing to take the plunge.

    I started with smalls, primarily glass and pottery and housewares. I expanded into lamps and fixtures, dining and desk chairs, artwork, photography, textiles, rugs, casegoods, and now, upholstered pieces.

    I became disabled and unable to work two years ago, yet I continue to buy and stock my inventory, so to speak. I cherry pick, of course (who doesn’t) and I have learned more and more about the value and rarity of the things I like. I’m looking forward to the day when I have the motivation to sell most of the items I’ve accumulated. Perhaps open an e-store?

    I like the fact that I am actively recycling and helping the environment through my collecting.

  47. Hiding says

    I’m a full-on hoarder. I wish I could confine it to just vintage items. I haven’t read all of your comments yet. So please tell me what happened to your spatulas? I’ll bet they are much better quality than the cheapo imports available today.

  48. The Hoarder's Wife says

    I read this book the beginning of the year, as well, and it was fascinating. Matt Paxton, of A&E’s Hoarders, released a similarly interesting book about his experiences. It’s hard to let go of things or to walk away, especially if you know it might be a hard-to-find piece.

    I struggle with this in my own home, as a restorer, and as the wife of a hoarder in denial. I fully admit it’s hard to throw away something my grandmother had for years, even if it’s broken, too old to be useful, or neatly packed away and not taking up too much space. I have a closet full of vintage bakeware right now that needs to be pruned down and organized. It’s still tough.

    I know I saw a couple comments above about it not being a problem if one’s spouse/family/friends wasn’t complaining; I guarantee it would be, but they wouldn’t be able to see it as such. That’s the trouble. It’s a collection, even if it’s piles of unknown things. It can still stress the hoarder out, without them understanding why. It certainly effects everyone else in the house. It causes immense stress in mine. I wish he’d read this book.

    Sorry about the massive, off-topic comment.

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