I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A HOARDER, of things both old and new. First, it was Barbie dolls – a jumbled collection of the beautiful, the headless, the painted and the faded, my own beloved toyshop purchases mixed with the remnants of my mother’s 1960s dolls with their ever-so-well-made clothes. Then, as I grew out of playing games and into teen dress-ups and home-making, it was vintage beads and shoe buckles, candelabras and floral tea sets, Parisian postcards and oddments of ‘shabby chic.’ Now that I have my own real home to ‘make,’ I’m hoarding yarn and craft ribbon, spice jars and jam jars, magazines and mid-century vases.
Every time I come back to my parents’ home in Adelaide, I’m reminded of where my collector’s instincts come from. The two realms of the house that are the masculine preserve of my dad – the shed and the study – are the kinds of spaces that the ‘neat freaks’ of the world would have to brace themselves to enter. Take a snapshot of the shed: drawers and drawers of hardware and tools, rakes, spades, ladders, a tottering heap of flowered armchairs, groupings of window frames and doors in peeling pastel paint, dressers and cabinets poised against walls, waiting – as they have been waiting for twenty years – for restoration.
It’s alarming, but also rather wonderful. In an age packed to the rafters with throw-away Ikea furniture, cheap electrics, and islands of landfill, it’s nice to be reminded of a way of living in which things are made well, broken items are put aside to be fixed rather than tossed, and in which personal and family histories are continued, embodied in ‘stuff.’