Living with Leah:
The Case for Collecting
by Leah Ashley
Photographs by Harper Smith
Whether you would describe your decorating style as modern, rustic, traditional or even minimalist, there’s a case to be made for why you should be collecting. Yes … I’m talking to you, minimalists. From items as big as cars to things as trivial as coffee mugs from your favorite vacation spots, collecting should be a joyful personal expression of what makes you happy.
These days, we all live in a such fast-paced world; we want our information fast, our coffee faster and even our furniture to be delivered, you guessed it, fast. Collecting is a way to slow down the world around us and can connect us to the depths of our humanity. We came from a long line of hunters and gatherers, so collecting is literally in our DNA (at least that’s what I tell myself when I’m debating on starting a new collection).
So, what should you collect? The thought of starting a collection can be overwhelming. Where do I start? Do I have room for this? How do I display it? Am I becoming a hoarder?!! I’m here to answer all of these queries and more, setting you up for success when it comes to curating your own meaningful collections.
One important note before we go any further: Let’s be clear that collecting is not hoarding. Collecting is a passion for gathering things that bring you joy. That collection of vintage barware that is so thoughtfully displayed on your bar cart is a great example. Marie Kondo would definitely approve. However, hoarding is when that collection becomes out of control and takes over your whole house or even your life. Definitely not Ms. Kondo approved.
1. Start with what you love. We all want a little more joy in our lives and for some reason vintage baskets bring me a ton of it. Whether it’s baskets, primitive pottery or even old doll parts (yes, that’s a thing), when it comes to collecting … if you love it, collect it! If you are still having trouble deciding on what to collect, look around your house for clues. In my case, you would instantly pick up on my affinity for vintage Jesus imagery. I can’t explain it. I don’t know why, but that’s not the point.
2. No, you don’t need it. When I first decided to start collecting, I remember being very hesitant. “I don’t need this vintage serving dish.” But I bought it because at only $3.00, it was too pretty to leave behind. Now, I have a collection of vintage dishware that makes me smile when I set the table. And to the minimalists out there that still think collecting isn’t for them, everyone needs a set of dishes, so they might as well have a cool, collected story.
3. Take your time. For me, the fun of collecting is the thrill of the hunt itself, the hunt for the best price. One of my latest collections is of bluebonnet paintings and prints. I have a vision of our guest room covered in vintage vignettes of the pretty blue Texas state flowers. It would be easy to go down an Ebay rabbit hole and end up spending too much money on completing my collection quickly. But I’d rather take my time gathering less expensive pieces from funky little locales than splurging just to get it done.
4. Don’t worry about where it will go. Living with your collections is a great way to add personality to your space and show off the uniqueness of you. While displaying the whole collection together can make a bigger statement, spreading finds throughout your home can be just as impactful.
5. It’s all in the stories. One of my favorite things about collecting is that each piece has a story. I remember where I was when I found an item and, most of the time, what I paid for it. I often wonder about a piece’s story before I found it and by contributing to their history, we give the objects we choose to surround ourselves with more meaning.
Remember, the importance of an object doesn’t come from the object itself, but rather from the importance we place on it. Finding what brings you joy is what collecting is all about. Happy hunting!