Sunday, May 25, 2008

Confessions of a Hoarder

All crafters speak of their "stash" - that stockpile of assorted materials for present and future projects. Knitters have a stash of irresistible yarn. Scrapbookers have a stash of specialty papers and embellishments. We dollhouse people have stashes of little doors, flooring, wood, and other mini-things that may be needed, we know not when. (I must confess here that I am also a knitter, so I have my own stash of yarn that I take out and admire every so often. I still have hopes that someday I will actually make something from it.)

Back in the early days of my dollhouse hobby, miniatures were not readily available. A dollhouse enthusiast learned to look at everything around them with an eye toward what it could be used to represent in a 1/12th scale world. One of the best known full-sized item that fits in nicely in a dollhouse is a bottle cap. A fluted toothpaste cap or a clear cap from a bottle of hairspray makes a terrific dollhouse wastebasket. The metal cap from a glass bottle of soda fills in nicely as a pie pan. An empty jelly tub from a restaurant takes on new life as a kitchen sink. You get the idea.

I've been making dollhouses for almost as long as I've been a genealogist and the two areas have similarities. I'm not talking about the need for attention to detail, though that is certainly a common denominator. I'm talking about the access to needed materials. In the 1960s, in my early days of genealogy, you had to be really creative and persistent to get the job done. Records had to be sought via the U. S. Postal Service and rare trips to far-flung libraries. Nowadays newcomers to the hobby have it relatively easy with the ability to access many records from their home via the Internet. (Have I ever told you the story of scanning census microfilm page by page, Texas county by Texas county, hours on end, where indexes were not available? The newbies have no idea how hard we had to work back when. I think I'm beginning to feel like a geezer.)

Likewise, when I got into the dollhouse hobby in the 1970s, miniatures just weren't that easy to find. There was a corner in a toy store or two where a few dollhouse items could be found, but mostly you had to deal with mail order companies or make things yourself. If you were lucky enough to find miniatures, they were expensive. I didn't make a whole lot of money back in those days, so I wasn't able to indulge in the higher priced items.

As the craft stores began to spring up, miniatures were a little more readily available. I still couldn't afford full price very often, but when I found things on clearance that might be useful "someday", I snatched them up and put them back for future use. Over the years things have gotten even more readily available and I continued to buy basic things like wallpaper, flooring, doors, windows, and furniture sets whenever I found good buys.

As my income improved, so did my stash. I began to buy dollhouse and roombox kits when Hobby Lobby would include them in their weekly sales. I would find a dollhouse kit somewhere marked way down because of a few dings in the box. It would come home with me.

The thing is, I now have more miniatures and dollhouse material stashed away than there will ever be rainy days to work on them. My early dream was to someday have a "street" of shops. I'm making some progress on that dream. I currently have finished an antique shop, a knitting store, and a Southwestern store. I'm very close to having a completed Mexican food restaurant. In my stash are project boxes for a bookstore, a Christmas store, a gift store, a bed & breakfast and a museum. (Project boxes mean I am actually collecting the furnishings and accessories for the store. Project boxes are in addition to the dollhouse kit itself.) I have store kits for another 3 stores as yet unplanned. And I'm not even going to list the number of containers I have acquired with the idea of using them for vignettes that won't be a part of my "street". I won't even go into how many storage bins I have full of furniture and building components. Let's just say I have a portion of the garage set aside just for my dollhouse addiction. The guest room upstairs is almost wall-to-wall dollhouses and roomboxes. I'm getting ready to dispose of the bed to make more room for dollhouses. (If I have guests, I'll be sleeping on the floor.)

There is hope. I'm getting a little bit better about turning down good buys. Awhile back I passed on a fully built dollhouse on sale at the outlet mall in San Marcos. I patted myself on the back for that one. For some time now I've skipped visiting Hobby Lobby when miniatures are included in their sales. I've at least stopped buying "in case" and started buying for definite projects. Yes, miniatures are still coming in faster than they are being used. One of our last stops on the recent genealogy trip included a visit to a fantastic dollhouse store in Nashville. At least everything I bought and carried back carefully on the airplane in my carry on bag was destined for a specific planned project. Well, most of it anyway.

My hoarding does pay off sometimes. This morning I was contemplating a kit-bashing angle of the Mexican restaurant and decided I needed some Spanish-style tile for an accent piece. I dove into a storage bin and found just enough mosaic flooring to fit the bill nicely. When I found that the doweling they included in the kit for the roof vigas was bigger than the holes they had drilled, I found a slightly smaller dowel in my wood stash. I hated the kit flooring and found that I had 3 random plank flooring sheets purchased on clearance that will look fabulous.

I may be addicted, but I feel no guilt. I tell myself that the time to buy is when I have the funds (and storage room) to do so. When I retire, I won't be wondering what to do with myself. There will be dollhouses and roomboxes to build. And sweaters to knit.

And, of course, books to read.


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