Dust Collectors

Shelves in the living room with lots of things. Coming soon to a thrift store near you.
Shelves in the living room with lots of things. Coming soon to a thrift store near you.

Fifty to seventy years ago, perhaps farther back than that, people accumulated, gathered, collected stuff. Growing up in the late 60s through the 70s, I remember my grandparents’ house and the houses of other kids having many small items on shelves. You’ve probably heard the term “bric-a-brac shelf.” These were always well-made items handed down from one generation to another. Some of them were one-of-a-kind. Now they’re most likely mass-produced by underpaid workers in Asia. Dictionary.com defines bric-a-brac as miscellaneous small articles collected for their antiquarian, sentimental, decorative, or other interest. It also attributes the word’s origin to 1830-40 middle French. So the practice of acquiring stuff goes a long way back.

These miscellaneous small articles go by another name, “dust collectors.” Other than whatever emotional attachment we have to them, their only purposes are being looked at occasionally and collecting dust. The exception to this rule is the  small clock that still works.

I guess it doesn’t really matter if the stuff is cheap mold-press plastic from China or handmade porcelain in Hoboken. Too much of it piled up around you is going to cause problems in your life. Getting rid of it is the biggest of these problems. I’ve been told that my habit of buying “dust collectors” is something I inherited from my paternal grandmother. I didn’t know her very well. So I’ll take Mom’s word for it. I do remember there being a lot of stuff in that house, though.

I live in a 2/1 and my house has a lot of stuff in it. There’s a lot less now that I’ve been clearing it out. But I have a long way yet to go. There are three, maybe four items on those shelves I am going to keep. The rest goes in a bag or box to Goodwill. I’ll also be taking the shelves down and hanging a picture there. I’ll probably send the shelves to a friend. Will I be done? Will this project be complete? Hell no. At some point, possibly in 2014, I’ll have the clutter eliminated. Then there’ll be the matter of keeping it away. But that’s the subject of another post.


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