Difference between clutter and collectables

I was inspired to write this article on the difference between clutter and collectables when I recently helped my mother dust her house. My goodness! I had forgotten how much 'stuff' they have, and as I see the shelves of my own home start to fill, I worry that I have inherited that squirrel like tendency to hoard things like my parents!


I was at a jumble / indoor car boot sale over the weekend, and I was astounded by the amount of pottery for sale. Most of it was recognisable as Aynsley, Belleek, Lladro etc. These were all old collections granted, but collections they were never the less. They were being sold by women wishing to 'declutter' and make a few bob simultaneously as these vases, plates; ornaments are still considered valuable and get pride of place on the mantelpiece or display cabinet. The Victorians inspired us to fill every conceivable free space in the home with ornamentation and collections. As the Bourgeois middle classes were really becoming stronger during this time, it was an easy way to assess one's wealth - the more ornamentation and collections you had on display, the wealthier you were deemed to be! A bare room was clearly not a sign of good taste, and less was certainly not more!

As we are now more confident in our own right as individuals, we find it easier to decide how to decorate our homes. If you are a hoarder like my parents and have paraphernalia from every corner of the globe that you want to see as a reminder of experiences and holidays, then there are some lovely display cabinets and shelving units available on which to display your wares (although from time to time even they clear out those awful, mass-produced touristic ornaments that we bought home from school tours etc.!). Obviously, it is advantageous to have a large room in which to display your collections as a small room can become cluttered quite easily no matter how interesting the piece on display, and we land up feeling claustrophobic and ill at ease.

The other problem is that our homes are not showrooms, so don't be fooled by the beauty of a display in a shop window as the item you buy will inevitably look better on display than on your shelf. You walk past the gorgeous small boutique shop windows that are tantalizingly filled with objects de art that you have to have, and after 'umming' and 'aahing', you purchase a divine piece of pottery that will join the rest of the dust collectors on a window sill. I may be cynical, but if I am, then why are car boot sales and charity shops filled with this stuff?

I think that there are some very successful designs where ornamentation is nonexistent or kept to the minimum of one tasteful sculpture. These people might not require reminders of their holidays on every surface and are satisfied with a more minimalist design. So what is the correct approach? What is deemed as clutter, and what is deemed as a tasteful set of collectables? One person's kitsch is another person's treasure. So it all boils down to a matter of taste and what you like or, more importantly in my mind - what you are willing to dust!

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Written by: Ciarda Barrett (Senior Tutor)

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