On collecting things
A month ago in an unrelated conversation about something I've forgotten, I told a friend that I still have some clothing from when I was 12. It’s a casual fact that I sometimes throw into conversations for flavour, but he jokingly asked me if I was a hoarder and it's been on my mind since.
In my own defence, it's pretty much just a dress. The fabric is so thin it practically feels like wearing air which is a definite positive for a summer dress, though I can't wear it in any kind of breezy situation for the fear of exposing myself. I’m pretty sure I don’t have anything else that I still wear that’s that old, other than actual vintage clothings. It’s a good but worn out dress, and I have no plans to ditch it any time soon. I don’t really know why, but I also do kind of know why.
I didn’t get much of an allowance when I was younger. There were a whole list of reasons that I didn’t even know about back then, but what I did know was that we didn’t have money so I never asked for more. I got $2 a week, intended as a reward to a meal at the canteen if I was good that week.
I have no idea if $2 was even enough for anything at the canteen because I almost always saved up that $2 a week for a couple of weeks. Every few weeks, when I’d have about $20 (sometimes I bought a piece of candy for the once a week lunch) I’d go to the secondhand stores around where I lived and buy something for myself.
There used to be 3 in the suburb I lived in - The Vinnies, the Salvos, and the Smith Family. I liked the Vinnies best, because the Salvos was smaller and the Smith Family store was, for some reason, more expensive.
Sometimes I’d agonise over whether to spend the whole $20 on one thing that I’d like, or to split it and get a couple of things for a couple of bucks each. Sometimes I had my eye on one thing in particular because I had gone into the store a few days earlier to plan what I wanted to purchase that week. Sometimes I bought myself trinkets. Sometimes the thing that I wanted was gone by the time I had the money for it, because I had no idea as a socially anxious teen that I could perhaps ask the nice ladies (they were almost always old white ladies) at the desk to hold onto something for me.
I lived with my grandparents in those thriftiest years, and they hated my pursuit of what they considered Dead People Things. My grandmother always thought the items at secondhand stores were dirty somehow, and definitely only donated after it’s previous owner had died. I don’t really know where she got that idea from. My grandfather didn’t really care. He had gotten a bunch of the furniture from around the apartment from the side of the road.
The strange combination of my teenage guardians’ dislike of my dressing habit, the rarity of when I could actually purchase clothing and how much freedom I felt in choosing an item for myself turned all clothing into something special in my mind.
Over the years I became extremely attached to certain items of clothing, books, and just… stuff. I had so few things growing up, owning items that I actually liked rather than needed (and on occasion both liked and needed) became an extreme pleasure.
The dress is 14 years old now. I don’t think it’ll last long enough for me to keep wearing it as a dress for another 14 years, but I’ve been thinking about turning it into a shirt. The quality isn’t great, the materials make me sweaty, and the fit isn’t the greatest, but I do love it a lot.
I suppose, at the end of the day, maybe I am just a little bit attached to my things and the memories attached to the things. It’s kind of fine.