I'm one of those people who identifies with the scary hoarder people on those TV documentaries, with their tunnels among the newspapers and carrier bags, little nests amid the detritus.
Well I'm not quite that bad, but I see how it can happen!
I'm not really a serious collector, it's just that I don't know what to do with 'stuff', so I end up with a house full of the sort of dross most people confine to one drawer- you know, bits of string and freezer bag ties, paper clips, cardboard boxes, carrier bags, vouchers for money off, pieces of chalk, plumbing bits, rubber bands and paper clips, dead batteries...
Is collecting even a thing any more? Or are you all followers of that zen decluttering fad? I can't declutter, when I have my infrequent and mad tidy-up sessions, I always find I can't find the very thing I need any more. Where did I put those scissors? Where's the key for that cupboard? Where are my glasses? Tidying up is definitely over-rated.
But serious collections of beautiful things? I have a number of extremely beautiful jugs, of all shapes and sizes, no real theme to the collection apart from they all have a handle and a spout (unless they are broken!) I don't care if they are cracked, crazed, repaired or perfect, to me they have charm and history and the damaged ones just show they've lived a life. Most collectors who are serious about their chosen field would be horrified by this stance, but I think the tide may be turning towards my view because it's ecologically sound. Re-use, re-cycle, re-purpose. It is one of the things I love about France, people don't throw away things because they are unfashionable, or even when they are broken. Instead they sell them at the vide greniers or donate them to the local Emmaus charity. I benefit from this ethos, as it gives me the stock for my brocante. I don't have many French customers to be honest, as they are more keen on Ikea these days than on the old stuff their parents have hoarded for generations. My customers are more likely to be ex-pats, who are really into vintage and antique French pieces of history.
Most of you who've come across me before will know that I run a brocante from my barn here in France, and this is how I'm supporting myself in living the dream and renovating le petit Manoir.
But to be honest it's also an outlet for my collecting and hoarding addiction! I always need more stock, don't I? If you don't have it, you can't sell it! My current fascinations are for different types of French pottery, which I'm learning about all the time. Faience, or Majolica, what is known in the UK as tin-glazed pottery, is a growing favourite of mine. In Brittany there are the Quimper ateliers, some of you will have heard of this, most output these days is for the tourist market and is decorated with the famous Breton characters in their native costume. But I've come across a Twentieth Century atelier called Keraluc, which was a little more adventurous in design, employing artists to
produce ranges with a very distinctive look quite different from traditional faience like tourist Quimper. The photo shows my latest acquisition, a splendid Keraluc G6 range cockerel pate dish. I paid quite a bit for this handsome piece, and I'll probably never sell him, but doesn't he look fine on the shelf?
Have you come across the Japanese Kintsugi method of repair? This is where shattered pottery is mended visibly with gold. How fabulous is that? Treating an old broken piece with reverence and enhancing it with a precious metal?
This practice is being used as a metaphor for life, Psychologists and self-help experts are encouraging us not to hide our damage but to wear it with pride and show that it is part of who we are, it is what makes us beautiful people. Thought-provoking eh?
Collecting can sometimes get out of hand. I'm the first to admit I have an addictive personality, I set up a facebook group called 'Chair Addicts' which has over a thousand members across the globe, I'm not alone in my illness apparently! At one stage when I still lived in the UK I had several hundred project chairs in my house and hundreds more in a storage barn. I should say in my defense, that I ran a business selling antiques including chairs for reupholstery, but it was at one point seriously out of hand with several rooms of the house stacked to the ceiling and unusable for anything else!
Something which we expats often end up collecting over here in France is a menagerie of waifs and strays! You might have realised that the French have generally a less nurturing attitude to their animals, and often dogs are kept outside, while cats freely roam around the many outbuildings producing a never-ending supply of the cutest kittens. Neutering isn't common. And the French can be quite canny, having recognised that Brits, especially, have a real soft spot for a homeless kitty or pup, and will take them in rather than see them starve outside.
Many a Brit has opened their door of a morning to find a little bundle waiting for them, having been dumped in the vicinity of the 'mad Anglais' (or Welsh, Scot, Irish, Aussie, whatever) I collect cats, having brought seven with me we've had a few additions and some changes of personnel, ending up with a fairly static number of ten permanent residents. I'm truly a mad cat lady, and I number among my friends several kindred spirits and some crazy dog people too. It is kind of inevitable. If you've got a refuge of some sort in your community, it is quite likely that the founder or at least the most active contributors are ex-pats. Do support them if you can!
I know some of my friends have enormous collections of shoes, or clothes, or jewellery and make-up. This is something I don't do, although when my daughter was little her shoe cupboard did give Imelda Marcos a run for her money! I adore little shoes, and I bought half a dozen pairs before my little girl was even a month old, which probably says something about my impoverished childhood where I didn't go to parties because I only had my school shoes and a pair of wellies to wear. (I had a really happy childhood though)
I'm more of a country bumpkin than a city girl, I have not worn make-up since I got here 2 1/2 years ago, and I've never really worn much jewellery at all. I wear trainers and crocs, and my only pair of heels is mouldering in a storage trunk somewhere!
Rural France is ideal for just being, without having to dress up and make effort to leave the house in a presentable state. No-one bats an eyelid if you go to the supermarket in your paint-splattered renovating clothes. Not that there's anything wrong in taking care of your appearance if you want to, it's just that you don't have to here which is just great!
So do you collect, or do you de-clutter? What's your experience of life here in France? Do you have an entourage of little fur babies? A collection of rustic farm implements dug out of your barn? Or a streamlined and beautiful insta-ready home? Show us your pics!