Sunday, October 23, 2005

Equine clutter

I have mixed feelings about my model horse collection.

A bit of background: I began collecting model horses as a child, and then during my college years put them in storage in my parents' garage. Upon returning to graduate school a few years back, I took the horses out of storage, purged the collection by selling or giving away many of the models, and then gradually began to build back up my collection by purchasing horses that really catch my eye. The collection grows slowly--this year I think I've only bought 4 or 5 horses, if even that many.

I participate once or twice a year in live shows--events where model horse people gather to socialize and to compete in tabletop halter and performance classes. I find the competition considerably less compelling than the shows' social atmosphere and the hobby's demographics and politics. I'm just starting a big research project, in fact, on the hobby and its hobbyists; you can check it out here. So I'm not looking to get out of the hobby.

But I do feel somehow held captive by my horses. About thirty of them peek out from bookshelves in my living room. A few more hide in a trunk that serves as a side table next to my couch. Still others are in a cabinet in my bedroom; those are candidates for customization--when I have time, I like to give the horses more realistic paint jobs. In one sense they sit neatly on the shelves, but they also seem to me to be somehow disorderly. And when visitors comment on the horses, I feel childish--as if they won't understand that the most active participants in this hobby are adult women.

If I sold all my horses except the few that hold truly sentimental value for me because they were given to me by my parents or grandmother, I'd pocket probably $1500 or so. And so part of me wants to sell them to pay down some debt. But at the same time, I can't quite bring myself to list the horses to eBay or to the Model Horse Sales Pages. Partly this is because the horses provide me with entry to the live show circuit--they serve as a cover, so to speak, for my research project, and I feel the better my collection, the more seriously I'll be taken by the hobbyists in attendance. Maybe that's silly, but it's what my gut tells me.

I guess I want to live simply, to shed unnecessary possessions. Part of this is practical: we have too much stuff in this apartment. But part of it is spiritual--as I said in an earlier post, the physical clutter in my home is indicative of mental clutter. I want to be free of that.

Maybe this week, in those few daytime moments when I'm not working on school stuff or caring for Lucas, I'll try to cull the collection again. It needs refining.

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