Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Disney Collector's Lament

Still life with Disney books, Orange Birds,
Mary Blair, Oswald, Big Al, singamajigs,
headscratcher and Whatnot Muppets.
Tom and I have been watching a lot of Hoarders lately. We can’t help it. A marathon aired before the new season got started and we spent one of our precious days off together on the couch, consuming episode after episode ravenously. I think there is a unique combination of factors that has lead to our (and America’s) love of this show. We feel grateful that we are not like the people being documented, and yet we see tiny bits of ourselves reflected in them. We feel a sense of schadenfreude and at the same time are uplifted when progress is made. We cheer them on and judge them simultaneously. This show and others like it (Intervention, Heavy) fascinate me to absolutely no end.

This last marathon, however, has mostly served as a motivator to get me to take a look at my own clutter.  As Tom and I are preparing for our big move out of the NYC, I am taking a more critical look at my own (in)famous hoarding tendencies and trying to purge our apartment of detritus here and there so that we aren’t overwhelmed in a few months. The last thing we need is to be forced to move a pile of unnecessary junk across the country.

Duane Reade shopping bags have been filled with books that I am slowly admitting to myself that I will never get around to reading and so will soon stick the shelves of the Strand. (So long, Anna Karenina.) Trash bags full of clothes have been lugged to the local charity store. (Bye-bye vintage shirts from my high school Goodwill scavenging days.) Progress is being made, slowly but surely. It has been surprisingly easy to let go of stuff, which is nothing short of a miracle and a testament to my excitement surrounding the imminent move.

I have a predilection for park vinyl.
I see a lot of negotiation in the next couple of months as I try to whittle almost ten years of acquirements down to a manageable haul. Mostly, it will be the media that will be a bit of a challenge. I have hundreds of CDs, DVDs and books that I need to devise a plan for. In this digital age, the CDs should be a snap, right? Just rip them onto my computer, store them in the cloud and rid myself of the bulky discs. Unfortunately, I am an old fogey who, after losing my hard drive many times over the years, is leery of abandoning the piece of plastic where the information is tangibly stored. I am also a dork who enjoys having such things as artwork and liner notes.

The DVDs and books, however, can’t all be stored on a machine. I am a bit crushed under the weight of the fact that I will quite possibly not get around to reading every word and watching every frame, but I am a man who needs options. One day I might turn around and realize that I want nothing more than to watch that American Gladiators DVD or read that important gay novel from the seventies. I don’t know if I can deal with the regret knowing that I had them and got rid of them, especially when I got most of them used and dirt cheap while braving the labyrinthine jungles of used book and/or DVD and/or CD stores. Bargain shopping for this stuff is the closest I’ll ever get to participation in a sport and I could be a major league player.

Florence and Adele watch over
my Disney CDs.
Possibly above all else, I like the aesthetic value of spines lined up on a shelf. When you are invited to someone’s place for the first time, what is one of the first things you inevitably do? You take a glance at someone’s collections to glean information. It allows you to bond over your shared love of obscure cast albums, connect over your hilariously curated coffee table books, and strike up a conversation about your extensive selection of amazing TV shows on disc. And it gives me great joy to be able to say, “Yes! Of course you can borrow my copy of Hey Dude! I’m so glad that you love it too! Did you know season two is finally coming out soon?” It’s a way to instantly suss out what you have in common with someone else.

The problem in New York City has, of course, become a matter of space. I don’t have space for enough shelves to make everything I have easily accessible. My CDs used to have some semblance of alphabetization going on, but once their dedicated spaced was filled, they started to stack on the floor in an out-of-the-way corner. DVD genres are somewhat separated, with children’s movies and anything made before 1980 in an Ikea cabinet near the bathroom door and Christmas movies and music in the couch (which has storage space under the seats). The catch 22 is that though we will have more space wherever we move, getting all of this stuff there will be a trial. So downsizing is inevitable, with one very notable exception. Can you guess what is non-negotiable? That’s right. My Disney stuff.

Top two shelves are Disney.
Yeah. They're three deep.
As I have mentioned before, I am a little bit late to the Disney enthusiast game. Most of my accumulated Disneyana has been hunted and gathered over the course of the last two to three years. I have shelves dedicated to my Disney books, a few to my Disney DVDs and Blu-rays (with the fifty animated classics separated and in chronological order waiting patiently for my DATE Nights with them), and a space reserved for my Disney CDs. My small collection of Disney vinyl decorates a wall while other souvenirs, such as lanyards stocked with pins, selected plush and very, very selected Vinylmation dot the apartment here and there. I have been a very busy beaver.

It’s been both an exercise in frustration and exhilarating beyond belief to build my Disney collection. There are elusive items that have become hard to find at anywhere near a reasonable price, like the Dr. Syn Walt Disney Treasures DVD or Disneyland: The Nickel Tour. As much as I want to get my mitts on them, I cannot justify plunking down hundreds of dollars for the bragging rights of calling them mine. It’s all balanced, however, by the amazing feeling I get when I finally find a coveted piece, make that winning bid or click buy, see it beckoning to me from my doorstep after delivery. It’s an undeniable high when I rip through the packaging, revealing the Polly soundtrack or The Colors of Mary Blair Japanese exhibition book.

Animated classics on top, Walt Disney Treasures on
the bottom, Bullwhip Griffin on the telly.
Blu-rays out of frame.
Even the less momentous buys are always fun. Few things give me as much pleasure as flipping through a Disney Park souvenir book that I found for a dollar plus shipping on Amazon, laughing at the out-of-date clothing on display, dreaming about my next trip, and discovering the changes, both subtle and substantial, that are a part of the DNA of the ever-changing parks. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I won it for a buck on eBay, I would have never been privy to the soothing twang of Rex Allen’s Yellowstone Cubs narration. And I certainly would have never invested in music from Selena Gomez or Miley Cyrus has it not been relegated to dollar bin at my favorite NYC used media joint (Book Off in midtown).

Our lanyards and pins.
As we take stock of what is making the journey from the Northeast with us, it is not even up for discussion whether my Disney stuff is coming along. Tom has contributed a few items to it himself, like our Art of Mulan book and what may be my favorite piece- a stretching portrait from the Haunted Mansion, an attraction that holds a very special place in our hearts. When he moved east from California, he left everything he couldn’t fit into a couple of suitcases behind. After giving away the majority of his possessions, I think he’s kind of excited to get some of them back through me. Not only does he know it wouldn’t be wise to try to get me to let go of the Disney, he wants to keep it within his own reach as well.

So why, you ask, will we be taking our own personal Disney mountain along with us? First and foremost, Disney makes us both blissfully happy. I found Tom soon after my interest in Disney took off. From our first date, one of the things we most connected over was our mutual love of all things created in the House of Mouse. He has seen me through the creation of this blog, which has become an important outlet for me. From our trips to the parks, to watching the films, to our times bantering in Kathryn Beaumont or Hayley Mills voices, Disney has been one of the constant threads in the tapestry of our shared life. It doesn’t define us, to be sure, but it’s a slice of our experience together that is precious to us.
The stretching room portrait
above Tom's keyboard.
This move is going to be huge for me. It will be the first time I have moved in almost nine years, when I moved to New York City from Tallahassee. Over that near decade I have (arguably) grown into an adult. Along with adulthood has come a bevy of things that have been heaped onto the two suitcases I arrived here with. For a long time these objects gave me a sense of consistency. They made me feel like I had laid claim to a space of my own where I belonged. Now that I’m married to the most amazing man in the world, anywhere that I go I know that I will feel loved unconditionally. As Barbra might say, “Any place I hang my hat is home.” As long as Tom is there, that is. I don’t need a plethora of possessions when what is essential will always be by my side. So as we look forward to a new beginning, we shed what weighs us down, keep close the things that bring us joy, and start our own mutual collection- of memories, experiences and things alike. No doubt, more than a few will involve Disney in some way or other. Let the memories begin.


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this one, lovey. (Not that I don't enjoy them all) I purge much of my own clutter when the need arises, but I NEVER even think of parting with anything Disney! :)

  2. I can totally relate to your challenge here. James and I will also be moving somewhere within the year and everytime I acquire a new vinylmation (last weekend) or mug (2 this weekend), I'm like shit. Where the hell am I going to put this stuff? We have no idea what type of size anything we will be moving into and I am constantly thinking, okay... what do I NEED? It's horrible. I want everything or I want a Mary Poppins bag so it makes it easier to move. Blah. I love your Muppets btw. James and I are going to go make one soon (it's my Christmas present) and I can't wait.

    Wishing you luck my dear! Let's grab a drink or something soon?