Home, Life

When Does ‘Collecting’ Tip Into ‘Hoarding’?

As I’ve chronicled extensively through the last month or two, I’ve just moved house. Now in my new house, I’m still putting together the last few bits to make the house actually feel like a home. That means lugging my glass cabinets upstairs to the spare room, and starting to redisplay the collections that I’ve been curating over at least the last decade.

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I didn’t think I’d collected that much until I had to pack it all up. It was some of the first things I packed up, as anything decor could easily be thrown in a box and left, without affecting day to day life. (Try packing up a kitchen. You can’t. You need everything still. It is a nightmare). As I packed, I realised just how much stuff I do collect. Here’s a non exhaustive list of the items I collect over time:

 

  • My Little Pony toys
  • Fashion dolls (Barbie, Monster High, Disney dolls, etc.)
  • Terrible fridge magnets (the more ugly and hideous, the better)
  • Enamel pins
  • Artwork
  • Theme park ride photos
  • Empty notebooks (that I will fill one day, I swear)

 

This isn’t even all of it. That’s not including the things my husband collects, such as DVDs and Hatsune Miku figures. There’s a lot of stuff in the house, is what I’m saying.

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Moving house has brought me to realise just how much I collect. Some things don’t take up a lot of room, such as the magnets and pins. Magnets, obviously, live on the fridge, and I display my pins on cork boards so they’re just hanging out on the wall. Other things do take up room though, and it’s a fine balance between things that ‘spark joy’ and just straight up clutter.

There is a small voice in my head that’s screaming about becoming a hoarder, that I’m wasting my time and money on these things as they’re just ‘things’, after all. What are they really? Am I just filling up my house with useless junk?

That’s the question. I do try and keep on top of my collecting, though. I know many people who want to collect full sets of things, such as My Little Pony toys and playsets. As cute as the playsets are, I’ve already made peace with the fact I’ll never have the room for them. I also don’t pick up full sets of the toys, unless I like each one. It’s better for me to have less toys that I love equally, rather than packing the spare room full of every plastic filly Hasbro ever made.

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I also regularly go through and clear out my collections. Sometimes you realise you just don’t like something as much anymore. That doll was great when I bought it, but now I just feel rather ‘eh’ about it. These things go on eBay and I send them on to someone who would appreciate them much more than I would.

At the end of the day, collecting is something that makes me happy. I’m not big on makeup, I don’t own a lot of shoes, and I’m not into expensive bling. Instead, I spend my money on plastic toys and little shiny trinkets. As long as I’m not creating hallways in my home from discarded toys and plastic junk, then I think I’m going to be ok.

Life, My Little Pony, Nerd Culture

Don’t Let The Lemons Get You Down: Love What You Want Without Shame

At the moment, I’m about halfway through Sunny Side Up: A Story Of Kindness And Joy by Susan Calman. I’d read her previous book Cheer Up Love: Adventures In Depression With The Crab Of Hate before, and loved it. I’m really enjoying this book too, as Calman looks at what it is to be kind in a world that actively tries to stifle kindness.

I came across a chapter last night where she talks about the people who try and stomp on the joy that other people feel. She calls them ‘lemons’, as they come and inject bitterness into something that should otherwise be sweet. When put like that, you can see why it’s so ridiculous that someone would want to do such a thing, but these Lemons are everywhere.

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Everyone’s encountered one at some stage of their life. A lot of the time, it seems teenage girls cop a lot of flack for the music they enjoy. There’s nothing more pure and joyous than the fandom you feel for a certain boy band. You love them. Their music speaks to you. You fancy the absolute arse off one or several of them. It’s wonderful, there’s nothing else quite like it. However, you mention your favourite boy band and people will fall over themselves to tell you how stupid, worthless or crap they are. Why?!

Lord knows I’ve had enough Lemons in my life trying to tell me the things I like are rubbish. For example, I collect toys, My Little Pony in particular. I’ve been collecting them for over a decade now. I have around 130 of them, they live in glass cabinets in my spare room and are full of colour and joy that they can’t fail to make me happy. I’ve attended conventions dedicated to them and made close friends with others with similar interests. They’re brilliant, and I love them.

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If I tell people I collect them though? You’d think I was an irredeemable child that needs to grow up, yesterday. ‘Why waste your money on it?’ ‘They’re just for kids!’ ‘That’s so stupid!’ These days I know that is someone says these things to me, then they’re not somebody that I want to be associating with. That person just wants to crap all over something that makes me happy, so why would I care what they think? In the past though, I kept my collecting a secret. I’d never tell anyone what I spent my money on, in case they’d look down on me.

Isn’t that just so sad? I wonder how many more friends I could have made if I’d just talked about what made me happy, without giving a damn about what others thought about it? That’s what Lemons do. If you’re not like them, then they’ll do you down, trample you until you fit in with everyone else.

Sounds overdramatic, but it’s true. Everyone has encountered Lemons that just want to make everyone else fit in with their own narrow worldview. They value their own tastes above everyone else’s, and will make you feel bad until you conform. There’s nothing to say that their tastes are better, either. A Lemon may sniff at you for reading Jilly Cooper rather than James Joyce, but they’ll also look down on you for liking one cartoon over another. It’s all arbitrary and basically pointless.

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It must be quite sad, being a Lemon. You’re so convinced that you’re ‘right’ that you can’t enjoy anything that doesn’t fit in your worldview. You can’t even make friends with other fans of what you like, as you don’t even believe them. This has lead to the rise of ‘gatekeeping’, where fans will interrogate other fans, asking them to ‘prove’ their loyalty. ‘You like this band? Name five of their albums.’ LoadingReadyRun lampooned this perfectly in their ‘The Gatekeeper’ sketch a few years ago.

It’s all just very unnecessary. If you have a Lemon in your life, don’t let them get you down. Don’t listen to them if they start doing down what makes you happy. If you’ve only been watching Doctor Who since the Eccleston years, or if you love delving into trashy novels of an evening rather than classic literature, don’t sweat it. You do you, and don’t give these Lemons any power.

Costumes, Halloween, Hobbies

Dressing Up: Not Just For Kids

Wednesday was Halloween, and that meant that kids everywhere were dressing up, ready to go out trick or treating. I was invited to go out trick or treating with my inlaws, so I dug out my Ravenclaw Hogwarts school uniform, slapped on some glitter, and tied my hair in bunches. We had a great time running around all the decorated houses in the area, collecting sweets and being scared stiff by some rather convincing witch animatronics, complete with dry ice.

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The best picture I have from the other night. I swear the trick or treat bag isn’t mine!

We had an amazing time, and I mentioned to my husband that it was the first time I’d ever been trick or treating (I was collecting sweets for my smallest niece, I swear). He was surprised. Even living in the UK, where Halloween didn’t become big business until we were in our 20’s, he had still celebrated the day with his family, complete with costumes.

It does make me sad to think that I missed out on costumed tomfoolery as a kid. I only remember dressing up once, in a dress that had been made out of the bridesmaids’ dresses from my parents’ wedding. I think I was meant to be a fairy? It was meant to be for a costume competition, but we got there too late and missed the whole thing.

I didn’t dress up again until I was a teenager, and my friends and I would start hitting the clubs. We’d pick themes for our nights, and so were always out in some form of fancy dress. I absolutely loved it. There was nothing better than picking out an outfit and putting it together. Halloween was always an excuse to go all out, with matching outfits and lashings of makeup. The wigs might come off by the end of the night, and the makeup may be sliding down your face, but you’d know you had a good time.

That, however, was as far as it went until I started attending conventions in my late 20s/early 30s. I found that dressing up wasn’t only acceptable, it was encouraged! I started putting together costumes that I thought best represented the character I was hoping to be. Last year, I even won second place at UK PonyCon with my costume!

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My costume for this year’s UK PonyCon. I was an older pony, named Aurora Mist. You should look her up, she’s very cute.

This year, my Hogwarts costume was my second outfit of Halloween. My friends had a Halloween themed wedding this year, fancy dress encouraged. If you read my last blog, you’ll know I was putting together a ‘broken doll’ outfit. My husband was Slenderman, and we both freaked out some children over the course of the day. My costume was only a cheap eBay job, but I was very proud of it.

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It’s amazing what you can do with some face paint and a good wig

There’s a lot to love about costuming and cosplay. There’s no better feeling than getting together all the pieces together and seeing the outfit you envisioned come together too. When you’re dressing up in a group, it’s so much fun. I’ve found that there’s so much fun and creativity in creating a costume for yourself. I remember one Halloween my husband and I were going to be a corpse bride and groom. I’d found ‘dirt’ in the hobby train section of Hobbycraft, and glued it onto the outfits to make it look like we’d just crawled out of the grave. I was very proud of that one.

It’s amazing how dressing up can make you feel too. One year on my birthday, we had a ‘video game’ themed night out. I dressed as Lara Croft, and I honestly felt like such a badass. I’d love to go out again in that outfit, I just need to rebuy the shorts…

Don’t let anyone tell you that dressing up is just for kids, either. I know so many adults that spend a good part of their free time sewing, glueing and moulding their latest creations together. I’ve got plenty of items sat in wishlists online, ready for me to buy them and put them together. I haven’t got to the learning to sew stage yet, but soon. Soon. Dressing up is for everyone, no matter what time of year it is.

Plus, I managed to snag some sweets the other night for myself. If that isn’t a reason to dress up, I don’t know what is.

Conventions, Hobbies, My Little Pony, Nerd Culture

Glitter, Panels and Crabs: PonyCon 2018

As I wrote last week, I was heading out to Nottingham to attend the 15th annual UK PonyCon, the celebration of all things My Little Pony. Now it’s a week on, we’re all back to our regular lives. How was the con this time around?

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This was my 7th time attending UK PonyCon, and as a regular I knew exactly what I should be expecting. There was the usual mix of panels and events that are put on every year, plenty of which were mainstays of the convention. There was a vendor’s hall packed full of ponies and other nostalgic toys that you could peruse for hours, and drop quite a lot of cash in if you were so inclined. There were also lots of places where you could sit back and relax, or let your kids loose on some colouring pages or other crafts. There certainly wasn’t a shortage of things to do.

I ran a couple of panels this year, one I was delighted with, and one I wasn’t too happy with. The Pony Confessions panel, I felt, was a good idea in theory. I had invited people to come and share the silliest things they’d ever done in the name of collecting My Little Pony, whether that was accidentally cutting up a rare pony for customising, or selling a pony for way less than it was worth. In practice though, it wasn’t all that great. I’d been allotted an hour, and there was no way I was ever going to fill it. In the end, I had a committee member come and cut it off after half an hour. I don’t think I’ll be looking to bring that one back.

The panel I did enjoy was the Cartoon Riff, a panel I’ve been doing for a few years now right after the late night Pony Pub Quiz. At that point everyone’s had a few drinks and is ready for a good time, and I’m ready to give it to them. I had lots of bizarre old cartoon clips to show the crowd, including some from the Ghost Stories English dub, the Tom And Jerry Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, and Neo Yokio. The best one, though, was the Crab Rave.

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This video features a lot of CGI crabs dancing their little crustacean hearts out on a deserted islands, and I decided to end the evening with it. I had a few glow sticks left over from the ones I’d bought for another event I’m attending in December, and so I had them passed out before the video started. As I hit ‘play’, I heard the crowd start to chant ‘CRAB RAVE, CRAB RAVE’ and I knew I had a hit. Everyone raved their hearts out to the Crab Rave before it was time for the venue to close for the evening, and I was very proud of myself. Now I need to figure out how to top this next year!

The best thing about PonyCon for me, though, was hanging out with friends I don’t see very often. I’ve made a core group of friends through the convention, which is wonderful as they are some of the best people I’ve ever known. As we live all over the country though, it’s hard to get together and hang out in real life, rather than in a Whatsapp chat. PonyCon gives us the excuse to hang out together for 2 whole days, something we’d never do otherwise.

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The best parts of the con weren’t the events or ‘official’ con happenings. For me, it was getting together with friends to eat pizza and howl over terrible fan fiction.

If you want to see more of UK PonyCon, I tried my hand at vlogging for the very first time. Here’s my vlog on PonyCon 2018, where I travel to Nottingham, cover myself in glitter, and stay up way too late every night.

Conventions, Hobbies, My Little Pony, Nerd Culture

UK PonyCon: A Con Quite Unlike Any Other

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be winging my way to Nottingham to attend UK PonyCon 2018, the 15th consecutive con dedicated to all things My Little Pony. This’ll be the 7th time I’ve attended UK PonyCon, and it certainly won’t be the last. What is it about the con that has seen it stand the test of time, where other, similar cons haven’t?

UK PonyCon was set up way before the creation of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (often shortened to MLP:FiM), and was originally designed for fans of the 80’s toys and beyond. At that point in 2004, there had already been three different iterations of the classic toy, and the con appealed to both adults and child fans alike.

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I was originally told about the con way back in 2010, when it was being held in my home city, Birmingham. I didn’t investigate it further, because I didn’t know anyone else who was into collecting personal small horses. I regret it now, because I could have got into the scene a couple of years earlier.

In the end, I decided to attend the 2012 con, which was being held in Nottingham. More specifically, it was in a Jury’s Inn in Long Eaton. Their main room was a tiny space where all their vendors were crammed in together, all with tables piled high with ponies and other pastel coloured treats. Despite the space, there was a genuine air of happiness and camaraderie. It was easy to meet people and start making friends, as everyone was happy to chat about their collections.

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Photo Credit: TechnoAndrew, Flickr

I started making it a point to attend every year, and soon I made a tight knit group of friends. In 2014 I volunteered for the first time, running a karaoke event for both the kids and adults to enjoy. The next year, I came onto the organising committee helping to run the events, a role I’d keep for two years.

It was exhausting but I loved it. There was nothing quite like watching the con come together over the year. During the weekend, we’d be run ragged, but it was all worth it to see people enjoying it. I remember quite vividly a mother coming up to me during the karaoke event in 2015, and telling me how happy she was seeing her daughter playing with others that shared her excitement about ponies. It was genuinely really sweet.

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I no longer work on the committee, but I’m still running a couple of panels for PonyCon this year. One thing I’ve seen among repeat visitors to the con is that they’re all deeply invested in keeping the con going. They understand that it’s become more than a simple fan convention. It’s a giant get together for friends from all over the country (and beyond!). I know I’m looking forward to seeing friends that I normally only get to see once or twice a year. It’s two whole days of wallowing in brightly coloured plastic ponies, a chance to go back to childhood and soak up some of that sweet, sweet nostalgia.

UK PonyCon saw a huge boost in attendance after 2010, when the new cartoon was released. Thanks to the newest My Little Pony fandom, the Bronies, the attendance is more varied than ever before. One of the things I’ve really liked about UK PonyCon was its insistence that fans of all iterations of the ponies were welcome. It’s great to see people getting together and just having a good time.

I’m seriously looking forward to the con this year, and I’m hopefully going to provide a write up next week. If you’re reading this on your way there, let me know!