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Editorial: Buy only what you love when it comes to vintage
Photo: RF._.studio/Pexels

Editorial: Buy only what you love when it comes to vintage


Sparking joy with secondhand goods

Have you ever felt an unexplainable connection to a physical object? That’s what happened to me the first time I walked into my house-to-be last winter, a month before the world turned upside down.

I’m not a spiritual person, but when I entered the living room — sight completely unseen, as we saw the house pre-market and hadn’t been sent any interior photos — I got this overwhelming feeling that I was somehow connected to it, or like I’d been in the room before.

I looked around the 1940s-era room with its plaster ceilings decorated with concentric swooshes, Deco-style fireplace mantel, creaky hardwood floors and French doors opening up into the dining room, and my eyes started welling up with tears. I was home. (My husband took a photo of me squeezing the bridge of my nose, trying to try to stop the flow before the real estate agent saw me. Never been too great at playing it cool.)

I try to remember this feeling when I look at vintage pieces now. While I might not have such an earth-moving reaction if I’m looking at a dress or a vase or a painting, I need to feel something. Otherwise, it’s not for me. If my only reaction is the equivalent of “that’s pretty” or “cool find,” I move on.

What makes one vintage thing speak to me and not to another person? For me, it is often tied to a memory, sense of place or nostalgic feeling. For somebody else, it might be design lines, colour or historical significance.

To borrow a phrase from Marie Kondo, ensure each and every piece you add to your collection “sparks joy.” And if there’s something you’re looking at that doesn’t give you that feeling, or if you’re feeling on the fence about it, leave it. The same goes for anything that’s already in your collection — if you don’t love it, let it go.

Like many people who read Marie’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or who watched her Netflix show, I went all in on adopting her decluttering method called “tidying,” which I still mostly use to this day. Her way of folding clothes is truly a game changer.

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Side note: four years after my initial decluttering, I do regret everything from the chapter on how to deal with books. In a fit of “THIS DOESN’T SPARK JOY!” rage-stroking, I culled way too many and now have no books to decorate with. And it turns out new coffee-table books are expensive (another reason to shop vintage).

So if you’re new to Marie’s method, my advice is to not go too hard, too fast –  especially if you’re a nostalgic person like me. You might think you understand her “leave emotional decisions until last” directive, and that you’ll be fine with it, but you won’t be. Sit with it. Marinate in the decisions. Trust.)

Closeup of a white glass vase containing a leafy green houseplant next to a hardcover book with a blue texted pattern and red elements.
Milk glass vase from Seasons in Creemore. Photo: The Vintage Seeker

“You’re more likely to hold onto pieces that you truly love, or find new ways to make them work.”

Anyway, all this to say, try applying Marie’s mantra to how you shop (unless you are amassing a true collection of something, in which case ignore most of what I say in this post).

My Instagram feed is filled with gorgeous furniture, clothes and other objects. I love a lot of it at first sight. But you need to be able to edit.

Not to mention you only have what your spending budget allows. So only seek the things you feel that connection with. Only seek the things that “spark joy.” You need to be able to picture how it will fit into your life, and more importantly, how you are going to use it.

Buying only what you love helps to reduce waste within your own life, too. You’re more likely to hold onto pieces that you truly love, or find new ways to make them work. And as you keep up with your “tidying” maintenance, regularly evaluate what you have and donate what you no longer love. The cycle of vintage continues!

You’ll find that as you keep practicing this, your personal style naturally develops. Now, my approach is much less get-rid-of-everything-you-own and more…Marie-meets-maximalism. Sorry, Marie. But if it sparks joy and I can afford it, it’s in.

Keep it tidy, but make it you.

How do you buy only what you love? Let us know in the comments!

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