When a doll collector moves

Moving is a nightmare for anyone. But for doll collectors, that pain is magnified by as many dolls you’ve amassed over the years. I last moved nine years ago, when my husband and I relocated from Maryland to Florida. Now we will retrace our steps, reuniting with family and friends and beginning a new chapter in our lives. And that all sounds great–until I go into my doll room and realize the massive amount of hoarding that I’ve engaged in during the past decade. And then I just want to say “fuck it,” and stay home.

When we relocated to Florida, my collection was roughly half of the size it is now, and I spent months lovingly packing each individual doll into its corresponding box. Hair nets were put on, ribbons were tied, silicon bead packs were included. I made damned sure no harm would come to my treasures on their journey. And I must admit that it was kind of fun going over each doll and creating a spreadsheet for all of them. I was able to spend time with and appreciate each one.

Towers of boxes in the garage
Towers of boxes in the garage

mess11Today my collection is twice as large and I share my home with a hyperactive 5-year-old child and a menagerie of needy animals, all vying for my constant attention. I no longer have my mother to help out, and my “packing time” during the week is limited to the precious hour and a half I get to myself after my son finally goes to sleep and before I myself fall into bed exhausted.

I am finding this packing process to be the polar opposite of the “fun” I had preparing to move here. I long ago gave up trying to match up individual dolls with their original boxes. I just aim to match them up with their corresponding manufacturer box. That means that nearly all of my Tonner boxes have scribbles on their ends indicating the doll they now contain. Sometimes these scribbles are crossed out and relabeled multiple times. Limited space in our small townhouse (there are no basements in Florida) has meant that I’ve had to significantly cull the number of boxes I store. So this time, each girl will not have her own individual coffin in which to travel. Many of them (carefully packed) will make the journey in plastic bins. Assigning my girls to indignity of this mode of travel would have horrified me nine years ago. Now I don’t give a shit. They’ll be fine.

dolly jail
dolly jail

Our move will likely not take place until the end of the summer, but–knowing now how much time it can take to pack a collection of this magnitude–I began organizing, sorting, and packing dolls three weeks ago. Last weekend I packed dolls for two full days. On Sunday evening, I had packed 325 dolls. And it didn’t look like I made a dent.

I suppose at this point I’m supposed to get philosophical and ponder whether I own my things, or if my things, in fact, own me. And then I should conclude the latter, foreswear all material objects, and walk into the sunset in search of some ascetic commune to join.

But then I would miss the next doll convention. And I’m just not that strong.

Even my bedroom is not spared the dolly box invasion
No room has been spared the dolly box invasion

11 thoughts on “When a doll collector moves

  1. I can relate – I moved a month ago myself, and while I’ve managed to unpack a fair bit of my collection, the full deal is going to take some serious time (although since I’m likely moving again within 16 months, I may skip it). I always find it interesting to see how other people handle (and organize) these things!


  2. I agree, we doll collectors are weirdby virtue of the hobby. I have had to rent a storage space to organize our house because of all the gasp!Furniture and props the dolls own. Yes, you heard it- the dolls have more furniture than the humans do. I am that phenomena calleda diorama builder. Boxes and boxes of furniture. As well as dolls. I don’t know what I’m more addicted to- the furniture or the dolls. The dolls in plastic tubs are ok with me. It’s the tiny miniatures and all the scads of accessories. When I started building in 1:6 I got rid of a ton of 1:12 scale. I would have an equally large collection of 16 inch dolls but I don’t have the room even though I have the props. sigh. I stumbled across your blog as someone posted the link on Facebook, I know alot of the people in the richmond, va branch of the Capitol doll club.


  3. This was a great piece, but you will have to rewrite it when the actual move has taken place. Because, believe me, that last couple of days will be laden with panic attacks, even more downgraded traveling accommodations for the girls than stuffed into a plastic bin…some of mine made the trip in grocery green-bags…and nightmares! Good luck with it all, and I’m looking forward to the next installment!


  4. I demand a “Part 2” the moment you get to your new house!
    I recently discovered that – holy hell, I have about 523,409 dolls too many, and trying to organize when I’ve been severely slack in doing so has indeed made me feel just like you (screw it, they’re fine in a plastic tub!)


  5. You have such a fresh, original and healthy attitude towards moving, doll collections and their size. I just love your point of view. You make all the other weirdos out there who don’t collect anything sound….. well – weird !!!
    I don’t think you possess your objects or they possess you – I think you both share a beautiful friendship.


    1. Thanks so much for your kind comments. I’m glad you enjoy my blog. But I do maintain that doll collectors are a “weird” bunch … which is why I am so glad to be one of them. 😉


  6. Your post is a huge reminder I should be selling a few dolls (100’s) before even attempting to move! And I agree with Dorothy’s post. writing more about your experience may help some of us avoid pitfalls as we attempt to relocate with large collections. I do have boxes for 99.8% of my dolls, but that doesn’t make them any less overwhelming. good luck with your move! it’ll be good to see you again.


  7. I feel for you. I have often imagined how traumatic this moving would be for me. Just think of what would happen if a person has to downsize for any reason. Write more about this as things come to that moving date. It might be a great help to many of us who are following your Doll Therapy experiences. Don’t leave us wondering how you are doing, so we can also plan for such
    a time we may be doing the same things you are.


  8. You’re doing splendidly. At a certain point, you will need uninterrupted blocks of time. Do not be afraid to ask. Even if you have to pay someone, there will be a need for moments of solitude. Even if it’s a 3 hour block of time and you spend one and one half hours staring into space, not actually “accomplishing” anything, you will need the time. Make sure you allow some unstructured time. You’ll be better for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Agreed! I’m remodelling, & the collections have to be put away for awhile. I hate it! I want them out where I can see them, & it really bothers me. I can’t wait until everything can come out again!

    Liked by 1 person

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