Balancing the joy of collecting against the booming popularity of Marie Kondo's method of tidying up

Claire Jennings’ art collection takes all kinds. Little toys. Old cameras. Antiques. Some pieces aren’t displayed anymore, as her tastes have evolved over the past 15 years since she began collecting in her early 20s. She recently posted an Instagram poll asking if she should get rid of a poster from a show at the Art Institute of Chicago that still has tape from her dorm room walls.

“Most people said, ‘If you like it, you should keep it,’” she recalls. So she did.

Jennings is one of many locals who have shared their art collections on the Instagram account for Columbus Collects, selecting pieces that, according to the account bio, “make their hearts sing.” That description sounds a lot like objects that “spark joy”—the key to making decisions about what to keep and what to toss according to the organizational method of Marie Kondo, the author of the bestseller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” But, as shown by Jennings’ poster dilemma, when collections grow and expand throughout living spaces, the line between “collection” and “clutter” can get fuzzy.

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Cat Sheridan, the director of the Riffe Gallery and manager of the Columbus Collects account, says that art has value for her in the way it humanizes her space, provides stories and reminds her of her core values. Even as tastes evolve or walls run out of space, Sheridan says that room can be made for the work in growing personal collections. “It’s like people who collect tattoos,” she says. “They’re bookmarks or chapters.”

Still, most local collectors are like those featured on Columbus Collects (@columbus_collects)—everyday people without mansion wings for the pieces they purchase. So how can budding art patrons be curators of their collections in this time of tidying up? Finding ways to let go of original art can be tricky. When Kondo’s KonMari method became really popular, thrift stores were flooded with donations and asked that people stop dropping stuff off for a while. Posting art on eBay or Craigslist is an option, but selling or purchasing discarded art online may not speak to all collectors’ sensibilities.

One way to continue a piece’s journey is to give it away. Sheridan suggests finding the next person who will love it—the sharing culture breaks the mold for how most people envision collecting art. “I’ve given work to people because I know their aesthetic,” she says. “It doesn’t need to be in my home, but it could exist in theirs.”

The annual Wild Goose Creative Art Swap is an option for anyone who’s looking to trim their collection—or enhance it strategically. Erin Aluise, chair of Wild Goose’s hospitality committee, says, “It’s a good way to try out art, and if you don’t enjoy it you can bring it back next year.”

It works like this: Bring something to swap and receive a $5 voucher. Most of the art is priced between $5 and $25. Wild Goose receives original prints, wood carvings, photographs, paintings and art posters. “It’s a good way to dip your toes into collecting. It’s not going to be a burden on your wallet or your walls,” Aluise says. “It’s not a huge investment, but you can sit with it and see if it brings you joy.”

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