Wednesday, January 24, 2007


This year I am deaccessioning, an obscure word I really like to say. I don't use big words just for the sake of using them. I either like the way they roll around in my mouth, or they mean exactly what I want them to. As Mark Twain said, "The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

Deaccessioning is something that museums do--they take things out of the bowels of their collection, sell them, then use the money to buy more things. It can be fairly controversial. If you have LexisNexis, run a news search for "deaccession" and read some of the vicious public snipes between museum curators and their boards.

Here's how my deaccessioning works. When I get up in the morning, I select a knitted scarf or some other item that I like but don't love. I wear it around all day, and when someone compliments me on it, I present it to her right then and there. Lovely surprise. You've purged; she's acquired. Happy feelings all around.

Years ago, we used to have clothing swaps where we would all clean our closets, make a big pile on the floor and go home with whatever we liked. It's so much easier to let go of something if you know it's going to someone who will like it, rather than to Goodwill. You dig deeper, purge more.

Technically, I'm not truly deaccessioning in that I'm not selling anything and I'm not trying to acquire new things. Unlike the clothing swap, my goal is not to go home with a big bag of stuff. Again, it's just that as a hoarder collector I like the word "deaccessioning." Plus, the things I'm deaccessioning are accessories, and the pun amuses me.

My first deaccession was to my friend Megan, who now has a minty mohair lace scarf. The first one was hard; in order to present the scarf enticingly, I had found the perfect shirt to pair it with. It was a combination I'd never thought of before, and had I found it earlier, I might have loved the scarf more. I also had trouble convincing her that I was serious.

Megan also got my second deaccession, my Tibet Silk mitts, which had fuzzed and made me feel like I had fat hands. They're nice mitts, but not me.

I tried unsuccessfully for about two weeks to deaccession a self-striping blue fuzzy scarf. Part of the problem was that I didn't leave the house much. It's hard to deaccession to the cats. When I did go out, no one expressed admiration. Fun fur is definitely on the way out. I've given up on that one for a bit.

The next test has been deaccessioning to people I'm not particularly fond of. I don't mean an enemy, but definitely not a dear friend (she said laconically). I've passed that test so far, with a brown angora beret (details of color, fiber, and clothing changed to protect the feelings of said recipient).

If you decide to try deaccessioning, here are the rules and a few warnings.

  • you should present the item at the point of compliment.
  • you are not required to give away anything you truly love.
  • you are not required to give away to anyone you truly loathe, although it may be good for both of you.


  • First, your friends will get paranoid about complimenting you.
  • Second, your friends may take up the goal themselves. While in NYC, I complimented my friend Christina on her gorgeous purple paisley pashmina stole; it's around my neck now as I type. I love it. I love it so much, I haven't taken it off long enough to try a further round of deaccessioning.
  • Finally, I do not recommend deaccessioning essential articles of clothing like shirts or pants. No point in getting arrested.

If you're successful, please leave a comment with your stories. I'd love to hear them. You will not miss these things, I promise.


Larry said...

I liked this post! I should "deaccession" superfluous books I have!

djeh_b said...

I leave magazines in waiting rooms. I've taken books & CDs to dances and made a sign that simply said "Free--Help Yourself." I almost never have to take anything back home.