Saturday 18th May 2024
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My Favourite Thing – Chest still a thing of glory

Collette Barker thinks outside the box! – Photo: Wayne Martin

Many of us would give anything for a magic wand that instantly clears away mess and cutter, re-organises drawers and cupboards in a jiffy and relieves us of the burden of deciding what should go. Well, you could call Collette Barker the magic wand that can organise a household in no time so we wanted to find out if Collette had a Favourite Thing, too precious to dispose of and she did.

As owner of Supreme Organising, Collette Barker is a professional organiser who not only assists busy people stuck in clutter-overwhelm, but provides them with the skills to create and maintain order themselves therefore reclaiming time and energy they didn’t know they had.

And Collette herself is proof of her methods – apart from running her business and caring for four school-age children she has created time to teach singing and introductory piano lessons too.

Knowing her ability to declutter, we wondered what it was Collette treasured and like a lot of people she had several ‘favourite’ things.

In particular, Collette told us about a hand-carved camphor chest inherited from a grandmother who – wait for it – was something of a hoarder. However, Collette, a Tuakau local for 13 years, had no trouble ensuring it found a home within her household.

And this is Collette’s story of, The Camphor Chest:

“During the depression when many a housewife took a halfpenny from her purse, turned it over and looked at both sides then put it back in her purse, Mrs Bennett saved for months, for over a year, in fact, to buy a much needed, warm overcoat. Finally, the day came when she had enough money. She went out to purchase the coat and on the way saw, and bought instead, a beautifully hand-carved camphor chest.

I have no story of how that went down with her family but guessing can make my quiet moments interesting!

The story took a turn when my grandmother went from a dairy farm in Northland to Auckland in the early 1970’s and met Mrs Bennett through their mutual interest in Pomeranian dogs.

During their chats, Mrs Bennett spoke of how she thought her children would argue over her belongings when she died so these two ladies decided that if Mrs Bennett’s belongings were sold, the money could be split evenly and thus reduce the family arguments.

My grandmother paid the going rate for her friend’s camphor chest and a few other items such as a silver teapot which my parents still use every day.

However, my grandmother was what is now known as a hoarder yet she realised she ought to shrink her collections. But as is the way, she had to decide on how best to divvy up the goods when one has seven children and 19 grandchildren.

Subsequently, Nana decided to give the camphor chest to her youngest grandchild and that’s how I came to have this larger than normal, beautifully hand-carved chest that was made in the days before mass production. They were often called hope chests or glory boxes and used to store items brides intended to bring to their new households.

Today, it sits in my spare room hiding old items precious to only me although it is frequently used as a supporting wall for the many ‘huts’ my children build next to it. A very good use, I would say.”

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