I think of Sherlock Holmes every time I try to do major house-cleaning.
I can’t help it, he’s just in my way. Once you’ve been a fan of Sherlock Holmes for a very long time, he tends to do that. And I don’t mean because he’s distracting you from getting your work done. No, Sherlock Holmes is, quite literally, in the way.
You see, when I was about thirty or twenty or even fifteen years younger than today, I thought that everything that had anything to do with Sherlock Holmes was cool. That’s the love of a fan for you, we don’t discriminate. Plastic Garfield in a deerstalker, holding a magnifying glass? Cool. A paperback book where Sherlock Holmes explains how insurance works? Cool. A Bantam edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles with a different piece of art on the cover? Cool.
And it begins to pile up. Once the collecting bug is on you, if you can’t find Sherlock, you’ll find things two degrees away from Sherlock. Christopher Morley started the Baker Street Irregulars, thus anything he wrote is cool, right? And if I like Sherlock Holmes, I have to like everything about Conan Doyle, that should go without saying. And on and on it goes, and over the decades a collection builds. And starts to get in the way.
At some point, you start to realize that you have accumulated a lot of things you really don’t find that cool any more. Still blogging on Sherlock, Holmes tales still a core mythology of my inner life, but who the hell ever needed a plastic Garfield in a deerstalker? Seriously. Unless you’re planning on putting on pop culture exhibits, which I’m not, there’s not really a point to half the Sherlock stuff I now find filling my house.
And here’s the real problem: you can’t just put Sherlock stuff in a garage sale or donate the books to a book sale. You’re haunted by the thought that somebody out there, somewhere, might be as keen on it as you once were, so you can’t just disperse it to the winds. Holmes events where one might throw up a dealer’s table don’t come along every day, especially here in the heartland. And, trust me, this stuff does not sell on eBay.
So take this as a warning, current and future collectors of the Sherlock. Be a little bit choosey in what you pick to bring home. Acquire what has true meaning to you, is part of your master plan, and is not just a moment’s fancy, a sudden surge of Holmes pride. So that one day, when you’re cleaning your house, you are dusting and caring for objects of pride and value . . . and not damned Garfield the cat.