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Obsessed With: Glory Boxes

Posted Monday, September 24, 2012 in: Obsessed With

I was reading an article about starry-eyed women and teenagers who planned every element of their wedding in painstaking detail, from picking flowers to researching photographers, to going over menus, buying their wedding dress and booking in-demand wedding venues years in the future – but who didn’t even have boyfriends yet! Crazy, I thought.

Then I realised, a touch sheepishly, that maybe I’m a little weird like them too. Not about walking down the aisle. (Sorry Uncle Dwight, I know you keep telling me your suit is getting tight around the tummy so I have to hurry up and get married soon). But like these women purchasing for their wedding way before a man appeared on the horizon, I’ve been buying for my first house long before I even started saving for a deposit. Sure, we all clip magazine pictures of houses we like (right?) but I started collecting things for my house when I was a teenager and I first heard about glory boxes.

Have you ever heard of glory boxes? I asked the site that everyone knows is always 100 percent accurate to explain what they are. According to Wikipedia, a glory box, also known as a hope chest, bottom drawer and a trousseau, was a common coming-of-age rite until around the 1950s and is “a chest used to collect items such as clothing and household linen, by unmarried young women in anticipation of married life”.

Unlike perhaps the women aforementioned in my opening paragraph, I was never quite anticipating married life (and what does clothing in anticipation of married life refer to? Lingerie? Trackie daks?) however even when I was a teenager I couldn’t wait to have my own home (and that is why I failed chemistry in Year 12, because my friend Naomi and I spent every class drawing floorplans of our dream Harry Potter-esque castle-house with secret passage from my bedroom to the kitchen, rather than describing the formation of covalent molecules in terms of sharing of electrons) and so I started my glory box.

Left: I bet she would have had a glory box. Right: I thought these things were so cool... when I was 14.

I had a chest – which grew to old suitcases, and cardboard boxes all labeled MAYA – HOUSE STUFF - DON'T TOUCH - and I shopped at the sales each year. I bought white dishes, bowls and plates, which we still use, beautiful cutlery, chopping boards, mixing bowls, salad bowls, Sheridan bath towels. While normal early-20-somethings were buying Smirnoff Blacks I was at the Myer Boxing Day sales choosing the right casserole dish. (But hey, this blog is called Modaokon! What did you expect?)

My grand glory box opening was made all the more fun by the fact that half the things in it were gift-wrapped. Because if I buy something and the salesperson asks, “Would you like that gift wrapped?” I say yes. Even if it is for me. Then I go home and am all like, “Yay, a present for myself.”  Yes, I know you are thinking I have no shame but can I tell you that a) I reuse the wrapping, always, and b) you don’t know how fun it is to buy yourself something for your future house, forget about it and then open it up years down the track. It’s like opening a time capsule. Of presents.

On my moving-out day when I bought a house at 24, I sat amidst a sea of suitcases, unloading and unwrapping all these shiny new glory box things. I felt like a five-year-old at Christmas on cordial. My mum and my sister helped me, eyeing me strangely as I oohed and exclaimed over things I’d once bought myself (“Oh Maya, a present for me? Why, you shouldn’t have.”) There were even some things I’d bought myself ten years ago as a teenager - the only downside being that these things didn’t really suit my design aesthetic anymore, like the giant frangipani fridge magnets and the frangipani picture frame (below), a side-effect of the frangipani and glitter phase I went through when I was 15.

So I am all for the glory box, and not just for fun’s sake, but for practicality. Starting a glory box really helps young people keep their costs down when they do move out. Because by the time you move out of home you will:

  • be dirt poor
  • have to spend a lot of the money you do have that hasn’t been paid on settlement fees on boring items like a washing machine, a microwave, a gas bill, an electricity bill
  • be filled with horror as you realise how much said bills cost and how you can’t afford to blow your wage shopping all day every Saturday anymore
  • figure out you don’t want to buy EVERTHING from the Salvo’s
  • realise that once your offer gets accepted or you sign your rental lease you are going to have to get a lot of moving-out things done in a hurry and one of them will be shopping for house things – and wouldn’t you rather have taken your time choosing and buying nice, well-made things that are beautiful, classic and will stand the test of time? (I’m not looking at you, frangipani picture frame).

When I was studying journalism I worked as a Baskin-Robbins icecream-scooper and a babysitter before becoming an editorial assistant for a couple of magazines. And yes, a couple of times I wondered, if I had stopped putting my pitiful salary into buying essential house items like a monstrous battery-operated fly zapper that looked like a giant flower, would I have saved my deposit faster? The answer is probably yes.

But sometimes, when something seems so big, and is such a huge goal, little rewards and treats bolster you and help you visualise it and they actually help you get there.

And I still use a LOT of what I bought in my glory-box days while I was daydreaming about living in my own house and clipping pictures out of magazines - like the dishes, my gorgeous mixing bowls, my vintage Singer sewing machine table, my space-age stainless steel toaster. If any of you had a glory box, I’d love to hear about it.

P.S. The fly zapper that looked like a giant flower broke. But everyone knows, you win some you lose some.

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