I don’t think I’m alone in that I become obsessed with certain things. It could be a TV show or movie, a certain kind of food, a type of décor, a celebrity, etc. We’re all just chasing little highs that bring us joy in the every day. Sometimes I fixate on obsessions in the short term, but occasionally they last longer. While this won’t be a scheduled column for the blog, this ongoing series will occasionally highlight whatever I’m obsessed with at a given moment in time.
And what better place to start than with my quarantine obsession? While others may have become invested in baking sourdough or Animal Crossing, I discovered and began collecting this particular brand of toy in September 2020. It began, as all great things do, by accident. I’d been having an off week and was doing a little retail therapy in Target with my sister. Lo and behold I saw a large mint green dragon in the stuffed animals; something about it spoke to me. It was pretty expensive and I hemmed and hawed, and walked around the store thinking on it before deciding to go through with purchasing. Before this collection, I didn’t really own many stuffed animals, especially as comfort items. I’d been re-connecting with an old Build-a-Bear since my mental health had taken a turn, and maybe that’s why the dragon appealed more than it would have. Regardless, the big Squish came home with me.
As with all things, social media gave me clues that there was more to this than just random chance. I learned that, like Beanie Babies in the 90s, every Squishmallow has a unique identity, seasonal appeal, and a wide community. On one of the few opportunities where I was able to see my best friend M in person during 2020, we went to Walgreens to look for Halloween Squishmallows. We didn’t find them at that location, but I did find two I liked and she got one of her own. From there, I went on over the next five months to build my collection.
Around late October, I realized that I needed to set some limits. Not only because of the possible cost—as someone on a budget—but also as someone who knows that when they get obsessed with something (as with my past collecting of books and movies proves) they can sometimes buy just for the sake of buying. So I limited myself to one big Squish or the equivalent in smaller Squish a month, and only what I genuinely wanted or liked.
With that in mind, since September, the hoard has grown to 11 Squishmallows, roughly equivalent to two a month (I didn’t buy any in November and February’s was a gift from Soleil). It seems like a big number, but—as I’ve point out to my Mom—there are some collectors who have hundreds of Squishmallows, or more. They often buy them for the sake of completing a collection, rather than actually liking what it is. Some collectors buy the same Squishmallow in each of the available sizes, which isn’t something I’m interested in doing. I’ve discovered I prefer the larger ones (over 11”) because they’re more like pillows than the smaller (less than 8”). And, as I said, sometimes I find a Squish at the store but I don’t necessarily buy it just because it’s there or kind of cute. I want it to speak to me.
Another part of the obsession is that I did join a Facebook group for collectors so I can live vicariously through other people’s collections, discover new merchandise to keep an eye out for, and learn more about possible retailers. I’m not as avid as some people, and there is actually a cutthroat market out there where people buy up all the available Squish (especially if it’s really popular) and then sell it online for ten times the store price. That’s not what I want. I’m here for the cute animals and the fun of finding something local. I’m lucky the Reno-Sparks area, so far, is relatively uncompetitive when it comes to Squishmallows. I’ve gone “hunting” and seen merch in both Targets, Hallmark, TJ Maxx, Learning Express, all Walgreens (I like Sparks better), Costco (according to M), Claire’s, and even a CVS. Plus there’s always Amazon or other online retailers (although these are not always guaranteed). For me, half the fun of collecting, is a) the rare to chance to leave my apartment and b) not knowing whether I’m going to find something worth buying or not. I’m not always successful, and that’s okay.
Honestly, I think this obsession makes sense. I’ve spent so much of the past almost-year by myself and I’m pretty touch-starved. While Squishmallows obviously aren’t the same as another person they do provide some degree of comfort and warmth. They’re soft and—as the name says—squishy. Plus, if you like animals like I do then it’s nice having a variety of possibilities to choose from—both natural and supernatural. The colors and patterns are bright and interesting, and I also love the seasonal editions. Honestly, sometimes just seeing the collection makes me feel better. That might explain why dragons just hang out with their hoards.
Now, while my Squishmallows all came with their own names—prescribed by the Kellytoy company—I give them their own names once they enter the collection. This was started from the first purchase, and I’ve kept the theme going where all my Squish are renamed as some kind of sweet, dessert, or candy. Because, hey, I can do what I want.
So Dylan the Dragon became Cake. Dawn the Fawn became Éclair. Arthur the Alligator became Cookie. Catarina the Cat became Kit. Bart the Bat became Kat. Jason the Donkey became Waffles. Charlotte the Cat became Macaroon. Randy the Raccoon became Mud Pie. Cali the Caticorn became Sherbet. Cataleya the Koala became Caramello. Fifi the Fox became Hot Tamale. Giving them their own names also makes it easier for me to remember them, surprisingly.
I’ve been asked more than a few times when I’ll stop adding to the collection and I honestly don’t know. Sometimes I joke and say when I run out of room. Currently, I know that putting limits on my buying and having a healthy relationship with the buying helps me control the obsession, but—realistically—there has to be an end to it sometime. Maybe one day I’ll just look at the pile and feel satisfied. Maybe the company will stop manufacturing or I’ll need to move and won’t have space. Who can say? For now, at least, this obsession has brought me comfort and joy—and isn’t that what a toy is supposed to do?