My Newest Obsession: Return of the Squishmallows

               A year ago, I detailed the beginnings of my obsession with the plush toys known as Squishmallows: how I had discovered them, quickly gathered a sizeable hoard, and put limits on my buying to prevent overdoing it. In 2021, the obsession expanded nationwide as Squishmallows became the toy to have, collect, or sell. What began as a hobby to escape the anxiety of the pandemic started to have its own issues—even in my small city.

               After I sacrificed new Squishmallows for Lent, I quickly discovered the market had changed during those 46 days. It took me four stores to find any stock and five to find one I actually wanted to buy. In 2020, Squishmallows might not have been in every store but they were on the shelves and the prices were affordable. In 2021, more stores began carrying select squads—at a higher price tag than before.

               From April to September, I only acquired two new Squishmallows. Perhaps, if I wasn’t keeping to my rules to only buy what I liked, I might have bought more. I found Ricky the Clownfish at Hallmark (although I was tempted by other members of the fruit squad). On a hunt with M, we went to store after store with no real luck until we ventured into Circus Circus. I found one from my wish list and finally got my hands on Carl the Cheeseburger. Additionally, they had a few as prizes for arcade games but none that seemed worth the gamble.

               The community in Reno had also grown over time. My niche Facebook group—designed to help collectors find stock—had gone from public to private and 20 members to over 100. High demand items would sell out in a day (or hours). Good luck finding any of the cows. The trends in the longtime and fad collectors also became apparent. People who had bought heavily started trading or selling all or parts of their collections. Newer Squishmallows became more high demand and “rare” than ones that were no longer sold. Others, like me, started to push for quality over quantity.

               When late September and October rolled around, I knew the Halloween squads would be coming out. However, the same issues that had been occurring all year with deliveries and stock issues happened again. All I wanted was a Tangie the Bat from Walgreens. Did our Walgreens get any Halloween in stock? Not that I knew of, and I went almost weekly—to multiple stores. However, I had more luck at Smith’s and Toys ‘N More in finding the specific ones I liked. Did I binge buy because it was Halloween and it felt like a feast after a famine? Maybe. Over a few weeks, I added Wade the Werewolf, Detra the Halloween Witch Octopus, Emily the Bat, Madeline the Witch, and Autumn the Cat to my collection.

               The last Squishmallow I bought in 2021 was Archer the Alligator. At that point, I looked at the pile of plush in my room and determined I had reached close to my personal limit. I made new rules. The only time I would acquire new Squishmallows would be if they were from Halloween squads or if they were gifts.

               By then, everything had to be 12” or below. I received bamboo shelves for Christmas to help organize my collection but—unfortunately—they didn’t all fit. The downside of renting is I’m hesitant to drill shelves into the walls and I’m limited on additional space for cubes or such. It’s still a work in progress, but we make it happen. While I started off liking the bigger Squishmallows for their huggable bodies, I do wish I’d invested in the smaller ones to save space.

               In 2022, I have bought one Squishmallow—as a gift for M. She, in turn, bought me one as a form of consolation when Lenin passed. Although I know it probably wasn’t intentional because she mainly liked the colors, Atoosa the Cat is perfect because its tiger stripes remind me of Lenin’s and I can rub the fluffy ears the same way I did his. It’s not the same, but comforts me nonetheless.

               So, there we have it. As of March 2022, I have 22 Squishmallows. It is a smaller collection than others and moderately curated from September 2020 till now, but it’s mine. I’ve watched this obsession bloom, grow, spread, and die for some. It’s not quite there for me but I figure there will come a time when I will have to part with some of them. Could I have predicted I’d be obsessed with stuffed animals two years ago? Not at all. Time and trying circumstances reveal and give opportunities to try different things. Or, you know, hold soft plush animals when life gets hard.