Splurge diaries: my double life as a squishy collector and aspiring YouTuber

March 28, 2024 — by Jessica Li
Photo by Jessica Li
My box of squishies (usually hidden in the depths of my closet), emblematic of my playful childhood activities.
During my squishy phase, I put my heart and soul into growing my collection and documented my journey by filming videos of popular challenges.

“Hey guys! Welcome back to another squishy video! Today we’ll be doing the slow-rising challenge!”

Surrounded by a sea of squishies, my friend and I finished setting up our iPad next to the disorganized chaos and our filming commenced. The challenge consisted of several elimination rounds to reveal a final champion; for each round, my friend and I held up a squishy and squished it intensely, and the last squishy to finish rising to its original shape was the winner. Despite the squishies being picked at random, somehow my friend won every single round and we laughed at the confusing phenomenon.

Moments like these were common during my elementary school squishy phase. At first glance, my closet seems to be cluttered with old clothes hangers and boxes stuffed with past keepsakes, but upon closer examination there lies a treasure trove within: a large, clear plastic box, filled to the brim with an astounding number of squishies collecting dust but still oozing with childhood memories.

These pieces of soft foam, which come in the shape of everything from food items to cute animals, consumed my waking hours during fifth grade. I used to endlessly binge squishy YouTube videos, fawning over their whimsical designs and appealing color combinations. Their irresistibly soft texture, coupled with the satisfying slow rise after each squeeze, had so avidly captured my attention and offered a sensory experience like no other, bringing joy to my days.

Through watching YouTube — my very own “squishy school” — I became well versed in the art of squishy collecting. For a squishy to qualify as a “high quality” squishy, there were three basic criteria it had to meet: It had to be especially squishy, very slow-rising and extremely soft.

Brand culture was also huge in the squishy world, and many brands gained exposure by sending PR packages to squishy YouTubers for them to review. Brands such as iBloom, Puni Maru and Kiibru were well established in the community and highly regarded by fans and content creators alike. I frequently window-shopped on their websites, drooling over their coveted products but knowing that my mom would never approve of the sky-high price tags.

Through the time I spent watching squishy videos, I identified my favorite squishy YouTuber amongst the plethora of content creators: Soookawaii. The comfort behind her voice and the humor in her personality made me enjoy her videos, and her content sparked my interest in curating and filming a collection of my own.

Starting small, I first set my sights on more familiar and affordable stores, exploring online options like Amazon and TaoBao and in-person stores like Target and Daiso. While stores dedicated to squishies were unmatched in quality, these choices still promised some good finds if you scoured thoroughly enough, and their wares helped kick off my collection. Whenever a reasonably-priced and good-quality squishy hit their shelves, it would become a new addition to my ever-growing hoard.

The process never got repetitive; whenever I eagerly welcomed a new member into my squishy family, a rush of bliss coursed through me, and soon enough, buying squishies became the highlights of my weeks.

After achieving my first milestone of collecting basic squishies, my standards rose, so I began to pursue “authentic” products — squishies affiliated with a licensed brand. As expected, these squishies were bound to be far more costly in exchange for much better quality. My first ever authentic squishy was the signature Vlampo ice cream, featuring a bronze-colored cone and alternating pastel blue and pink swirl. I fondly remember cherishing this squishy (a.k.a., squeezing the life out of it) until the foam defected.

This cycle continued like clockwork, and once my collection had developed enough, I finally began devoting my efforts to splurging on the monarch brand of the community: iBloom. With each squishy averaging $20, I understood there would be no going back in this decision. However, I felt it was a worthy sacrifice and a justifiable investment of my parents’ money, given the positive impact squishies had on my emotional well-being.

Conveniently, my dad had a business trip planned to Tokyo, Japan, which is where the iBloom headquarters happened to be located. I knew I had to snag this sacred opportunity to inch closer to amassing my dream collection. After some discussion with my dad, he agreed to include a trip to the official iBloom store in his itinerary and promised to FaceTime me to let me handpick my favorites.

From my dad’s trip, I acquired the top five stars in my collection: the signature medium iBloom peach, a marshmallow bear, a large-sized cheesecake, the Chocolate Pain du Matin and Millie the Whale. I also made sure to buy a small iBloom peach for my friend, who was my partner-in-crime for everything squishies-related. Somehow, my passion for the collectibles overrode the guilt I momentarily felt while spending so much of my parents’ money on simple colored pieces of foam. 

Shortly after, my squishy collection reached the height of its expansion and my passion began to gradually fade. The moments of sheer happiness I experienced while playing with these pieces of foam, once part of my daily routine, grew more infrequent as they made their way out of my life.

Though my collection currently rots away in my closet, untouched since elementary school, I don’t feel an ounce of regret for spending a small fortune on them. 

While squishies no longer consume my daily thoughts, they represent one of the most cherished chapters of my life and I believe their special role in my life will never truly die, reminiscent of a childhood filled with genuine happiness, joy and wonder.

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