Writer’s Notes: Collecting “Things”

Why do we collect stuff?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, what with my recent decision to collect Smurfs (anyone have an Astronaut Smurf sitting around you’d like to donate to the cause?), my desire to add to my stamp collection again, and the hall closet full of yarn that I really should empty out. Once I started really thinking about collections, I was kind of surprised to realize all the stuff I *already* have collections of, even if those collections aren’t currently active.  

Humans collect stuff. Humans who collect *everything* are hoarders, but that’s not what I’m talking about, really…I’m more referring to the desire to have a “set” of something – anything. I would bet that even minimalists have a collection of something, even if it’s just a box of old letters they keep under the bed or in the top of a closet. There are those rare individuals who like to live light, and keep only what they can carry, but who knows? Maybe even they have a collection of some sort, even if it’s just cool rocks picked up on their journey.

In any case, a simple google search for “why do we collect stuff” yields a whole host of possible answers, including things like:

– Collections shape our identity
– Collections are “social proof” for an identity we want to cultivate (basically, we use them for branding ourselves)
– Collections can give us a little jolt of the “good” brain chemicals (dopamine) when we add to them or interact with them.
– They give us a sense of security and control
– They represent something or someone in our past
– They represent topics that interest us
– They are things that simply make us happy to look at/own

I think all of those are very valid – some apply more than others, depending on the person and collection. It’s probably a combination of reasons for most people – I know several of those reasons cited apply to me (and really, is there any better feeling than adding a new piece – even better if it was hard to find – to a collection?).

I’ll admit, before now I never really thought much about what a person’s collections said about them, aside from the fact that I assume they enjoy and usually study what they collect. Either that, or someone started giving them something, and it just became a “thing” – I have one or two of those as well. But really, all collections say something about those who keep them, and I’ll be paying closer attention from now on. You never know when something like that might be useful in a story…

What do you collect? And more importantly, what do you think your collection(s) say about you?


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One comment on “Writer’s Notes: Collecting “Things”

  1. Carol

    I used to collect unicorns but stopped when they started getting too cutesy. I have a small collection of Night Fairies and at one time wanted the whole set, but they’re too darned expensive and a pain in the butt to dust. I guess my best collection is dragons – I can’t really say I will ever have a complete set, but I have some very unique dragons in my collection.

    What do my collections say about me? That I’m a dreamer and like to use my imagination. 🙂