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December 15, 2015

The Right Way to Collect

My mother opened the closet in my sister’s bedroom one day, probably to put away clothes, since this was way back when mothers not only did your laundry, they also ironed it and put it back in the closet, where clothes reappeared like magic. (Is it okay for me to feel both relieved that the world has gotten a little better and we aren’t expected to do that anymore, but also a little sad for my children, who will never enjoy the great pleasure of magically replenished closets? It was, after all, pretty great. Then again, so is doing things for yourself, like a grown up. But I digress.) That day, my mother opened the closet and found a stack of empty toilet paper rolls.

I’m sure there were plenty of days when she would have thrown them out and never spoken of them again. This sort of thing happened regularly enough that, with four young children, she cleaned house and asked questions later, or never. But this time, she took an informal poll. Maybe she was bored. Perhaps genuinely curious. Or maybe she and my dad had split a rare vodka tonic because it was steak night. Who knows? Why, however, was there a stack of empty toilet paper rolls in the closet? My youngest sister had the answer.

“It’s my collection.”

For an art project at school? Nope. To build a fort of some kind? Nah. To…do what? My sister had only one zen-like answer: The point of her collection was to have a collection. Nowadays, some people call it hoarding, and a whole slew of books, television shows, and therapy careers have been launched by it. My sister had the right idea, though. A lot of people spend oodles of cash on their collections, or let piles of useless things take over their homes. Her collection was just right on two levels: 1. It was free. 2. Though the tubes weren’t particularly useful in the moment, they had served their purpose at one time and we’re headed nowhere but to the landfill, so she wasn’t adding to the human race’s collection of stuff.

We humans do hoard, you know. We could probably make it to the end of the world without producing another non-consumable thing. There’s enough stuff in the world, and then some. But collecting things is satisfying, isn’t it? A mounting collection can give you a sense of achievement, even if it doesn’t make much sense. And there are plenty of ready-made, useful things to hoard…er…collect.


The best things to collect should be somewhat useful, and already exist, so you aren’t putting more stuff into the universe. Examples? Vintage glassware, like Josh at Motor Supply uses to highlight his brilliant cocktails. Table linens, because if they’ve aged well enough to be vintage, they’ll probably last you a good long time, and they’ll reduce the number of paper products you contribute to landfills (where we humans eventually keep most of our collections). Tiki torches, because they’re easy enough to store outside and you can never really have too many for a good party. Socks, because they always get lost, and if you have enough, you can probably match up the singles eventually. Mason jars, as long as you don’t buy them new. It seems like someone always looking for some, and sharing is lovely, and they’re the perfect container for the soup you take to work for lunch.

And Pyrex, which is one of the very best things to collect. What’s your pattern? My mother’s was “Friendship,” so I gravitate towards it, because it makes me feel at home. The beauty of choosing a Pyrex pattern is that they aren’t making more, so you’ll have to scour your local Goodwill (link), yard sales, and eBay  to complete your collection. (And it will never be completed, because you can never have too much Pyrex. Also, it breaks.) If you love it enough, you might be tempted to stray from your original pattern. After all, there are so many almost embarrassingly adorable ones out there. Take a look at Oh So Lovely to see some examples.

Pyrex is nothing if not useful. It can go from the fridge to the microwave to the table. And who doesn’t love those little rectangular fridge storage containers with lids that can be used as tiny plates? We all love them, and we can never have to many.

What do you collect? And is your collection adding to the world’s clutter or keeping the universal clutter a little more organized?