Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why I Don't Collect Stuff ... Except for When I Do

Like most people, I have a number of mementos that are somewhat significant to me. But honestly, I have never quite understood the collector mentality. It's not that I never appreciate collections people have accumulated; I just haven't been able to adequately fathom the inner pull they feel to collect.

I'm not talking about unplanned collections. I have plenty of that kind of thing. Some of it is stuff I hold onto with the thought that it might come in handy someday. Of course, when those rare days arrive, even more rare are the times that I can locate the item I supposedly have stashed away for just such an occasion. Other collections accumulate simply because I have yet to muster sufficient industry to donate or throw the stuff out.

It's the purposeful collections that intrigue me. This Wikipedia article says, "Collections allow people to relive their childhood, connect themselves to a period in history or time they feel strongly about, to ease insecurity and anxiety about losing a part of themselves, and to keep the past present." We can trust this commentary because we all know that everything Wikipedia says is the absolute truth.

As a kid I was impressed by my aunt's curio cabinet that was filled with numerous interesting salt and pepper shakers that she had acquired over the years. I could spend oodles of time just gazing at the quirky cornucopia whenever we visited. Which was probably a good thing, because there wasn't much else to do in the small town on the windswept Wyoming plains where she lived.

Although I was fascinated by the salt and pepper shaker collection, part of me couldn't help but think of it as just so much junk taking up space in her cramped home. The utilitarian part of my brain figured that nobody would ever use the things for their supposed main purpose anyway.

During my teen years I became very active in Scouting. Most know that patch collecting has played a significant role in Scouting since the early years of the movement. At one point I started to recognize that patches had varying values depending on supply and demand. I collected a number of patches during my teen and young adult years. And then the patches sat in a drawer.

I have continued to get more patches over the years of my Scouting involvement, but each patch has had decreasing meaning for me. I have attended and volunteered at so many Scouting events that it all kind of blurs together. A friend of mine tells me that he keeps patches to remind him of events and people. Oddly, very few patches do that for me. So I don't do much in the way of patch collecting anymore. I have given away most of the patches I once owned.

Over the years I have received a number of framed Scouting honors. I suppose I could display this collection on the wall of my office. But instead the awards are stashed in boxes in the crawl space. While it is nice to be honored, I don't participate in Scouting for the honors. I do it with the hope that my service will end up helping young men the way I was helped by the Scouting program during my youth — kind of a pay-it-forward approach.

A friend of mine collects historical Scouting memorabilia. He is stunned by some of the "historical" stuff that I have allowed to escape my grasp. "You don't throw away history," he says. "History helps us know where we came from and who we are." I understand this sentiment, but I just can't bring myself to do the collection thing.

It's not that I have no collections of historical stuff. On the other hand, our 35-year-old hand-me-down freeze dried food storage might fail to qualify as a useful historical collection. Maybe it just takes more time. Give it another 200 years and it might have archaeological value.

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