Collector or Keeper? 3 Ways to Tell the Difference

Guess what.

When I was growing up, I collected souvenir spoons. When I was in my twenties, I collected shot glasses. By the time I got married those two collections were long gone. Now my passion is Christmas tree ornaments.

As a professional organizer, I meet a lot of self-proclaimed collectors. I am here to tell you — respectfully —  that there are a lot more keepers than collectors out there. So,What’s the difference?, you ask. Well . . .

  1. Collectors display their collections. They take a tremendous amount of pride in what they have amassed, and welcome every opportunity to show it off.
  2. Collectors know the history of their stash. For example, the new colour introduced in 1971. Which company first produced a model steam engine. And how much steel, zinc, aluminum or plastic was used in each model across the decades and continents.
  3. Collectors know the value of what they’ve got. When you are actively expanding your collection or trading pieces, you attend the pop-up shows, have your favourite supplier’s phone number programmed into your phone, and are frequently engaging with people who share an interest in your collection, because they collect the same thing. There’s no assuming your collection is valuable, just because it’s been around for a while.

I realize that not every collection will have all of the above. Take my Christmas tree ornaments. I don’t know anything about how they were made. But I do genuinely enjoy unpacking them every year, and as I hang them on the tree with my family, reminiscing about the person who gave us an ornament, or where we were vacationing when I bought an ornament.

My collection is part of my life, if only once a year. Is your collection part of your life, or just stuff taking up space?