The cost of collecting

Collections scare me. It doesn’t matter if the collection contains knickknacks, chotskies, baseball cards, coins, stamps, records, figurines, or Barbie doll heads. A big compilation of similar stuff often overwhelms my senses — mostly ’cause I’m compelled to add up the cost. Yet another reason you shouldn’t invite me over for dinner. Sigh.

Anynofunblogger, marketers like to sell us stuff in volume — it’s good for business, right? I mean, who hasn’t flipped on their TV and heard the marketing message “Call now to collect the whole set!” at some point during a commercial interruption. Exactly!

And so, without thinking (hey, it happens), I went on Twitter and tweeted:

Squawkfox on Twitter

The response was immediate. People connected with the need and desire to collect crap. Some people emailed about the horrors of hoarding. Others defended their Royal Doulton figurine collections, calling them “art”. One woman argued that her collection of Barbie doll heads is priceless. Priceless? Really?

“More like hilarious, and kinda creepy,” I replied. She defriended me immediately.

Then came a challenge from a fellow named Fred. Fred, not unlike many faceless humans who occasionally take jabs at me, wrote:

“Come off it Kerry. We all hunt and gather something. Open your closet. What have YOU collected over the years?”

Me? A collector? Nooooo. Never. Nope.

Fred, the faceless jabber, intrigued me. Not only did he mock my Twitter squawk, but he challenged me to survey my stuff for a sign, any nuance, of a collection. By his rules, a collection isn’t necessarily a traditional accumulation of coins, comic books, stamps, or figurines from a series with uniquely minted numbers. Nope. According to Fred, a collection could be a stash of similar clothing, a bevy of books, maybe even yards of yarn. So really, a collection could be anything you’ve amassed over time. Interesting, right?

Game on, Freddie!

And so I strutted to my bedroom and peeked into my dresser, glanced over my shelving, and swung open my closet. I looked, I scrutinized, and then I fainted. No, I didn’t find a box of severed Barbie doll heads. But I did see a sizable stack of …


JEANS! OMG! Welcome to my wacky stack of denim. SHOOT ME! I counted my neatly folded pile of delicious jeans, all 31 pairs of them.

I hated Fred. Stupid, snotty, ohh sooo smarty-pants Fred. Over the span of eight years I have spent (by rough calculation) nearly $1,600 on indigo cotton fabric. At around $50 a pair (most less, some more), my lovely Levi’s collection was busted by a dude whose name rhymes with dread.

Now, like other types of ‘collectors’, I have my reasons (*cough* excuses) for amassing mass amounts of ass-enhancing pants. Over the years my weight has fluctuated (what, your’s hasn’t?), styles have changed, and washes have worn. Back in the day I started with straight legs, then flares; I loved boot cuts, boyfriends, skinny jeans, and today matchsticks are cool. Many women buy jeans with varying inseams for flats and heels, so I’m guilty of owning regular and tall lengths too. Now add in a few different washes, rises, and shades and suddenly I’m the wearer of 31 pairs of blue pants. Smurfy.

Horrified by my hoard (which I secretly love), I emailed Fred with my results, and asked what he collects (besides bloggers’ egos). Half expecting Fred to reply with photos of severed Barbie doll heads, I was instead issued another smack down, a second challenge. Our emails went something like this:

Fred: What does your husband collect?

Me: Who, Carl? He’s German, so probably beer cans.

Fred: Beer cans?

Me: Yah. Well, no. He’s thrifty, so he returns those for the deposit. Gawd I hope it’s not Barbies, or discombobulated heads, or jeans. Letmethinkforabit.

And so I thought about it — for two seconds. GOT IT! Carl’s collector tick is different from my own. Rather than amassing a bunch of useful (*cough*) wearable items, he’s more likely to ‘save’ old deprecated things for ‘later’. Case in point:

useless junk

Hello, Carl? It’s the 1990s calling! They want their technological junk back! I’ve been squawking at Carl for nearly 10 years about that danged green phone. I hate it. So he loves it.

And then there’s this:

funny junk

Do you think the man likes wires? Yeppers. A lot of wires. There must be three boxes of wires, cables, cords, and other coiled doodads stockpiled in the man’s closet. But the worst of the technical junk has been removed from our humble home — ’cause I made him ‘get rid’ of it. Or so I thought.

Let me introduce you to The Barn.


Back in the 1920s The Barn was home to the charming Christensen family — the early settlers who owned the farm where I live now.

old barn

Today The Barn is home to Carl’s relic computer collection.

computer repair

Hello, Carl? It’s the 1990s calling! They want to know where you’re storing the floppy disks, dial-up modems, and ‘high speed’ CD-ROM drives. Crap, looking at this junk reminds me of the day I met Carl at school. The year was 1999, he was tuned in to the radio station 99.3 The Fox, listening to Ace of Base, and coding something cool on his state-of-the-art almond colored tower computer. Yes, the man was a sexy beast. If I could replicate the sound of an old skool modem connecting to surf the information superhighway I would. But I won’t. Promise.


Feels just like yesterday eh? Yes, that sticker really says The Fox. No, I can’t make this s$it up.

So where am I going with this?

Well, collections scare me. They don’t have to be branded, numbered collectibles that are part of a special set. A collection can really be anything you’ve stockpiled over time. The cost can include the price paid for buying the crap, or the fees surrendered for storing the stuff. If you don’t own a family barn then you’ll need to own a bigger house or rent a storage locker off-site to contain the crappy costly situation.

So just as Fred challenged me, I’m challenging you. What do you collect? Look under your bed, search your closets, and admit to yourself the crazy stuff you store. You could save a little (or a lot) of money by knowing your spending triggers and reducing your stockpiling habits.

Now excuse me while I slink into my skinnies and head over to The Barn for a little archeological clean-up action. While I don’t covet computer relics, I most certainly have the perfect pair of jeans to wear.

Your two cents:

  1. Katie September 19th, 2011

    teacups. I get them at the goodwill though, so I usually pay about $0.25 each for them. All my other collections are on pinterest which is pretty cost effective, though not very time efficient.

  2. hoarder anonymous December 28th, 2011

    WIth a sabbatical to clean up my stuff, my husband’s, my kids [who no longer live at home}, and in spite of several house moving over the years…we have boxes of stuff stacked in the basement. My husband purchased Rubbermaid plastic totes to sort and store our university textbooks from nearly 40 years. There are neatly stacked 4 high, 3 wide: now, who will ever read textbooks from 40 years ago in economics or finances? Admittedly my books are worth keeping of course. because, you see, I studied Plato and the other dead old white guys: Aristotle, Kant, Sartre and a whole lot of others. Their writings don’t change, like economics when a new theory replaces the old one, or improve with age like a good wine…We could ditch the lot really…
    There is also this thing about blue and white….the cottage is blue, and blue and white dishes are so varied and beautiful. Now that the kids have left the house, they won’t break them and I have more disposable income…I sense my problem getting worse.
    I have not mentioned the weaving looms and the warn: I used to teach weaving but my looms have been inactive for over 10 years. The the rubbermaid totes of yearn….
    OK, this is the year to tackle this, starting 6 months ago. Thus far, I got rid of one entire bookshelf, which got me a credit of $137 at the Second Hand Bookstore so I can buy more books….

  3. A cook December 29th, 2011

    Bowls, bowls and more bowls. My husband comes up behind me in kitchen stores, peeks over my shoulder and says, in THAT voice which is two octaves higher, “oh, look, a bowl!” Then there is his obsession with jackets….

  4. Therese Dullmaier December 29th, 2011

    OH MY GOD we are married to the same man! My German Karl-Heinz collects (I call it hoards) the same old electronic crap, including cables! We don’t live on a farm, we live in a small town on the Rhine River in Germany. I once suggested we might want to scale down from our large four bedroom home once the kids move out. His repsonse: “We need the room for our stuff!”!!! Is this a German man thing? Mine’s cheap too but I know THAT is a German thing, maybe they’re connected in like you never know when you might need it.

  5. Jessica December 29th, 2011

    My husband and I are shamelessly all about books. And we, too, have amassed a nice tangle of wires and gizmos. We’re in the process of down-sizing…^^;

  6. venus December 30th, 2011

    Pens, dozens and dozens of pens. Floaty pens, gel pens, etc. Also pyrex of all shapes and sizes. And Christmas vintage stuff..Books…I can never throw out a book or even donate it. I have bookshelves full of books. Mostly fiction.

  7. Mountain? December 31st, 2011

    My sister collects Mont Blanc pens: one to sign her first weeding contract, her first job contract, her first divorce, her house purchase, her second marriage contract., …

  8. Ann December 31st, 2011

    Moved from Quebec to Northern California a month ago. My company paid for the move and limited my van haul to 6500lbs, so I was forced to get rid of a LOT of stuff. At first I felt lost without all my crap, but in the process of setting up my new home I feel free… My kitchen cupboards have 3 mixing bowls, 1 colander, 1 set of cutlery for 8, 1 set of dishes for 8, 3 cooking pots, 2 pans… You get the idea. I went from a large kitchen to a much smaller one, but I now have room for everything 🙂 I have a Wedgwood jasperware collection I no longer have room to display so it will go on eBay. The move really stamped out my collector urges… the ‘zen’ feeling in my new house is worth more to me than a load of useless crap. Hopefully it will stay that way 🙂

  9. misha December 31st, 2011

    I collect books but having moved out of my large family home into my own place i’ve had to throw out a lot of books. i give them to the local municipal library so that if i want to read them again i can and others can also get to enjoy them. i am starting wonder abt ebooks though – more compact. any thoughts?

  10. Lori December 31st, 2011

    OMG!!!! This is a great reminder to remember to purge those collections. I am a quilter and I knit,and I love to collect fabric and Yarn. Though I am not that bad on either front,but still have to much. I know quilters that have rooms full of fabric and I really do mean “rooms full.” Sometimes it is just to pretty to cut up! But I am going on a purge in Jan. and getting rid of a lot of my collections, I hope.
    thanks for a great laugh

  11. anna January 4th, 2012

    This post was AWESOME. Not only was it funny, but the pictures made me die laughing as i read along. And you made your point…collections cost time, money and energy, not to mention they most likely drive your partner/parents/kids crazy. This was some of the most enjoyable reading I’ve had in a long while…thanks for re-sharing!

  12. Althea January 7th, 2012

    Some of us are children of depression era parents that had nothing and kept everything, because who knew if you would get anymore. It has been very difficult for my sister and I to get rid of things, because of that up bringing. We were very poor and we treasured all that we had. I hope we never get to that state again in our lives…if we do, my sister and I will know how to survive. Thank you for a great blog.

  13. jane @ Live Rich and Free January 24th, 2012

    I collect jokers from decks of cards. My rule is that they have to be free, so I can ask people for the joker out of their cards, but I can’t buy cards just for the joker.

    I have about 500 but they fit in a box the size of, well, ten decks of cards. And they’re from all over the world. I’m looking forward to some day using them to decorate… something. But for now, they are a fun, free, and easy-to-store collection.

  14. Erin February 23rd, 2012

    I’m happy to say that I am not a collector. People keep giving me blank notebooks as gifts (should I take the hint to become a writer?) but after moving 14 times in the last 15 years, I have done away with all but the most necessary, useful books, clothing, toiletries. I love using stuff up – used up all my toiletries (it took MONTHS) before buying more, I get my books, magazines and DVDs from the library (don’t have to store them and they are FREE!) and follow the one item in, one item out rule for clothes and accessories. I have never regretted anything I’ve given away either. If I need it, I’m sure it will come along.

    My only issue has been gifts – I have a world travelling sister who is always giving me cool stuff she found on her trip. I live in a 500 sq. ft. condo – I have NO room!

    I am finding all these collections really interesting though – jokers from decks of cards? Cool! Neat display options there.

  15. Harriet March 6th, 2012

    I feel re-inspired to keep decluttering. I’m a collecter by nature so I at least have some self-awareness – I know it’s hard to let go but I try dammit! My husband, on the other hand, could go toe-to-toe with yours!

  16. Suzanne L March 18th, 2012

    Pens. I get them during the back-to-school sales and can’t help it. Then there is the whole stationary thing. Greeting card, post-it notes and clear covers for reports and stuff.

    Also, I cannot pass up a comfy down-filled vest or jacket in my favourite second hand store, where I get almost everything I wear. I lived in Winnipeg as a student who while waiting for buses in the cold learned my love for down even when it wasn’t fashionable. It has to fit me though so that limits it a bit.

  17. Sue June 4th, 2012

    LOVE your sarcastic style of writing. Sure gets the point across whilst creating a smile.
    Me? I collect – everything. Nothing, it seems gets moved out! Bills from 1973, clothes from 1975…arghhhh

  18. KT June 12th, 2012

    I, too, love your sarcasm – my favorite trait in people. I believe it shows a higher level of intelligence.

    Anyhoooo, I have a couple of Rubbermaid storage containers of yarn which I use to make gifts and wearables to donate to charity. Not really a collection, I guess. But I do have about 2 dozen music boxes which are displayed in a glass case. These were gifts. Received the first one, then when people wanted to gift me, they remembered that I must like music boxes! LOL! When the display case was full, I put the word out that I was no longer “collecting” music boxes.

    But I do have a collection to which I add on a regular basis. It takes no more space than a business size envelope or a folder on my computer. I collect unusual names. It started when I read a newspaper article about Mrs. Shirley Shirley in California. What are the odds that a woman with the first name of Shirley would marry a man with the last name of Shirley? I don’t go looking for the names, but when they appear, I save the news article in my one envelope or copy/paste the article from the internet and save it in a folder on my computer. Some examples for their alliteration: Betty (Buck) Brown, Ronald Reed “Robbie” Robison, Megan Mergenhagen, Dorosey Dorofey . Then there are Griffith Griffith, Hazel Brown, Olive Green, Krystal Ball, Candy Kane, Cinnamon Brown, and Candy Barr. Nothing amazing, but they put a smile on my face. :-)

  19. Olivia June 12th, 2012

    For KT

    Possible additions to your collection. My husband Arthur, had a classmate whose mom was Virginia, she married Mr. Ham. Art’s mom had a classmate named Francis Furter.

  20. KT June 12th, 2012

    Olivia, thanks for the additions! 😉 What are the odds that Virginia would marry a Ham? Some names are deliberate, but others are serendipitous.

  21. Maripat August 1st, 2012

    Marilou, your collection of pounds sounds like it has been well earned, especially the final contributor, your son. What a darling comment.
    And Damaro, I am copying that Thoreau quote to save a revisit. Smart man.

    Kerry this post was amazing and the comments hilarious. People who live in glass houses and all that…

  22. KJ August 2nd, 2012

    Happy to hear I am not the only one who collects books, especially those I will read “one day when I have more time.” I’m also guilty of collecting jewelry and if you were to ask my spouse he would add shoes to the list. Like those 31 pair of jeans it’s a necessity to have shoes for different outfits, colors, seasons & occasions!

  23. Allegro November 6th, 2012

    What a brilliant post! This got me thinking…I never used the word “collector” but I am, and I am feeling a bit guilty: piano sheet music and chamber music scores (a whole, entire closet full) but playing chamber music is my main hobby, paper and craft supplies that I do not use as often as I would like (all purchased on sale),’shoes, jeans in EVERY size and makeup. All bought on sale, but that does not justify it, really, does it? Got me thinking…

  24. darlene June 10th, 2013

    The Fox? Are you located on the lower mainland? About to go out to the health food store and get the Xanthan Gum to make a frappaccio now! My big collector problem is magazines. Have a ton of garden ones, and some cooking ones like Gourmet! And now I have subscribed to two more so the cycle is about to change… every month a new one comes out I am going to toss the other or better yet cut off the address tag and add them to my dentist or doctors collections! my little reuse scheme rather than put to the recycle.
    And with the coffee drink LOL going to go for the whip cream and think carmel sauce….

  25. Jin July 11th, 2013

    We all have our collections of something. Unless you have reached a state of enlightenment, it’s not fair to call out anyone about collecting if you have one yourself.

  26. Paul March 30th, 2014

    As much as I have to agree with cutting off ‘collecting’, a lot of people simply cannot help themselves! Personally, I like to collect all sorts of things, but the real joy comes in how cheap I can get them, or even get them free with coupons or barter. I too have a passion for saving money and want to help people save on my blog

  27. TwoYellowDogs.Terri August 29th, 2014

    Kerry, I could (probably) write a book about collecting and (probably) should. And there are (probably) may aspects of collecting that has everything to do with SAVING MONEY! Yes Kerry, there is (probably) a healthy relationship between collecting/saving stuff and being a minimalist. Right now I’m in a big big hurry so no time to write… but I’m gonna get back to you on this. The (probable) healthy relationship between saving stuff (for later to save $$) and the other extreme of minimalist that throws everything away. (And gotta LOVE CARL for saving all the computer hardware… we had a similar situation, and finally sat down and sifted through all the old computers, cables, electronics and downsized to a reasonable stash)… We still used our recycled stash of electronics and cables to fix, repair, create new items that we don’t have to replace/buy. Go Carl!

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