Take a look at the things that you collect and answer a couple of questions: Why do you collect the things that you do, and how do you display those collections?
Why am I asking? Because finding the answers to these questions can help us to narrow down what we enjoy doing most in life, and how and where we would be happiest doing it. Even if those collections are completely eclectic (like ours), they tend to have a unifying theme, and they can point you in the right direction.
Often, we don’t really think about the items that we have as anything but that, items. But if we pay close attention, those items can be little light posts that show us a lot about ourselves and about what is important to us.
So, first question, why do you collect the things you do?
Is it because of someone, or something, special? Is it related to a high school or college mascot or nickname? Do you collect one thing from every place that you visit? (Like an ornament, a magnet, a t-shirt, etc.)
Or did you mention one time that you really liked something and people started buying you that something for every holiday and birthday? =)
This happened to my Grandmother, who collected Santa Clauses. I asked her one time why she loved them so much, expecting to hear a wonderful story about how she had visited with Santa when she was younger and it was such a great experience, or something similar. Instead she said, “I told someone I thought one was pretty one time and they bought it for me. Ever since then, they have been buying them for me for every occasion.” Her deadpan delivery of this statement made it all the more funny. Soooo, she didn’t love Santa Claus, but she did love the person who gave them to her enough to display them every single Christmas season. Those Santas reminded her of that person, and that’s why she kept them.
Sometimes, the things we collect are connected because of the person that gave them to us more so than because they have anything in common. Many people have things that someone special has given them, that they cherish because it was given to them by that person. Others have things that belonged to someone special that has passed on. They keep those things because they are a memento of their time with that person, or because it was something special to that person.
On this note though, if you have a collection of something that you don’t really like, that doesn’t speak to you anymore, (even if it was given to you or if it belonged to someone else) I suggest you get rid of it.
Keeping it around could be stifling you in a lot of ways.
I spoke to this a little in “Declutter to Find Happiness Inside and Out”. If you have things sitting around, that you don’t like and don’t really want or need anymore, it takes up part of the mental energy that you would otherwise be using to create, to problem solve, and to live your best life.
If the items belong to someone that has passed on, keep what brings you a smile, and get rid of the rest. Some people try to keep everything and it just ends up being a burden. Keep those things that are truly special to you, that truly mean something, and donate the rest. It’s not always an easy task, I know from experience. Giving away, or selling, something that belonged to someone that was special to you can almost feel like you’re giving the memory of them away. But you’re not. You’re choosing to preserve that memory as a good one by only keeping those things that really remind you of your time together. Keeping those things that you don’t like, or that you’re keeping just because you feel like you have to, can create resentment towards those items and even towards that person.
For this reason, when you’re choosing things to put into your collection, whether you buy them, inherit them, or they are given to you, choose wisely what you will keep. That way you know it’s something you will love for a long time, and you’ll enjoy it each time you see it.
Which leads me to the second question, how are you displaying your collections?
How you display your items, and whether or not you display them at all, can show you what is really important to you.
When we were cleaning out and reorganizing our garage, I found a few boxes of things that I’ve basically put on the back burner several times over. It’s stuff that I collected over the years, thinking that we could use it somehow in the house, but we never have. Finally, I made myself sit down, go through it, and really look at whether or not we were going to use it. Most of it ended up being donated because I realized that it really didn’t mean that much to us. The few things that we did keep are now in the house, where we can actually enjoy seeing them.
If you’re not displaying at least part of your collection in some way, why is that? Is it because you’re trying to protect it, you’re not sure where to put it, or because you don’t like it anymore, but you haven’t gotten rid of it yet? Or maybe it’s because you can’t figure out exactly how to display it, so it’s still in the box.
Figuring out how you display your collection can sometimes be difficult. We didn’t put any pictures on our walls for several years after we moved in because I couldn’t decide exactly how I wanted to arrange them, or what I wanted to put with them. This was partially because I didn’t take the time to figure it out, but also because I was waiting on that one thing to pull it all together. Over those couple of years, we collected a few more pieces and it made things work better. For me, it was more important to not poke unnecessary holes in our new walls, than it was for me to rush to get pictures on the walls. For other people, this will sound crazy because getting pictures on their walls is part of what makes them feel like it’s home. So again, how you display your collection can show you (in various ways) what is important to you.
How you display your items can also show you a creative side to yourself, that you may not have even realized was there.
People who don’t consider themselves creative can amaze me with how they arrange the items in their homes and businesses. They put so much imagination into how and where they place things. But if you were to ask them about it, they wouldn’t consider decorating as a creative skill.
I’ve seen people who have put album covers, CD’s, or postcards from their travels, on their walls and ceilings. People glue old coins that they have collected to floors or tabletops, or put them in shadow boxes. Some people who collect books put them on the shelves by color or size or turn them different ways. The list could go on and on.
Even if you gave 10 different people the same 10 items, they would arrange them in completely different ways.
The way that we display our items says a lot about us, whether we realize it or not. They can also tell us a lot about ourselves that we may never have paid attention to before.
One other thing I think I should mention….
What you collect doesn’t have to be things. Many people are minimalist in what they have possession wise, but they still consider themselves to be collectors.
Do you collect experiences? Do you collect memories? Do you collect smiles? All of these things sound cliché and silly. However, these collections can still lead you to your purpose in life, and what you really want to be doing.
Where do you like to go for experiences? Who do you like to have with you? What do you enjoy doing that makes other people smile?
Paying attention to your collection(s) can give you clues about what it is you would be happiest doing in the world. It can be one more little guide on the path to finding your dream life.
These things may seem random at first glance, but the more you pay attention to them, the more you will start to see a pattern. If nothing else, you will begin to see HOW you want to live your life, and/or where.
For us, our collections are more eclectic and random, but everything in them came from places that we’ve travelled, or from places that others have travelled and brought us something special back. So, our goals in life have everything to do with having the freedom to travel when and where we want to.
I know people who live in one place, and collect things that are from somewhere different. This is because their heart lies with the place that they are collecting things from. A lot of their life’s goals point to getting to live in the city that they love.
What does your collection tell you?
All of the seemingly random things that you collect, or that you are drawn to, mean something.
It may not make much sense at first, but when you really look, you can see what it is that you truly value in your life, you can see what you really dream of doing, and where you really dream of being. The pieces of the puzzle with begin to fall together and you’ll start to see a bigger picture for your life.
These things are all part of what make you unique. There are others who may like some of the same things, but there is no one out there who likes and dislikes the exact same things as you do, and has the same thought patterns, and communicates in the same way that you do. When you find that for yourself, you can take that uniqueness and figure out how to use it to make the world a better place.