How to Be a “Collector”


By nature, I am a collector, but my wife might say, “pack rat” would be a better term! I have to say, though, that I came by it honestly. I grew up in a small town in South Carolina and watched my dad slowly collect and amass more and more things as time went on. We had an old chicken barn on the property, which he eventually turned into a space that looks like some of the more disorganized places that you might see on the show American Pickers. This barn is probably about 30 feet wide and 100 feet long, and my dad filled those 3,000 square feet completely. Let me stop you there. Whatever you’re picturing is not right. Picture more clutter! The only way to navigate through the barn is by following the walkways on each half of the space along with random paths that connect them in the middle. 

He filled that chicken barn over the course of decades with anything that caught his eye. There are lots and lots of clothes found at second hand shops, and I doubt either of my two sons can remember a time that we visited and grandpa didn’t give them some work boots or a suit. I have no idea why dad fixated on those two things, but he did. There are also pieces of furniture he picked up on the side of the road as well as old tires and tools. If anybody ever needs a socket in a hard-to-find size, I know the 3,000 square-foot disaster zone where you can look for it! 

Hopefully, nobody reading this has reached my dad’s level, but I do think that most or all of us know what it’s like to collect something on some level. What makes us that way? Why is collecting such a natural impulse? Well, we think we’ve found something valuable. And if you’ve collected the right things over the years, then you’ve been proven absolutely right. If only my dad had filled that barn with vintage baseball cards, old comic books, or silver coins instead of things that need to be donated or thrown away! 

You may have guessed this by now, but I’m not trying to convince you to become a collector of stuff. Rather, I encourage you to be a collector of moments. The beautiful memories you have with your spouse and your children—pack those away. Think of all the fun and funny times you’ve shared over the years and cherish them. Those are valuable things worth collecting! And not just so that they bring a smile to your face in a random moment. Use them as an anchor to hold on to during tough times. When things are hard and life is uncertain, being able to think back on beautiful moments that you shared with your spouse or your kids can help give you the strength and courage to keep going in the middle of a difficult season. 

There are lots of ways that we can go about collecting these wonderful memories. We can write down or record some of the funny things that our kids do or say. We can take pictures of experiences and significant times that we share as a family. We can buy or find a memento that will spark thoughts of a special trip or a special time. Those memories are things to cherish. When we invest into our family life by collecting joyful moments together, we’ll be winning more often at home.