In which I collect things

As recent readers are aware, I recently swapped out desks.  Doing so gave me a chance to sort through my top desk drawer.

Drawer packed full of pens

This doesn’t really give an idea of the sheer *depth* of pens. I cannot fit the loose pens in the back into one fistful. That is at least two fistfuls of pens, not counting the pens in the front or the ones in packaging.

It turns out that I have a lot of pens.  I mean a LOT.  Jetpens during the pandemic is definitely part of the problem.  Trying to find the perfect pen for Postcards to Voters (Pilot Multiball, btw), and also starting a paper planner on nice Moleskine paper, these also contributed.

Pens I actually use (mostly just the Clena and Pilot G2, but the rest are useful for occasional planner stuff).

But before pens, it was hand sanitizer.  And masks.  I have more of either than I will ever use (though I did manage to give away a lot of the excess masks– I hope fancy hand sanitizer will still work as a class prize Fall semester…).

Lots of hand sanitizer.

Remember the ‘tizer.

I think I just have a problem!

I was talking to my friend who has a candle problem and asked what I should collect now that I owned all the hand sanitizer in the world and certainly did not need any more pens (and I’m allergic to candles and a lot of kinds of makeup).  It turns out that at some point in my life I have collected almost everything she suggested.

Purses:  that stopped in college when I lost all my IDs by leaving my purse in a classroom.
Shoes: I have not collected these but I am super picky and have to try them on.
Cat Decor: I did this most of elementary/middle school.
Video games: DH collects these and has more than he will ever be able to play.
Jewelry: I stopped this in middle school after my sister destroyed all of my necklaces and I was sad.
Dolls: My sister collected these. I had two.  This was another thing of mine she occasionally destroyed.
Stuffed animals: DC2 collects these.
Nail Polish: I had my phase in middle school.
Fish: I cannot keep anything alive that does not tell me when it is hungry. See also plants.
Actual cats: See Cat Saga.
Socks: This one is tempting and I’ve sort of started doing it. The problem is that I don’t actually wear socks much– I’m either in tights or sandals most of the time. I rarely wear tennis shoes or hiking boots, which are my only shoes that actually accommodate socks.

It’s not about things, per-se, though it has been things during the pandemic to a much greater extent than usual.

I just like sets.  I like completing things.  I like trying things and trying them all.  I don’t actually need to own all the pens, but I wanted to try them out.  Libraries are great for this– I can try books and then only buy the ones I really liked and will read again.

We go through cookbooks systematically from start to finish. During the pandemic at the grocery story I will try one of every kind of a category. Like Fizzy water or chocolate with almonds or fancy ice creams. Sometimes I’ll just type in a word in the search like “pistachio” or “mango” and just get all the random stuff that comes up. Or like, “German” which is how I found my new favorite brand of muesli (that doesn’t come up when you look up Muesli because it’s spelled differently!).  I’ve tried most of the non-candy stuff at (and pretty much all of the chocolate candy with nuts or fruit in it).

It is probably better to stick with gazingus pins that are edible or returnable.  To complete collections of experiences instead of things that clutter or drain the pocketbook.

I woke up with the certainty that I should start collecting cute paperclips.

In the mean time, the kids get to take fancy pens to school next Fall and I won’t be fussed if they lose them.

What do you collect?  Do you systematically go through anything?  Have these habits changed throughout the pandemic for you?


28 Responses to “In which I collect things”

  1. Chelsea Says:

    I like mugs and fridge magnets…

    • Chelsea Says:

      And submitting comments before I’m done writing :).

      A fridge magnet is my favorite vacation souvenir because I get to be reminded of our trip in a small way every day. And mugs are useful for both drinking and desktop storage.

      Oh – I also like getting a Christmas ornament as a vacation souvenir (not something that’s specifically Christmassy- just something that’s small and light enough that I could hang on our tree).

  2. Steph Says:

    Probably the main thing that has lasted through my life is books and rocks. And postcards. I collected tea for a while but now that I’ve most given up caffeine, I’ll have to find something else to buy when I’m on vacation. It will probably be fridge magnets.

    I’ve noticed that when I buy something I really like, I will spend a lot of time on the website for that company, looking at more similar items and planning a collection. Unless it’s craft supplies, though, I can usually resist that siren song until my obsession passes.

    My grandmother was a major collector. Dolls, tiny bear statues, and these character bears that I just learned are “North American Bear Co VIBs” were her main ones. But as my Mom said when cleaning out my grandmother’s house, she kind of lived by the philosophy “why buy one when you could buy five”? We all ended up with novelty dutch ovens because she had like six, though I ended up giving mine away.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Oh no– I collect teas too! We have both a shelf in the pantry *and* what used to be a microwave hutch just filled with teas.

      I do collect books! Sometimes I’ll even get everything an author has written even if I know that a few of the books are bad and I should never reread them. :/

  3. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Books and comic books, blank notebooks, definitely pens (though I actually do make my best effort to use them up), markers (same), lip balms (same but to lesser degree of success), earrings (though I typically do wear them in cycles), stickers, notecards (I DO use them up). I managed to avoid jetpens all through the pandemic but I let myself get sucked into their site this month and deeply regret it (want want want).

    Mostly I’ve done ok with keeping it almost in semi-control because the pain of moving is still fresh in my mind and I hate clutter so the existing clutter we have is a constant prod to make a better decision. But my using it up tends to open up the floodgates at least a few inches. For example, I’m out of birthday cards and have been eyeballing some gorgeous art greeting cards….

  4. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    Outdoor plants which do not require watering by me to stay alive. And jello molds. That’s basically it. (I guess plus my pandemic office plants, mostly acquired from the clearance rack. They currently number 23.)

  5. RH Says:

    This is quite interesting to read. My mind instantly screams: so much clutter! And wasteful spending! (to the idea of collecting things, not you specifically).

    Which sounds judgy when I really don’t mean to. I grew up with a hoarder mother, who thankfully didn’t have a spending problem (because we were poor) but saved EVERYTHING. I will forever be scarred by that so I can’t handle having lots of anything. I don’t have a compulsion to complete sets of things, I have a compulsion to get rid of things!

    We do sometimes buy Christmas ornaments while on vacation but they have to be something novel.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      No, it really is. I’m not sure how to reconcile this collecting (which I honestly didn’t realize I did pre-pandemic, other than books) with my otherwise pretty minimalist tendencies.

      Though, to be fair, food eventually gets used up. And my pantry has been super helpful over the past year when we’ve had massive unexpected supply shocks because of pandemic and weather situations.

      We have used some portion of all of these spices! (They’re a consequence of going through cookbooks completely, not trying to buy out the penzey’s catalog.)

  6. middle_class Says:

    I would collect pillows if I didn’t avoid clutter and had a bigger house or two! Now I just pin pretty pillows that I see online.

  7. Debbie M Says:

    I do not have a desire for completion. When I find something I really like, I will look for similar things I might also like (like other books by the same author or earrings by an artist that actually go with my clothes). And when I am dissatisfied, I will do research, starting the easy way (online, asking friends) and sometimes by actually trying a new version, but I give up quickly. (Normally I just don’t notice that there’s a better way to do things now that I’ve had the same roommate for decades.)

    I do collect things, but not to have *all* the stuff. Even from authors and musicians (usually I only really like *some* of their stuff enough to want to own it). More, it’s just hanging on to cool specimens I’ve come across. So I have collections of coins, rocks, and various media. Not like my friends with the rubber duckies, penguins, bunnies, LEGO, etc.

    And basically no habits have changed through the pandemic for me. I am amazingly stubborn. I’m still a slob, the yard is still a mess, I’m still finding books from other countries to read.

    Well, I did finally learn a few more computer-long-distance things and I have and wear masks now. My friends taught me the computer things. And the first mask pattern I tried (admittedly, because it looked effective and comfortable) worked great, so any other masks that have come my way have not been as good.

  8. Alice Says:

    My desire for completion generally begins and ends with books– if I know that a book is part of a trilogy or a 5-book set, I will try to wait until the last one is written before I start the first one. And I try to get the whole series in one swoop so that I can read them straight through. But I won’t buy a book I don’t like for the sake of a collection– there’s a 1930s-1960s detective series I mostly enjoy, but there is one book in that series that I will never buy or reread because the baseline misogyny really spiked in that one to an unacceptable level. (I try to look at things as a product of their time, so I can excuse a certain amount of it because of the culture in which it was written… but even within that level of excuse-making, there are lines I don’t think it’s ok to cross.)

    Have you considered something related to gardening, if you have the space/interest for a container or yard garden? I have some standby plants that I return to year after year, but I usually try a few new things each year, too. With mixed success. But if I had a genuine green thumb, I think I could do some damage with a seed catalogue.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Coming from the Midwest I didn’t realize gardening in the south would be so difficult!!!

      You have to buy dirt. Nothing dies in the winter so weeds just stay forever if you don’t take a super hardline with them. Bugs are scary looking. Sometimes it’s too hot for tomatoes to actually fruit.

      So… we’ve done gardening in the past but right now basically we just have beds where mint, chives, and weeds compete with each other.

      • Alice Says:

        We have lousy soil here, but not the problem of it being too hot for tomatoes to fruit. My best luck has generally been with planting in sub-irrigation planters. Not Earthboxes, but Earthbox knock-offs. And I do have to buy potting mix to put in them, but don’t have to replace it every year, which helps a bit.

  9. First Gen American Says:

    Outdoor shrubs and perennials is probably my main vice. I have many kitchen gadgets as well.

  10. Ask the grumpies: Minimalist or Maximalist? | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] little from both.  I think I’m sort of a natural minimalist (except with books, spices, and whatever it is I’m currently collecting), so I don’t tend to bring that much into the house, but also I like completing sets.  Right […]

  11. On being rich (high income) again after a stint of unemployment | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] we never ended up taking etc.  The only thing keeping me from buying all the pens (and I did buy a lot) was the knowledge that they might dry up before getting […]

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