You name it, people collect it. Everything from baseball cards and bento boxes to Mickey Mouse watches, mugs and momentos.

So why do we love to collect stuff?

We collect things that we think are meaningful and give us value beyond their basic functionality…

  • Nostalgic Value – We collect to help transport us to another time and place. Objects like ticket stubs or old photos can trigger memories or feelings for past experiences that have deep emotional value for us.
  • Preservation Value – We collect to preserve items we feel have personal and cultural significance. For example, antique furniture is collected based on the value placed on the craftsmanship of prior generations. Election memorabilia is collected for its historic value. We collect these things because we believe that without them the world would be a much shallower place.
  • Connection Value – We collect to feel like we are part of something larger than ourselves. This can include collecting celebrity memorabilia to connect with other fans or collecting family history to feel connected to our ancestors. These connections are important to us as they help us structure our identities.
  • Knowledge & Learning Value – We collect to learn more about what we collect. This could include collecting family stories to learn more about our personal histories, collecting first edition books or collecting ancient Egyptian artifacts to learn about cultures of long ago.
  • Contribution Value – We collect to contribute our collections to others either during or after our lifetimes. We get personal satisfaction from the process of acquiring these objects and donating them helps us gain some degree of immortality with our collections lasting beyond ourselves.

These dimensions of value can be used to analyze the motivations of any collector. Understanding why we collect and knowing what we want to accomplish as a collector can be really helpful. It provides insight into our personalities and the things we place value on. This self-knowledge can help us avoid some of the potential pitfalls of collecting.

While collecting is generally positive and helps connect us with the world, it can become an obsession. Things we collect can start owning us when the time, energy, and money spent on them drains us of the resources needed to live a happy life and maintain relationships with our family and friends. So, to keep our collecting healthy, it’s important to figure out what’s most important in our lives and focus on collecting those things.

For me, it is all about family. I’m focusing on collecting family memories by taking photos and video and recording the stories of our daily lives. I’m collecting these family memories for ALL of the reasons listed above:

  • Gives me a collection of nostalgic images and stories I can reflect on;
  • Enables me to preserve memories for my children;
  • Helps me feel connected to my family;
  • Lets me reflect on and learn from my past experiences;
  • Will give me something of value to contribute to future generations.

So what is it that you collect and why do you collect it?

Logan Metcalfe
Logan is the founder and CEO of Arkiver, a company dedicated to saving life stories. He lives in Greenville, SC with his wondeful wife and two children who inspired him to create Arkiver to preserve their family photos, videos and other memories and share them privately with his family back in New Zealand.