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Walking the line between impassioned collector and hoarding weirdo

Ashley’s carefully curated, tastefully displayed brass animals

Photo by Ashley Heider Daly

There is nothing inherently wrong with collecting a lot of similar things. It’s a big part of many of our lives. Jack Donaghy? Cookie jars. Me? Brass animals. You? Maybe Star Wars figurines or spoons or Pez dispensers. Displaying these collections in our homes is a way of celebrating our interests. Do it well, and you become better understood. Do it poorly, and you become the butt of jokes. My goal is to make my collection of brass animals look so cool that people revere the shiny little figurines for the wonders that they are. You can do the same for your rare coins or Chia Pets.

Refine your collection

Haven’t honed your collecting down to the details? Amateur hour. I only collect small brass animals with similar stylistic engravings. Only. Do I want to own the giant brass eagle and goofy billy goat? Yes. But I have to keep my game face on. This isn’t about having all the brass or all the commemorative plates or all the stuffed animals. Collecting means searching carefully for similar items to make a cohesive group. You’ll find hunting much more rewarding if you narrow your search.

You can also become a more soulful collector by limiting your means of procurement. I have a friend who collects toy cars. He was a purist, only buying in person, until a recent eBay purchase. I could see in his eyes the shame he felt for straying. To experience the joy of collecting, don’t do this to yourself.

If you have a ton of outlandish collections, your house becomes more like an oddities museum, and, at this point, you should charge admission.

Keep them corralled

There is beauty in similarity and consistency. Assemble your collection with purpose. If it’s scattered willy-nilly around your home, it looks sloppy and you look like a hoarder. If you build a lovely shelf for your figurines and arrange them all in a row, your collection makes a statement. It says that this is a controlled and focused design effort. It’s also a way to respect yourself and your interests. Make a home for the things in your home. 

Watch yourself

There is an inverse relationship between the absurdness of your collections and the number of collections you should reasonably have. If you have a whole wall of vintage camera parts, you might want to call it a day and make that your sole collection. If you have just one shelf of dolls, then maybe there’s room for another collection elsewhere. If you have a ton of outlandish collections, your house becomes more like an oddities museum, and, at this point, you should charge admission. But if you want a well-decorated home, keep yourself in check. It really comes back to my first point of editing your selection. The more you exercise restraint and provide homes for your collections, the more respect and meaning you give them. This diligence is rewarding. And one of those rewards is not looking crazy.