What Do You Collect?


This essay was originally published on December 10, 2010.

If you’re a fan of the TLC show “Hoarders”, you know “collecting” can get you into trouble. There’s a distinct difference between someone who hoards possessions and someone who collects things. The lines can definitely become blurred, especially when you find yourself trapped in a corner of your home with little space for anything else besides your possessions. When your loved ones have to stage an intervention and the number, 1-800-GOT-JUNK needs to be called, you know you’ve got a problem.

Does good old fashioned collecting always turn into hoarding? Not always. I like to collect books and perfume. Actually, let me rephrase that: I LOVE to collect books and perfume. Do I have many books? Yes. Do I have many perfumes? Guilty. I answered “guilty” to having many perfumes because there are some people I know who believe I am somewhat odd for collecting them. I always say, “I gotta be me.” I’ve met many intelligent women and men over the years who love scent, and are intrigued by the way fragrance is created. To me, and to them, there isn’t a difference between a great perfume and a great painting. Sure, you hang art on your walls, but how many people realize, when they dab or spray their favourite scents, that they are also wearing art on their skin? I’ll save you the history lesson about Cleopatra bathing in milk and anointing herself with oils of frankincense and myrrh. This is not about Cleopatra or any other historical figure. It’s about collecting what makes you happy.

When I was a kid, I collected stationery. I really didn’t have many people to write to, but I loved all the pretty paper and envelopes. I started collecting fragrances when I was in my 20s. My mother loved her scents, and I’ve written about how her love of fragrance impacted me as I grew up. I’m not sure if my mother appreciated scent as an art form; I think for her it was another accessory, like shoes or a purse. Me, I admire the talent of the perfumer, and the combination of notes that mesh together seamlessly to form a great scent. Contrarily, I’m not the biggest fan of bottles; even though I chose an image of schmaltzy perfume bottles for this post.

Getting back to the spotlight on hoarding: I’ve watched many episodes of “Hoarders”; enough to be able to distinguish someone who has a psychological issue, from someone who is a “collector”. Jerry Seinfeld collects Porsches; countless anonymous individuals collect shot glasses, key chains, beer steins, whatever…I collect perfume. So there. Maybe my hobby is a little more esoteric and cerebral than most, but hey – it’s mine. I’d rather collect perfume than collect dust. What do you collect?

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