I didn’t do it consciously. It wasn’t like I woke up one day and decided I was going to start collecting Cold War-era globes. Seriously, who does that? But within a year, I had four. And I started realizing that globes were sneaking up on me in other areas of my life.
Like any good self-examiner, I started wondering what was going on.
I had started decorating with globes.
The globes had started congregating in my office.
One day, my friend gave me this gorgeous globe necklace.
Two years after the fact, I realized that I had even made my son into a globe, for our local UFO parade.
Why We Collect
Psychologists estimate that about a third of people collect, and the reasons vary immensely. You might not be surprised to read that people who study collecting always point to the psychological underpinnings of the behavior. It has everything to do with the high-game stakes of life and death and our shoddy attempts at cheating the inevitable.
Are we trying to fill a void in our lives that was never filled? Motivated by the existential urge to make our ephemeral existences more permanent? Connecting ourselves to an object in an attempt to hang our identity hats on something in the physical realm? Simply misplacing an age-old survival tactic?
The desire to control even a small part of the chaos of the universe is great — even greater so for me since I became a mother and became the ruler of the universe.
“The objects and their organization bind us to something larger than ourselves, and as religion was born out of a fear of death and the wish of eternal life, collecting expresses the same fundamental urges.” – Philipp Blom, NYTimes.com
I like that idea. It feels so definitive, and yet, I don’t think it says enough. It certainly doesn’t explain my globe collecting to myself. After all, every collection is an attempt at personal storytelling, with the beginning (the idea) and the end (your death) being just the bookends.
I can tell you the exact moment I fell in love with maps. As a child, I had attended one of those no-walls elementary schools developed in the 1970s. Between my fourth-grade classroom and the bathroom was a storage space where our teachers had placed several giant maps of the world on movable rolling barriers.
The relief map of Europe was my favorite. During bathroom breaks I often stopped there and ran my fingers along the word Czechoslovakia. Ever since, nothing makes me tingle more than a map. It’s the travel writer in me – the person who sees a place name and imagines being there. Just what would happen to me in the place between here and there?
But globes? As physical objects they are so much more compelling than a map.The earth trembles under your hands. They harness space and time in a way that accentuates our place in the universe. So tiny, but with such a great and expanding view.
You can certainly hug a globe.
So there it is – a childhood back story, a life calling to become a travel writer. Self-identification as a worldly person. A global symbology upon which I could hang a collection.
In my life, the globes came forth.
Enough is Enough
You can see the possible end to this story. Emily decides she’s into globes and then acquires globes for the rest of her life until her house is like a mini universe of rotating Earths. Each holiday, her friends and family find new and inspired ways to bring the globe back into her life, to appease this unending global hunger.
That’s not the way it’s working out, thank God. For me, the balance has come from two areas 1.) Identifying what the collection means and 2.) Becoming something of a feng shui nut. These two things aren’t mutually exclusive. I have found a way to both be thrilled with my collection and not let it take control of my space.
Collecting and feng shui
In her wonderful book Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, Karen Kingston writes about how collections happen. When you collect, you choose object based on their metaphorical meaning. After all, I’m not collecting vintage medical tools or Pez dispensers. These are globes.
Kingston says that when the collector has moved through the stage where she draws metaphorical meaning from the object, she can stop collecting.
You mean you don’t have to collect something for the rest of your life?!
Yes. You can stop now.
And I did. I stopped. Because here’s the real reason I was collecting globes.
Since having children and becoming a mostly stay-at-home mom, my world has gotten smaller, sometimes suffocatingly so. International travel is pretty much off my radar. Since my entire world exists in about 2,000 ft.2, and I work from home, I have sometimes felt like a John Denver song unable to reach its chorus. And while I do get out a lot more than other moms since I do a fair amount of travel writing professionally, the distance between the center of my circle and its periphery is very small.
But the world is out there! It’s waiting for me, for another time. I am small and the world is big. And every day I have reminders of that. Sure, they may be reminders with political boundaries from my childhood, but there is some comfort in that, too. These globes are reminders that the borders are always shifting, that attempts at control break down over time. Rivers change paths. Mountains crumble, a planet swiftly tilting and all.
Once I realized this, I didn’t really need any more globes. I love them, I’m keeping them all (for now), but let’s not get carried away here. Now, I have something different. I have am left to enjoy the process of having an acquisitive eye, which means when I see globes out there looking awesome (as so many of them do), I can merely snap a pic for Instagram or add it to my ever-growing collection on Pinterest of globes.
The Internet saves the world again.
Making a collection work for you
Feng shui guru Kathryn Weber has a really great breakdown about how to assess if your collection is working for you. It’s got some truly stellar questions you can ask yourself about your collection and your collecting habit that will help you see your collection as the story that it is in your life.
In the end, you can’t control other people, but you can control yourself. I know someone who liked penguins as a child and was still getting penguins a decade after she was over it. My German host father has an overflowing owl cabinet, for example, though he really seems into it. My husband has too many collections to recollect: bonsai, flutes, wheel-thrown pottery. He’s unstoppable.
But you have to be really vocal about just what your relationship is to these objects. If you find yourself getting gifted a lot for your collection, don’t forget:
You’re the curator, here.
Do you have a collection? Do you know why you are collecting?