Less Unpruned Collecting

Among the thinning foliage on my journey out of the jungle of misdirected enjoyment I found reminders of collections of another type that were still parts of my life. These collections were not externally-influenced; rather, they were conscious purchases that I intentionally brought into my life because they brought me genuine joy and contentment at one point or another (and, for some of them, still do). These collections formed a canopy that did indeed block out the sun, but I put them there because they were beautiful and could provide me with valuable shade. Over the years, though, some of them grew unchecked and just needed a little pruning to stay healthy and beautiful.

I’ve always been enamored by dragons, and in the mid-2000s I made the conscious decision to build out my collection of dragon trinkets (which at that time amounted to a small handful of sculptures and figurines as well as a few linens and clothes with dragon motifs). I made this decision while living in Japan, a place where little dragon trinkets abound in the gift shops that line the streets of many a tourist city. And so when I returned home a year later my luggage contained about half a dozen metal dragon keychains, a pair of dragon-emblazoned wall scrolls, chopsticks with a dragon motif, and even a kimono (albeit not a “real” one) with golden dragons snaking around the fabric. Now, well over a decade after that first trip, I’ve realized that this collection has bifurcated into two distinct camps: those dragons I enjoy on a daily basis and those I do not. While the wall scrolls provide pleasant accents to the otherwise bare white walls in my apartment and do an excellent job at creating the kind of ambiance I enjoy, my other dragon items either sit on a shelf in the corner or, worse, hang in my closet unworn and unused. I haven’t purchased new dragon paraphernalia in quite some time, but I also didn’t invest the time to care for my collection and ensure I was getting joy from it. So I’ve taken out my pruning shears and have started the delicate process of snipping away the dragons that are not actively bringing joy to my life and instead finding them homes with others who would get value from them. It’s not that these dragons never brought me joy, but rather that my interests have changed over time and they no longer bring the joy they once did. And that’s okay: change is just fine.

A more recent and substantially more prolific bout of accumulation is my collection of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic items: piles of printed and painted artwork, every issue of the IDW comics, lots of MLP-emblazoned clothing, several sculptures and plush figures, sand-etched glassware, and buttons galore. In addition to being valuable additions to my home, these items were also “front-loaded” in that by purchasing them I knew I was also supporting artists and causes that I appreciated and cared about. Each convention I attended inevitably resulted in an even larger collection, and even when I was not actively making purchases my collection had this tendency to grow thanks to donations from friends. Eventually, however, the realization dawned on me that this unchecked collection would leave me with more art than I could possibly enjoy at once, and that a good chunk of it would necessarily wind up in a box somewhere — not because I didn’t value it, but because I simply did not have the space to keep it out on display. So, I pruned the “accumulation vectors” so to speak: I stopped buying each issue of the comic (I decided I could purchase the more compact anthologies, or, more practically, get the digital versions if I wanted to keep up with the series at a later date), replaced loose-leaf art prints with a single bound sketchbook with a finite number of pages that would force me to be selective in what I chose to fill it with, and consciously stopped myself from purchasing more than one plush figure (which I’ve maintained to this day, though amusingly I was gifted three additional plushies later on). I even gave away several shirts that no longer fit me well, something I thought might be difficult but ultimately brought me joy when I saw the smiles they brought to my friends’ faces who took them). The canopy trimmed, I decided to do one better and shift my participation in the fandom from one of a pure consumption to one that adds value to others: I’m scheduled to give a speech about effective altruism at BronyCon 2017, and I’m actively seeking out other ways to give back to the community and spread the message of friendship and kindness.

I’m sure I’ll find other trees that need trimming along the way, as I have other collections left to deal with. However, it’s comforting to know that these trees are still there for me, offering the shade and beauty I intended them to provide; they just need a little maintenance from time to time, that’s all.