The Art of Collecting


During childhood, we tend to collect two things: toys and memories.

When I was a kid, I collected toys like Star Wars action figures, baseball cards, and Nintendo games. But I also collected neat memories of building snow forts in the front yard, picking strawberries at my Grandma’s house, and weekend getaways to the Holidome (with its glorious indoor pool).

Toys can be sold on Ebay for cash money — sometimes a lot of it — but memories? Those are priceless.

Interestingly, it doesn’t change all that much when we get older; we’re still collecting toys and memories.

Our toys are more expensive now: custom-built homes, iPads, designer shoes, Kitchenaid mixers, big screen TVs, sports cars, etc. But the memories — the things like Pajama Runs, Barbarian Spaghetti dinners, and surprise weekend trips to an indoor waterpark — they’re still as priceless as ever.

Turns out that the happiest people in the world spend their money on memories rather than toys.

I am fascinated by a concept put forth by Laura Vanderkam in her book, All The Money In The World. Using the amount of money typically spent on fancy engagement rings and weddings, Laura calculates how many date nights, bouquets of flowers, and hours of babysitting and housecleaning that money could buy over several years. She argues that these things would create more long term happiness and serve a couple better than a big ring and wedding.

We can use our time and money to collect toys or memories. We can do a little of both, sure, but for best results, make sure you’re being intentional about it.

I’ll leave you with a great quote from Laura: “Life is basically one giant memory. Creating good ones is a good use of cash.”


Art: “Roadster” by Jason Kotecki.


  1. Jennifer says:

    Jason, I so agree with you on this blog! Collecting memories. We have 3 children (ages 13, 11, and 7) and so often people make comments to me about all the things we do with our children and how it makes them “feel bad” that they don’t do those kinds of things with their kids. Well, the funny thing is that the things we do don’t cost a lot of money…in fact, usually they are free. Yesterday morning the snow was so pretty and the ice crystals on the trees were fantastic–my youngest son woke me up and said, “Mom I think you will want to go outside and take pictures this morning!” Well, he was right! So, on went the snow gear over our pajamas and we hiked outside to marvel in the glory of the icy frost! We ran through the snow and fell down, we jumped as high as we could, we looked for shapes in the snow which turned out looked like the states of the USA! What a super way to start the day! Memories were made…..and it didn’t cost a dime.

    My friends often give me (us) a hard time about these things…but you know what my husband and I have just as much fun as the kids do! Maybe more! (On our first pajama run–we definitely had more fun than the kids!!!). We can’t wait for Valentine’s Day where we make our annual heart shape pizzas together…it’s these little things that count! And as our kids get even older I see the importance becoming even greater!

    We love your blogs! You guys rock!

    • You are a great mom, Jennifer. Your kids are lucky!

      Also, you inspired us: we are going to make heart-shaped pizzas tonight! Thanks for the idea and the thoughtful comment.

      Happy Valentine’s Day!