accumulate or collect

I drink coffee. A lot. I have a coffee cup in my hand all the time at work.

In the process of drinking coffee, I’ve accumulated a lot of coffee mugs. People walk into my office. They look at the mugs on the shelves, on my desk, on the file cabinet. They say, “do you collect coffee mugs?” I say, “No, I accumulate them.”

Coffee Mug Collectors have grounds for confidence.

If I were a collector, I would keep track of my mugs. If I were a collector, I would know their value. I would pick a particular style. I would make sure I had one of every color, or style, or brand. I would gather all the different kinds of Starbucks mugs, for example. I would track the value on, if such a place existed.  Or, if I really cared, I would start a blog at that I could use to help other people figure out the value of their coffee mugs. And I would turn it into a whole side business.

On the other hand, as an accumulator, I pick them up wherever. I am not discriminating about where they come from. I certainly don’t worry much about how neatly I keep them, whether I wash them. I am very willing to use them even if it means the lettering wears off.

Collectors have purpose

The difference between the two may be a difference in intentionality. For the collector, there is a point to the collection, and there is a pursuit of that point.  For an accumulator, there is no point. A collector has discernment. An accumulator has none. A collector, particularly a serious collector, will ignore many replicas, many impostors, many duplicates, for the sake of the next piece in the collection. An accumulator will take whatever comes, whatever holds coffee. Or an accumulator will not pay attention to the many important coffee mugs going by.

I started thinking about about reading. Or about thinking. Or about writing. Or about wisdom. Or about understanding. Or about quality relationships. Or about anything else that matters.

I realized that I can read as an accumulator, just looking at whatever words come by my face. I can write as an accumulator, scattering words wherever. I can accumulate understanding as I wander along.

Or I could, I suppose, learn with the focus that a collector collects.

  • I could decide that I want to understand how the book of Matthew helps people follow Jesus or how world class performers become world class or how to be a life-long learner or ______________.
  • I could catalog what I know.
  • I could decide what pieces are missing from the collection of understanding in my head (and heart)
  • I could look for the people who know what is missing and ask them for help with knowing how to discern.
  • I could read books that help.
  • I could stop reading them when they don’t have what I thought they had.
  • I could write posts that raise questions that other people could answer.
  • I could ignore magazines that have nothing to do with what I’m trying to understand.
  • I could regularly admit that I don’t understand.
  • I could sell the things that don’t matter, that clutter my attention.
  • I could write summaries of what is known so far to help other people focus their efforts on what is not known.
  • I could step back and think carefully about what really matters. And then take that next step. And then step back again.
  • I could decide.

Or, I could just keep accumulating.


14 responses to “accumulate or collect

  1. Pingback: SuzeMuse » Is Your Network a Collection? Or an Accumulation?

  2. Ouch, Jon! Now I have to decide which I am…accumulator or collector. I suspect I am the first but hope I am the latter. I am accused of “collecting” everything including books. It is the genetic make-up of pack rats. And whatever you do, don’t let my husband read this entry! 🙂

  3. I think that packrats are accumulators, but they/we are actually collecting
    security. (ouch again, as I stub my toe on my words).

    Having said that, however, I know full well that you are a collector, though
    not of stuff. You carefully seek specific opportunities to change a part of
    the world across the water. You save and plan and focus.

    And that is what collectors do.

  4. Jon, Thanks for the link in your post! It gave me the opportunity to come to your blog and look around. Very nice! I will be back.

  5. Thanks, Jim. I’ve been reading you for a couple months, thanks, I think, to
    Jim Hughes @hughesjw.

  6. I like the way you phrased this accumulating or collecting idea. I much like everyone else i would assume do a lot of each. Collect things I’m passionate about and accumulate things that are there. A good challenge may be to be trim my accumulation habit so i can collect more that will better others.

  7. I am definitely an accumulator of coffee mugs, although I have added one or two to the accumulation with deliberate collective intent.

    I like what Philip said above about trimming the accumulation (not the coffee mugs, of course, but some of the other accumulations). Being deliberate in what you look for is part of being a collector. But being as deliberate in what you trim as you add. (unless of course you have unlimited storage and display room).

    BTW… I don’t know if would be of any value, but a community site where you can submit photos of your favorite mugs… something like… (I just bought the domain… I couldn’t resist).

  8. Something I realized today as I pondered what to do with my newly acquired domain name (see previous comment)… I don’t collect domain names, I accumulate domain names. I need to join Domain Names Annonymous. Something I’ll resist buying this one… I promise.

  9. i’m thinking that ndm would be fun!

    It is true, however, that the ease of domain registration makes the
    accumulation easy. Same is true of wordpress blogs. oops.

  10. Pingback: What do you really do with it?

  11. I realized I was accumulating coffee mugs when I noticed that I only ever drink coffee out of three or four of them…the rest were just sitting in the cabinets, and every few years, packed up and moved to a new home. I culled the “collection” down to the few that had meaning and gave away the rest. But why was that so hard?

    Thanks for the great post.


  12. Mark – my problem? I drink out of several, and rather than washing, get a
    new one off the shelf. I like your approach. Thanks for stopping by

  13. Pingback: coffee mugs

  14. I love this post/blog.

    My name is Ron and I collect Pez. I have Pez Candy Dispensers, I have Pez Candy Packs, I have Pez from USA, Japan, and other countries. I have Pez Coffee Mugs, Pez Snow Globes, Pez Boxer Shorts, Pez Paper Products, Pez Pajamas, Pez Cards, and many other Pez items.

    When I began my new job 4-5 years ago, I came to my position and soon everyone knew that I was “The Pez Man.” An article in the newspaper soon showed my “collection of Pez.”

    Trust me, I do NOT accumulate, I collect. I catalog them, I take pride in the different ways to display the collection. I have some under glass, I have some in protective frames, I take time and energy to protect my collection of plastic Pez! I know more Pez knowledge than you would ever want to know. I give away Pez.

    At work, Pez is part of who I am. I gave Pez to co-workers and my Boss. Soon, I thought my boss enjoyed them so much that he was a collector. He even said there was Power in Pez! I told him he was a collector….because people now give him Pez. I even got him to admit in public at a charity event of ours, that he was a Pez Collector. I felt the “Pez Brotherhood of Collecting” with him. It was a great feeling until yesterday….

    My boss read this post and he told me that I had to read it…and that he was NOT a Pez Collector, but someone who accumulates PEZ. Could it be? Could I have been wrong?

    After I read this post, I admit, I had to agree with him, but I am now replaying memories of him taking special care of his Pez either physically or verbally. Now I have this little voice inside me that says he will one day admit he is a Pez Collector for REAL! I will certainly be looking at how he treats his Pez from now on.

    This is far from over, but it was an interesting process to go through, and I learned that I am more of a collector than I would have even admitted.

    Do you accumulate Pez? or Collect? If you want to get rid of some of your “accumulating Pez,” because it just doesn’t mean that much to you, send them to me, they will be brought to a good home. 🙂

    If you want to see a part of my “Pez Room,” it is here, and not for the weak at heart…

    Even though some of us collect and some of us accumulate, we are still “Enjoying.”