The world’s largest collection

OK, so I didn't leave my ENTIRE collection on the beach at Captiva! January, 2013

OK, so I didn’t leave my ENTIRE collection on the beach at Captiva! January, 2013

“I have the world’s largest collection of seashells.  I keep it on all the beaches of the world…perhaps you’ve seen it.”Steven Wright

I think one of the best traits we can develop is the capacity to thoroughly enjoy something without having to own it.  If you can master this skill, you can have more fun than money could ever buy.   And you’ll eventually enjoy a financial freedom that opens up all sorts of opportunities to you that would be unavailable if you were encumbered with the many costs of owning things.

When ownership is not your goal, you can go shopping for the evening, and ooh and ahh over any clothing, shoes, jewelry or furnishings that catch your eye.  Price is unimportant if you’re not trying to take anything home with you, but just want to appreciate its beauty.  Then you’ll come home without any shopping bags or bills, but a bank of visual images that are just as pretty (maybe prettier) in your memory as they would be in your home.

You can explore parks and libraries and streets of your home town, all for nothing (or next to nothing).  With a free card to your local public library, you can take home any books you see that even mildly interest you, and keep them for weeks before returning them.  Browse to your heart’s content, read about places you’ve never been and hobbies you might explore.

If you like to collect things, start collecting photographs!  Now that digital cameras are affordable, you can take as many as you like at no additional cost.  As the signs in many national parks and forests read: “Take nothing but pictures.  Leave nothing but footprints.”  Photographs are a joy to have, and you can store thousands of them on an SD card the size of a postage stamp.  The ultimate alternative to dusty clutter!

I’ve often heard grandparents say that the most appealing aspect of grandchildren is that you can enjoy them, but somebody else has to take them home and take care of them.  That same principle can apply to everything from diamonds to dresses to décor.  It’s fun, and even necessary, to own some things.  But it’s even more fun to collect moments of enjoying things you will never have to worry about owning.

What are some things you enjoy most without ever wanting to buy, own, or take care of?

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Judy from Pennsylvania

    That’s a charming, interesting photo of your seashells. I can ‘see’ it enlarged and framed on a wall in someone’s home.

    Touring houses on the internet is one of the things I’m enjoying during the pandemic. Youtube has all sorts of fabulous historic homes, modern mansions and apartments that are fun to walk through. Some are even overseas. I wouldn’t even want to have them. I just like to see how they’re laid out and decorated.

    And animals are pure joy to see and watch without the responsibility of owning them. Driving down rural Pennsylvania roads, we sometimes see horses running freely in a field. Ah, beauty in motion! But no, I wouldn’t want to own a horse. I wouldn’t have a clue about how to take care of one. I also love to see all sorts of dogs and puppies, cats and kittens. They come in so many varieties and colors, and they can have the sweetest faces. But, oh my, how would I take care of all the ones that have melted my heart?!

    And then there are gardens, lots of remarkable gardens. Vegetable gardens, rose gardens, English flower gardens. It’s delightful to see them but I wouldn’t have the knowledge, patience or energy to tend to them. Right now we’re struggling to keep up with the few things we planted this season. Yet I sure appreciate seeing the larger, more complicated gardens that are open for tours, shown in books and magazines, or that our Amish neighbors have planted.

    Like you, I love to look, enjoy and then move on. That applies to a host of things and places. Simplicity keeps life more manageable and is truly freeing.

    • Judy, that’s fascinating that you can tour homes on the internet. Are these place where people actually live? I’d love to tour an upper East Side apartment in NYC, or a mansion in Pacific Heights of San Francisco. Are there any particular YouTube sites you’d recommend for finding homes to tour, or do you just search for whatever type home you want to see? I’m also fascinated by tiny homes– the ingenuity in design is so appealing.

      And YES, animals are a huge responsibility, one I’m not ready to take on again just now. I’ve thought about volunteering at the animal shelter. But I know I’d end up wanting to take every single one of them home. Somewhere inside me there is a crazy cat lady or dog lady just itching to get out!

      Garden tours are the ultimate in enjoying someone else’s hard work. Closer to home, I can see my next door neighbor’s lovely gardening from my living room window. I told him when I first moved in that I was delighted to have him next door doing all that work that I get to see and enjoy as much as he and his family do!

      I suppose it’s natural to want to keep and own things, but it’s also unnatural, in the sense that none of us will take anything with us when we go, at least not in a material sense. Those of us who believe in the afterlife may well carry with us the delights of beauty and wonder that we enjoyed here on this earth, but perhaps learning to enjoy things that are beyond our ability to grasp, is good training for the next life! 🙂 Sorry I’m so late getting to this comment. I really appreciate your being here and I always enjoy what you have to say.

  2. Elena

    I love this post and the quote, Julia, thanks ❤️
    In my childhood and in my teens I collected all sorts of things I could find here and there for free, such as bottle caps and sugar bags and I also collected lettersets. This last hobby stuck much longer, well into my 30s, but some day, after years without any stationery purchase, I realized I had changedy mind and didn’t need to actually *own* the sheets any more. Then I begun using them for my letters. So freeing! When I remember, I take pictures of my letters, so I can see and enjoy the stationery again, if I wish so.
    About owning things, yes, possessions are a burden. I don’t think I own so many things but I know I could do better with less.
    One thing I don’t care for is jewelry. After we were married, I asked my husband not to give me any, ever (before, he had only given me a simple engagement ring); however, I have enjoyed amazing jewels in museums, such as at the Natural History Museum and the Tower of London 😀

    • Elena, I’m the same way; I’d much rather have stationery than jewelry! When my mother died, it turned out that almost all of her very valuable jewelry (lots of diamonds) somehow had gone missing. My sister and I hated to think of her being robbed by one or more of the many people who had ample opportunity to take whatever they wanted, but other than that, we didn’t care because both of us already had more than we wanted ourselves. There is great freedom in not wanting expensive stuff, and part of the reason Mama ended up having most of her things disappear is that she was not overly attached to them and did not guard them or worry about loss. I have collected lots of postage stamps over the years, always with the intention to use all of them up before I die. Well, somewhere in the past few years I’ve realized it’s time to get started on that! 😀 so I have been writing lots of postal mail and really enjoying that. It’s a whole other experience compared to online communication. I really love your idea of taking photos of your letters. Often, I can’t remember whether I told someone about something already and I’m afraid of repeating myself. So a photo would help with that, too. Thanks for being here and sharing these thoughts! I’m always glad to meet another friend who loves stationery. I have a friend who is the same, and we often swap note cards.

      • Elena

        Finding like-minded people all over the world is such a gift! 😀 I am referring to you Julia, of course, but also to Judy, who makes a good point about plants, animals and the skills needed to care for them.
        One more thought: at my parents’ place, in the cellar, there are many books, some of which were damaged by water infiltrating from the roof during a storm some years ago. Yesterday I was looking at them and – I am sure many will cringe at the idea – I wondered why we keep so many books that aren’t necessary and that might be lost in a moment.
        I used to cling to my volumes but I have been slowly changing over the past few years and have donated some (or many, it depends…) to the public library. So far, I only gave books I didn’t like, hoping that someone will enjoy reading them even if I didn’t. My goal is to keep reference books and those novels I reread or at least browse through, once in a while.

        • Elena, I have been doing the same with my books, and you are wise to begin parting with them. In library school we learned that weeding of collections is one of the most difficult things for most librarians, and my experience bore that out, as I ended up doing vast cleanup of long-outdated books in every library where I worked. In my own home, I’ve donated over 100 volumes to the library book sale or to Goodwill just in the past year. Some of them were very difficult to part with, but the librarian in me is far more interested in making books available to others than in keeping them unread on my own shelves, so that’s a help. Factors I like to consider are: how likely I am to actually read or use it in the future, how likely someone else is to need it, whether this book is freely available through other sources or is an unusual find for someone, and whether I am well past the stage in life for whatever information or recreation it offers (this is related to the first factor). Another thing I did was resolve NOT to add any bookshelf space to my home. This means that when new ones come in, other ones have to leave. In practice I often stack them double on shelves, but I tell myself they’ll be cleared out later. I do like to keep LOTS of books to browse, so I’ll always keep a large collection even with the weeding. My books will be the last thing I part with in my quest to simplify! 😀

          And YES, you are right, finding like-minded people everywhere has been a great gift of the internet. Some have referred to this as people finding their “tribes” and others use similar terms for it, but no matter what you call it, it’s a wonderful thing, especially for those of us who don’t fit in with much of popular culture. I think it’s why we sometimes feel closer to our online friends than we do to those who live close by. I’m so happy you have connected not only with me, but also with others in this community! The comments section is my favorite part of the blog.

          • Elena

            😊😊😊 Thank you for your comment.
            I appreciate all the feedback you give to the readers who leave a comment

            • Elena, I love the comments because without them, blogging is such a one-way thing. Without the comments, I would feel as if I was speaking into the void, and despite the statistics that tell me people are reading, it would feel even more solipsistic than it already does! All that to say, I appreciate those people who are willing to leave comments. Statistically speaking, you are rare indeed! 😀

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