It was pointed out to me recently that Libras (people born between September 23 and October 22) are generally pack-rats. Being a Libra myself, and not possessing this characteristic forced me to examine the types of things I hold on to. Since I am a photographer, almost all of my collectibles are flat - negatives, prints, digital files and storage media. Even when I think back to my childhood, the only thing I ever remember collecting (Bazooka Joe comics that came with the gum which I eventually saved up for a glow-in-the-dark, scratch-n-sniff Trix t-shirt) was also flat.
With the exception of a lifelong t-shirt collection stored under my bed and a couple of gold necklace charms given to me by my dad and maternal grandmother, these smallish items are the only artifacts I've deemed worthy enough to make it through my frequent apartment purging every time I decide that I either have too much crap for a single gal or that there's no way I can travel light when my place is weighed down by too much useless material baggage:
Matchbooks remind me of the places I've been without taking up much space, plus they're functional and often unique.
Foreign currency from a few of the countries I've traveled to - sometimes I'll throw one into a bag to use as a screwdriver and then find it much later only to get pleasantly lost in my memories.
Some things I once believed in enough to support, vote for, consume. These things remind me that I was once 18, once and still am an artist, once a very different person who's lived a very good life so far.
It always surprises me how little I've kept from seven years on nearly 20 films. In the end, there's only a handful of items that really stand out and the memorabilia that means the most (jar of sand, tin of pate from the CZ with an image of a man choking down a sausage) weren't exactly crew gifts. Which reminds me, I forgot to photograph a Lenin candle that was purchased for me in a bar in Prague by a student from Australia on holiday - amazing how some of these things make it home.
Also, when you've had a black cat as long as I have, people start giving you little black cat things and suddenly, you're a collector.
A piece of candy symbolizing the weight of one of my favorite conceptual artists as he was dying of AIDS. Felix Gonzales Torres left instructions that every day, a gallery or museum was to display his weight in candy and his audience was encouraged to take a piece of him with them. He was long gone by the time I was able to participate in any of his work but it gives me goose-bumps just to have this piece of candy and the poster of his that is rolled up in my garage awaiting proper wall space. His "perfect lovers" series are my favorites in which strings of light bulbs all burn out at different rates or identical school clocks with fresh batteries slowly start to tick out of sync.
More flat things: fliers from events I've attended and postcards from friends.
Shells and beach glass from the other side of the world.
One of very few tangible things I have left from my dad's mom.
Shell shaped sandwich press and electric mixer - both were my mom's which I remember fondly from my childhood and her mother's flour sifter, all of which I still use.
A few of my favorite fortunes and an old Polaroid from a time and place in my life that was the very beginning of where I'm at now.
Looking over these things even now, they're still just material possessions. They decorate my apartment a little bit and make it feel (along with the photos I've got up on my walls) like someone with a rich and diverse personal life occupies this little space here. But I suppose I have a hard time really attaching myself to objects, hence the reason for this little exercise. Pack rat? Hardly! If I had to leave it all behind, the thing I'd actually miss is my photos - my life's work but I'd just make more. I can't say that I've ever collected anything besides those Bazooka Joe comics, and though I'm not always the MOST sociable person (though never the least either!) there is nothing more important to me than the relationships and personal experience one accrues over time. And how, really, do you catalog that?