Top 10 Weirdo Things I Collect Like a Weirdo

When you “collect” things, it means you’re entitled to more of them than is practical, treasure them irrationally, and display them wherever the f*ck they look best in the house. Once I realized this, I began “collecting” things so that I could, well, have things, which matters a lot to me because of that whole not having things thing that is my entire life. But I’m starting to realize I’m not a connoisseur of anything so much as just a total fucking weirdo.

And thus, a list.

10. Matchbooks


Restaurant matchbooks. Business matchbooks. Blank-cover matchbooks. Matchbooks I didn’t even get myself, but instead have collected through other people in an attempt to live vicariously through them.

Just so we’re all clear, I can’t light a match to save my life.

9. Totally Unremarkable Pokemon Stuff From When I Was a Kid

Pokemon Party Favors

Inside of a vintage suitcase (see below) in a closet under the stairs in my house there is a metal tin I bought for a dollar as kid with photos of Eevee and their evolutionary forms on the front. Inside of it are a bunch of energy cards, a Pikachu toy from Burger King, and a plastic goodie bag with Ash on the front from a party I went to in 1999. Inside that plastic goodie bag is a piece of a tablecloth from that party.

When it comes to hoarding, I think Pokemon merchandise might be my root.

8. Broken Umbrellas

This is the cover image for my forthcoming memoir

This is the cover image for my forthcoming memoir

Why can’t I just get rid of these? Why have I packed and moved three to five completely broken umbrellas with the rest of my crap across this city for seven years? Will there ever be a time I find myself surrounded by all these umbrellas when I actually need them to protect me from falling water outside? (This is a trick question, because none of the broken umbrellas are ever going to save or protect me. One stabs me when I carry it around because the cover has come disconnected from a loose metal stick, two are half caved-in, one is no longer secure and would probably blow apart within seconds of a storm.)

Also, a note to umbrella makers: DO BETTER.

7. Vintage California Travel Guides

But not these, TBH

I still believe these could come in handy, or at least be really entertaining once I can look at them and think “ha! I know better!” But I also believe I might have enough of them now.

6. Mugs, Just Any And All Mugs



A rough list of the mugs I can’t say goodbye to:

  • This blue and brown mug I gave Josh for his birthday and he left behind in my dorm when the semester ended
  • Four matching mugs Geneva just got me for my birthday that say “LOOKING GOOD!” and have pink flamingos on them
  • Two mugs from Women’s Initiative, the group I ran in college
  • A mug from the Christkindl in Denver I went to last winter, which came included with the purchase of mulled wine at an outdoor festival in a heated tent
  • A mug from Heidelberg, which is a lot more German than the aforementioned German-inspired mug
  • Four pink teacups that are part of a larger dining set I’ve rarely used because I love it too much to break it
  • A travel mug with diner mugs painted on it, it’s really meta, y’all
  • A mug I obtained from A-Camp‘s Camp Mountain Chai totally by accident
  • Two limited edition Peanuts Christmas mugs from CVS
  • A white mug emblazoned with the words “WORLD’S BEST BOSS” that was given to me by someone I supervised which makes it less weird
  • A white mug from a thrift store with a basket of apples painted on the front
  • A red mug from a thrift store, just a totally nondescript red mug
  • One of those vintage soup mugs that has a soup recipe on it, this one in particular for cream of mushroom soup

5. Fortune Cookie Fortunes

Just saying that sometimes they're so important

In a shot glass on the ledge in my room is a two-shooter filled with small strips of paper. At home in New Jersey, I keep them in a sugar dish. The important thing is, I’m never going to need to think of my own lottery numbers.

4. Ashtrays

You never know when a guest might need one!

I rarely remember to use an ashtray when I’m smoking, but I always have one on the nearest table. I usually go to thrift stores and buy them because they’re the cheapest thing I can pick up there that feels like the past. I have one pink ashtray that matches my pink china, one yellow metal ashtray I keep next to my bed, a vintage steel turtle ashtray, a vaguely casino-themed ashtray I think a child made for an unappreciative adult who then gave it away, a red clamshell, and more. When my landlord comes, I keep them all in one place in my closet. When I move, I wrap them in bubble wrap. My ashtrays mean everything to me.

I don’t smoke inside.

3. Unpractical Vintage Luggage

I wish.

Vintage suitcases may not have wheels, they may not be economic, they may be musty, but damn it, that Diane von Furstenberg carry-on was $3 and it’s totally worth the not-being-able-to-feel-my-arm-after-a-long-terminal thing. Now, it’s also no longer alone, since it’s accompanied by the beastly floral suitcase on wheels I got at a flea market, a Jordache bag I can’t even properly explain, and a brown leather bag that makes me feel like an outtake from a Wes Anderson movie.

2. Far-From-Fixable Glasses

I mean, you never know when you'll need them, y'know.

I keep over ten broken readers and sunglasses in a silk-lined floral box in my closet, and before that I kept over ten pairs of readers and shades in a silk-lined floral box on a shelf. I have emotional issues and letting go is hard for me. Beyond that, I am convinced that one day I will meet an heiress to the LensCrafters throne willing to take a stab at putting hours of repair work into $10 shades I really liked to wear last summer.

1. Dead Lighters

How else am I supposed to remember the good times?

How else am I supposed to remember the good times?

I used to call them “memory lighters,” but the reality is that when I moved I cracked open a wooden box filled with BIC lighters, those cheap see-through lighters you always end up with after parties, and Ed Hardy limited-edition lighters I bought down the street when I was coming out and smoking a lot of cigarettes. I didn’t always remember what memories they were associated with, although I was embarrassed I ever took some of them out of the house. For the sake of posterity, I’m putting it here in writing that I came out by passing people an Ed Hardy lighter with a naked chick on it in college, because I threw these out immediately upon arriving at my new place.

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. I don’t know that I “collect” any specific thing really, but I have a tendency to be sentimental over completely worthless things. There’s a drawer in my drafting table that contains:

    1. Encouraging handwritten notes from my high school art teacher

    2. An empty box of candy cigarettes given to me by my first girlfriend, because she hates the taste of mint

    3. Notes and doodles passed between me and my friends

    4. A page-long rant about how Karmy needs to happen by a friend

    5. And every receipt I’ve ever received that has my chosen name on it

    I need help.

  2. I like to collect spoons but not like the collectible spoons that you get from gift shops or the airport, I like to collect spoons that I have or my friends have skillfully acquired from restaurants from cities all over the place. I keep them in a box in my closet and only take them out when I have a new spoon to add to the pile.

    I also like to collect shoe boxes, I’m not really sure why but I just can’t seem to throw them out.

  3. I collect Tic Tacs. Don’t know exactly how my hobby started, but I’ve been collecting them for about 8-9 years. My best friend is also something of a globetrotter, so she always brings me back boxes of Tic Tacs from the places she visits. She gets me one to consume, the other to preserve. The current crown jewel of my collection is a box of limited edition popcorn-flavoured ones from Poland. Kind of dying to get boxes of cardamom ones from India, and coconut ones from Italy.

  4. Impressive list of mugs! I also collect mugs. When my ex and I broke up, the separation of the mugs was amicable, but tense. I still had like 19 mugs when I moved.

    I also collect rubber ducks. It started when I was 12. My senior photo included my rubber duck collection. I also did an informative speech in high school on the history of rubber ducks.

    • Someone else who collects rubber ducks! Is this a thing? I did not think it was a thing, I though I was just weird and obsessive about bright squeaky yellow objects.

      • YES! I love it. Have you seen/do you already have the ikea rubber duck painting? It’s pretty stellar.

  5. I’ve recently realized that I’m “collecting” lots of boxes/bottles/jars. I just know that someday I might be able to think of something that I could possibly use them for and so I can’t bring myself to get rid of them. Like what if I threw out the maple syrup jar and then realized the perfect thing to craft it into. I can’t handle the anxiety of that so for now my bookshelf is filling up with all kinds of jars/boxes. Also craft supplies hoarding is another thing I do.

  6. I have found my people!
    I’m not even sure if I could ever be called a collector, though, because I don’t collect anything in particular; I just collect everything.
    I’ve been making scrapbooks (which are a mishmash of receipts, random things I’ve found on the street, and rambles) for about five years now and it’s become such a part of my personality that whenever I go out for a meal with friends, they always make sure to keep the receipt and give it to me because they know I’ll want it.

    With regards to “random things I’ve found on the street”, though, that’s definitely my favourite collection.
    The best thing I’ve found, so far, was a passport sized photo of an old man on the steps leading out of a metro station in Paris.
    I’ve also kept a strip of film negatives from Malta, and a Frenchman’s boarding pass, which I found in Venice.
    Basically I’m just overly interested in other peoples’ lives, I dunno.

  7. Ha, see-through Bic lighters, we call them “crack lighters”.

    I’m a sucker for decorative trays, useless little boxes and wicker baskets. Because they could all be useful someday, right?

    • Don’t worry, she’s just saving up the fabric for the coolest windbreaker set evar.

      And the frames for really creepy Christmas tree…

  8. MUGS! I also hoard mugs and I am not the least bit apologetic about it. They’re practical and I actually use them all the time!

    My favorite mugs include:

    A mug with a cute children’s illustration of a giraffe from the Bosch painting “Garden of Earthly Delights” that I bought at the Prado museum in Spain (where I actually got to see the painting in person!)

    My This American Life mug

    The mug from the LA Phil that I bought for $3 because it was on clearance

    The Starbucks mug my cousin got me as a gift because it’s HUGE

    Also the Hershey’s mug I bought from the Hershey store in Times Square on the best vacation of my life (also, HUGE)

    I will literally never turn away a mug.

  9. Match books are legit collectible item tho.
    I learned that when I discovered my elder sibling’s old cache of them back in my sort of pyro days. To be honest those day never really ended, which leads to an item I hoard like a weirdo: Candles.

    They can be burnt down completely and absolutely useless dust gatherer lil stumps, but I can’t part with them. Some of it is they were one the things left behind by my Grampy when he died back in July of 2005 that I managed to keep safe from the damage of Katrina and I can’t throw them out without feeling like I’m throwing him out.
    Which is why I was so UNGRATEFUL when SOMEONE who shall NOT be named decided to HELP me TIDY up.

    It’s not weird to hoard Mardi Gras bead cause you can make decorations out of them and you never know when a little cousin is going to be in a Girl/Boy Scout parade or something and needs throws.

    It’s probably weird to collect feminine clothes and accessories and never wear them in public, but when you feel unsafe or greatly dislike the responses you get wearing them it doesn’t seem all that weird to me.

    It’s is not weird to collect mugs, it is awesome and super useful.
    You could host a holiday party and have a giant crock pot or what of mulled cider. Maybe even hot coco. Or Sweet Hack Baking Shesus have enough mugs for brownies in a mug for a party. Omelette in a mug, cupcake in a mug, lazy way to consume soup, maybe even quiche in a mug…having lots of mugs is great, but doing dishes is bleh.

    And Carmen even if you can’t light a match to save your life you can stil heed some advice from my the thick of pyro days and don’t try to light match or any sort of fire with a fresh, not yet completely dried coat of nail polish.
    Being unexpectedly on fire is scary, panic can overwhelm anybody and no PSA covers what to do when your nails are on fire.

      • My instinct is tell you it wasn’t that bad because the matches were for a candle-lit bath so all I had to do was shove my hand into the tub. Then try to be soothing by telling you about more terrifying things that have happened, but uh I have learned that is not helpful or soothing at all.

  10. This was so much fun to read.

    As a kid I was a big collector, mainly of nature-things like rocks, shells, snake skin, feathers, pinecones, dried flowers, 4-leafed clovers… I went through a lot of different collecting phases. Now, I am much more of a minimalist, and my apartment is very uncluttered, which means not much collecting. But I have a thing for sea glass. It’s the treasure hunting part that makes it fun. I search for it out of habit on my beach walks, delighting when I find an oddly-shaped piece, or one with engraving, or an uncommon color.

    I also have some near-empty bottles of lotion or perfume that I don’t want to throw away because the scent brings back memories, and scarcely anything brings back emotions as vividly as smell.

  11. Hello, my name is Kristen, and I can’t resist buying mugs. I got two new mugs last week. I don’t care if I don’t have space in my cupboard, if I see a cute/cool/clever mug, I WANTS IT!

  12. I collect bottletops. The metal ones you get on glass bottles. Only one of each, though. Even though I don’t drink. Being a student helps though. My flatmates occasionally ask if I’ve got one of which ever cheap shit they were drinking the night before (the answer is always yes, but last year someone bought 5 different weird bottles of beer, drank them and then gave me the tops for my birthday)
    I’ve got 80 so far, and I bought a big piece of fabric to do the 2pence-in-the-back thing and then hang it up (I only have 20 2pence pieces so far tho, I’m having to pay for things weirdly to get the right change).
    Give you a list of my favourites? One with a bee on it, the cola ones (one french + one english – I’m sort of proud of myself for actually asking the barstaff if I could keep them), Hobgoblin, Crabbie’s (it has a pink elephant), Pelforth (a pelican), Cacolac (French chocolate milkshake stuff that tastes weird), ‘Hamburg’ with 2 guys’ faces on, a blue star with the london skyline inside, and Panache’.
    I also have a cola bottle filled with sweet wrappers (mostly starburst I think? And quality street) that I started when I was 14 and delivering curries with my mum.

    So anyway, that’s weird.

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