The Collector Mentality: Curating Your Treasures

I am a collector.  Always have been.  Sea Shells, rocks, stamps, coins, baseball cards comic books – I’ve collected them all.

Collecting is more than a hobby, however; it is a mindset.

Tom Stanley taught me this truth in his little book Millionaire Mind  (published 2000).  Stanley talks about how true wealth generators have a defined sense of vocation which determines the lens through which they see everything.  Then, they develop a “collector’s mentality,” identifying and capturing everything that even tangentially relates to their vocation.  

“Too many people today lack focus; they are not collectors of anything — not data, not customers, not specific marketable skills.  On the other hand, collectors can read one newspaper and find several ideas or pieces of information about their chosen vocation.  In twenty years they can generate a collection of treasure.  Non-collectors often don’t understand what they should be doing given their aptitudes and abilities.  They can read thousands of newspapers and not add one item to their collection.”  (213, emphasis mine)

That little tidbit has stuck with me for the past decade.  So now, in addition to collecting tidbits, stories, ideas, and bon mots, I’m also collecting ideas about how to collect.  Here are my top three collection/curation tools.

A-Z File Cabinet

I used to try all kinds of complex file schemes: color coding based off file types; multiple file cabinets based on the subject matter of the files.   They were all hopelessly complex.

David Allen’s Getting Things Done clued me in to the value of a single integrated A-Z file system for everything in life.  “Family stories” comes right before a folder on “Fasting and prayer” in my file cabinet.  My personal and work files intermingle because I’m a whole person.  

Additionally, I use both paper and digital files – so my laptop has an A-Z file cabinet where I file every email, document, or image that might be of use.  It’s surprisingly easy to locate and retrieve information with this A-Z filing system.

As a caveat, I might add that I do a high level review/purge of the file cabinets at least once a year.  I don’t touch every document, but I do open each file and get a brief refresher on what’s in there.  Usually, I can purge about 5%-10% of the files as not needed anymore.


Everyone is all agog over cloud computing.  It’s really a simple concept – cloud computing is mainframe 2.0.  It’s simply storing your data in remote servers somewhere in Kansas or Tajikistan.  Evernote is one of the leading providers of this storage service.  They have a surprisingly robust set of tools that allow you to quickly clip and file documents, photos, web pages, emails, audio, video, etc. 

Not surprisingly, I’ve set up an A-Z file on Evernote.  However, I don’t use Evernote for working files.  Rather, I use it for storage of interesting articles or things I’d like to read.  It’s pretty much only a reference storage facility for me. 

I like Evernote because it saves tons of time and paper in clipping these articles.  It also has a search feature will look through your entire collection – on the odd chance you’ve forgotten something.


Yes, I still use the old fashioned pen and ink journal.  These are invaluable to me – and I have dozens of filled spiral notebooks going back all the way to college.  They have reading notes, musings, sketches, thoughts, ideas, etc.

In recent years, I’ve tried to take cues from design professionals.  I’ve started clipping graphics, images, photos, and other inspiring visuals and taping them in my notebook.  I’ve also taken to illustrating with doodles more often.  All as a way of capturing the totality of a thought that I might bring to bear in a sermon, integrate with a bulletin cover, or write about in a newsletter article. 

I’ve taken to calling these journals my pensieve, after Dumbledore’s fabulous memory-saving device in the Harry Potter books.

My buried treasure

In these storage vaults, I have accumulated decades worth of stories, reading notes, illustrations, images, interesting turns of phrase, insights, and oddities.  Tom Stanley was right – I have a treasure trove of material that I mine for the intellectual/creative part of my pastoral role. 

So what’s your collection?  How are you adding to it?  How are you building your treasure?  I’d love to hear your stories.

Soli Deo Gloria




3 thoughts on “The Collector Mentality: Curating Your Treasures

  1. I also collect words and ideas and even funny things that happen to me. I use them in my writing and teaching – if I can find them. Usually, they are scribbled on small papers and stuck in books and the bottom of boxes. If my system had a name it would be something like Good Things in No Particular Order. Curating sounds more appealing than organization, so I think I’ll give your system a try. Thanks for the post.

  2. I love the idea of the A-Z file system. That makes so much sense! I’ve tried to use Evernote but I can never figure how to organize it so it’s not very useful for me. I think I’ll try the A-Z system and see if that works better!

    • Kathy, I’m so glad that you like the idea – wish I could take credit for it. It’s really helped me to have one simple filing system. Let me know how it works. And thanks for posting your thoughts. RS

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s