I've always been a collector, even before I knew I was a collector. When my sister and I were little, our room was full of knick-knacks and doohickeys and stuff from everywhere we ever went and every holiday we ever celebrated. I mean really- at some point it is possible to be overrun by tiny porcelain bunnies (though I'm not sure my mom believes that)...
Over time, we successfully winnowed, and matured, and I'm proud that tiny bunnies are no longer a part of my home decor. Instead, it seems I've moved on to bigger and better things, collections that are more meaningful (and thankfully more functional for the most part). Thanks to two years in the Middle East, I have a fantastic rug collection that brightens my floors and those of some of my friends and family. I collect maps from my travels and display them in my home as art. I love textiles, and currently have a kilim and a kimono hanging on my walls, helping to disguise the renter's white paint. I've got glass lamps from Turkey, carnival masks from Venice, and at least one piece of art from every country I've been to in the last 11 years.
I like to think I'm discerning, that my collections are all meaningful and useful, but realistically, I know that the beauty of a collection is often in the eye of the beholder. My husband may appreciate my rugs and art, but I know he probably wouldn't blink if it all disappeared one day- except perhaps to express his joy at the newfound simplicity of our home! Luckily for me, though he may not love my stuff, he doesn't hate it either so I'm free to display it at will.
To me, my collections help tell the story of who I am and the life that I live. They provide color and joy, and serve as reminders of places I've been and the people I knew in those places. I would love to hear from other collectors about what your collections mean to you, how you balance a love of simplicity with a love of stuff, and how you keep it all from getting out of hand.