I’m a collector. Neatly arranged on a bookshelf in my living room is a hardcover book collection. On another shelf? My vinyl records. My favorite collection, however, is the one hardest to organize: my growing compilation of thoughts and ideas. I gather them by thinking, reading, writing, perusing quotes, and sifting through Twitter in search of fresh perspective.
The challenge of collecting anything is in creating the standard through which items can be accepted. Otherwise, we end up drowning in obsession, and like on the A&E TV show, Hoarders, we find ourselves confessing to a camera crew, “I don’t know how it got to be like this.” It takes careful intentionality to keep only that which is beneficial. I learned this lesson and the importance of establishing criteria through my all-inclusive love of books.
The Importance Of Establishing Criteria
The Japanese word, Tsundoku (n.) means “buying books and not reading them; letting books pile up unread on shelves or floors or nightstands.” It is a word that anchors a concept with which I’m all too familiar. I used to buy every book I had read, wanted to read, or simply wanted to own. I picked through the musty aisles of thrift stores, and scoured garage sales and 25 cent racks. The result was an eventual compilation of chaos, overflowing bookshelves, and boxes of worn out paperbacks. When A&E called, I figured I should scale back. Now, I have a cherished and intentional twelve book collection. The criteria is (a.) I’ve had to have read it, (b.) I’ve had to have loved it, and (c.) it must be hardcover. Because of the criteria, I am able to better enjoy the hobby and more fondly appreciate my collection. Sometimes, I even get caught looking at it as if it’s about to scatter. My wife laughing at me breaks the sacred silence.
As a collector of ideas, or as an over-thinker, the same method must be applied. We should be careful to not hoard thoughts that clutter our heads, and we should establish a criteria for which new ones make it onto the bookshelves of our minds, and which ones don’t. Having an open door policy for your thoughts is as dangerous as one for your home. It will benefit the over-thinker to develop standards so that the mind can stay clear and well-organized.
Reorganizing The Shelves In Your Mind
I’m very internal. I’ll collect and compile thought after thought, hoarding them in chaos, and it is these thoughts that weigh me down in depression and anxiety. I don’t have a very good forgettery. Something awkward, stressful, or inconvenient happens to me and I save it next to my collection of good memories and uplifting reminders. It’s like squeezing a sloppy Romance novel between my hardcover editions of East of Eden and Watership Down. Negative occurrences stick with me, doomsday predictions cloud my mind, and nasty self-talk bullies me into the ground. I have a hard time letting go of thoughts that don’t belong.
If you’re like me, what do you do? Start by sifting through your head and ditching excess thoughts and ideas. Then determine what you want your collection of thoughts to look like. You might want it to be more positive and uplifting, maybe confident and bold. Recognize the dirty Romance novels cluttering your shelf, and take action to getting rid of them.
Now, because you know what you want your collection to look like, establish a criteria. How will you determine what future thoughts are welcome into your head and which thoughts are not? Probably negative self-talk should not be welcome, and uplifting quotes should be.
You only have so much room in your head so value your collection of thoughts with care. Being more intentional will help you to better enjoy thinking while having a deeper appreciation of your collection. (Check out my post “How To Think Responsibly”).