Some people collect postage stamps or teddy bears or vintage china teacups. Me? I collect tote bags. I didn’t set out to collect tote bags, but somehow I have quite the collection.
It started out innocently enough. I received tote bags at a couple of events and as a public radio premium. Then I started using those tote bags as filing systems for meetings I attended: one for quilt guild, one for my congregation’s social ministry committee, one for my Bible study group.
We lived in a 100-year-old house that had some original hooks at one of the stairwell landings. I’d hang those three tote bags there and grab the correct bag before heading out to a meeting.
Tote bags piled up fast
Once I began working for the church, the tote bags started piling up fast. And then every so often I’d spot a cute or clever tote bag for sale that would join my growing collection. I expanded my use of the bags, taking them to the farmer’s market or using them to hold quilting or knitting projects.
Today I have tote bags of various shapes and sizes stashed in the back of my mini-van. (I like having plenty of options available when I go shopping.) A few are tucked into the bottom drawer of my office desk. (I never know when I’ll need a bag to carry home items from the office.)
I have some devoted to my fiber arts projects, including a natty plaid bag from Denmark and a simple tote bag from the Hand Knitting Association of Iceland. I have tote bags collected up inside bigger tote bags. That was the first sign that my collection was growing too big.
It’s so easy to get far too attached to things instead of focusing on God, people, relationships and God’s good creation.
The bags hold memories
Over the years I’ve found it hard to give away tote bags. Many bags hold a memory. Having a wide range of shapes and sizes is handy. An unusual tote bag can spur a conversation with a stranger. I can easily justify keeping all those tote bags! The time has come, however, to pare down the collection. After all, do I really need more than 100 tote bags? No!
I’ll hold on to the most useful bags. I’ll keep a few that carry with them unique memories. I’ll offer up the rest to friends and co-workers, then drop off the rest at a local thrift shop or even the local food bank (I’ve heard they use them in place of grocery bags).
Now, if I can only exercise this discipline with a few other collections I’ve got going. It’s so easy to get far too attached to things instead of focusing on God, people, relationships and God’s good creation.
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director of Women of the ELCA.