Rocks, Crystals, Minerals: Collection? Clutter? or Just Plain Hoarding?

Rocks, Crystals and Minerals: Collection? Clutter? or Just Plain Hoarding?

Written for an Arizona Gem and Mineral Club Newsletter

True confession, I have crystals in my medicine cabinet. These are remnants of a crystal collection that got out of control. I never realized how fast this could happen until my husband and I got together. Access to a wholesaler, buying out a few collections including one from 45 years of rock hounding- and being very lucky with club raffles boosted our combined collection exponentially. Our display shelves were three-to-four deep with specimens, our living room floor was half covered with minerals, and thousands of ‘rocks to be processed’ had to be moved not once, but two times, when they installed the sewage pipe. My husband and I lean towards having different tastes in rock collecting. He likes the raw stuff and really nice specimens, one of each. I lean towards any kind of quartz – preferably the big fat points, and have a soft spot for slightly dinged pieces that need a home. Things got to a point where we couldn’t see the ‘trees for the forest’ to reverse a famous old saying.

Being trained in Feng Shui and Professional Organizing I just couldn’t take the volume and the amount piled in the living room- as it was blocking the flow of energy and crowding the view. We mutually decided to have “THE BIG CLEAR OUT”. Taking some time to reflect on what we wanted from this collection, we brainstormed some solutions to this growing problem.

What constitutes a collection is relative to the collector. To some people you may have too many rocks and to others not enough. (Ok… we’re all rock hounds and there’s never too many…..) But if your rocks, minerals or crystals are tripping up your flow, or perhaps causing a bit of marital tension, you need to decide if you have a collection or clutter or are just plain hoarding them.

So what is a ‘collection’? A collection is a group of ten or more similar items. In this hobby it is rocks, gems, crystals, and/or minerals. These items are loved and admired. They are on display to be enjoyed and shown off. Ours are on wooden shelves. When people ask me what I do with my crystals, my reply is ‘I dust them!”- said with a foolish grin on my face, and eliciting a knowing smile from many women. We have seen them in china cabinets, curio cabinets, under a glass topped table, and in a room full of lit up display cases – all labeled. Who needs a dining room anyway? These are collections.

Clutter takes up space you need, and is underfoot. It’s in your way, piled in such a way here and there that it makes no sense, is too many items for the space available, and blocks enjoyment of your collection. It is not used, loved, admired or worked with. Clutter takes up garage space, basement storage, is often found in moldy/mildewing flats of collapsing cardboard- or collecting cobwebs in some abandoned corner. It has been around for years- because, hey, you’re bound to get to it someday. ‘Someday’ I’ll buy a cabinet and display this stuff, it’ll be worth lots ‘someday’, I’ll work with it ‘someday’, I just need some saws (have you been saying this for 10 years now?). Rock clutter is heavy clutter- and as you age it just gets heavier and harder to deal with. If it is sentimental – it is heavy sentiment of the good ol days….

Hoarding is a more serious issue. Rocks are amassed for many reasons: to build a protective wall around yourself, holding onto them because you are afraid they won’t go to a good home, representing monetary value or expertise- or just greed. These are deeper psychological issues, but worth considering if you feel things have gotten out of hand.

So if the rocks are taking over your place it’s probably time to do a little ‘prioritizing’. Before you start attacking the piles and starting throwing them around (no glass houses please), the most important thing to do is to take a deep breath, sit down and ask yourself ‘what do I want from the experience of having a rock/crystal/mineral collection?’
Greg and I discussed this and came up with the following: to have a variety of nice specimens to show people, an aesthetically pleasing environment, energetic support and a bunch of little friends all around us that we don’t have to walk, feed or water.

Once you’ve decided what you want from your collection it’s important to evaluate how much space you have that can be allotted to this hobby. You can only fit 10 feet of crystals into 10 feet of space. You can only move what you can lift. How many rocks can you display? This is your amount. This number goes up with smaller pieces and down with the larger ones. As far as I’m concerned, have as many as what makes you happy- and that you can display nicely (just don’t call me on dusting day). So be it 10, 20, 100 or 1,000- this is your collection.

So as you begin thinning out ask yourself the following questions for each piece:
Do I use it? Does it/will it have a purpose in the near future? Will I be displaying it? Will I use it as a healing tool?
Do I love it? Does it make me happy??
Is this my best specimen? Do I want to show it off to others?
Does it support what I want from this type of collection?
For those that want to work with rough specimens: Do I have a place to cut and polish it? Do I have the saws, the space, or plans to work on them somewhere? Do I have a plan?

So now that you’re clear on what stays or goes, what is the next step?

The rocks you are keeping for processing can be organized into small to medium plastic bins, and placed on sturdy shelving. We opted for metal racks on wheels and found them at Sam’s Club. I’m not a fan of cardboard, as is gets softer and mustier with age. Label your bins with the date and give yourself a time limit, for example one or two years. If you haven’t processed them in this time, will you ever? Unlikely. Unless you are close to having the time (retirement) it is best to set ‘em free for others to work with and enjoy. Rough specimens can also be stored in rock gardens, lining walls and gardens. Shade is better for amethyst and rose quartz, as the sun will lighten these minerals over time.

Surplus specimens can be turned into a medicine wheel or contribute to some other yard art.
You can gift the extras to a friend or a customer, add to a child’s rock collection, sell ‘em, swap ‘em, donate them to clubs or classes- or simply return them to earth for someone else to find.
If you are stuck on sentiment but don’t have the space, take some pictures of your minerals and frame them with the rock hounding buddy you found them with and place it on the wall or in an album. If your collection is quite extensive and you just don’t have the space to do it justice, you could store half of it and switch out every 6 months. It will be like having a fresh new collection twice a year.

Managing inflow is very important. Please go enjoy rock hounding, but process what you bring home. Buy that special piece that calls your name. The key is the one in one out rule. For every piece that comes in one should go out- at least then you’ll be at a manageable level. So dust off your collections, oil up those saws, get those unused pieces out into circulation – you’ll be happy with the added space to attract new pieces, inspire creative projects, and you will thank me should you ever have to move.

Another confession: in my weaker moments ‘one piece out’ usually finds itself out in the meditation crystal garden. And as for the crystals in the medicine cabinet, they are always there to greet me when I go to floss my teeth!

by Ann Capatch 2012

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