How To Start A Collection

Happy Thursday! Erica Reitman, The Design Ninja Extraordinaire, is stopping over today to talk about how to start a collection. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a ton…trophies, indigo, navy books, vintage barware…errrrmmmm *cough* chairs…ya let’s not go there, but sometimes it all goes in a box. I never know what to do with it all. Anyhoo, no matter what it is that you’re drawn to, Erica’s here to tell you to snap that shiz up and put it on display. Now excuse me while I go start my “Buy Me This” Pinterest board. 

Needlepoints with exotic animal imagery, baskets of all shapes and sizes, large ashtrays, iced tea spoons, rocks glasses, vintage matchbooks…these are just a few of the bizarro things I’ve decided to collect over the years.

How To Start A Collection. Erica Reitman teaches us how to collect the things you love and fly your freak flag high!


Collections are crazy fun. And once you have your first, it’s way easier to start new ones or add to the ones you’ve already been building. But I often hear from people are more confused about the idea of what to collect than they are about how to pronounce “Nevada” (Nuh-VAAAAH-dah, not Nuh-VAH-dah, fyi).

As a card carrying vintage addict, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to start a collection. And now I want to let you on all my secrets, so you too can needlessly spend your money on all sorts of random stuff you totally don’t need.

How To Start A Collection. Erica Reitman teaches us how to collect the things you love and fly your freak flag high!

Here are my best tips for how to decide what in the hayl you should collect:

This sounds like a silly one, but I swear I see people get tripped up by this ALL THE TIME. The best part of starting a collection is that you can just let your freak flag fly! “But I can’t collect antique butter dishes with farm animals on them, Erica.” Uhm, yes you can. “Isn’t it weird if I want to start collecting mugs with Northeastern college mascots on them?” Nope, not at all.

In fact, I would say: the weirder your collection, the better! This way you won’t be in competition with lots of people when you need to throw down on eBay for that wild hyena butter dish.

Vintage shopping at The Randolph Antique Market in Chicago. How To Start A Collection. Erica Reitman teaches us how to collect the things you love and fly your freak flag high!@Megillicutti’s booth – Randolph Antique Market

Chances are, you probably have some major clues about what you’d like to collect buried in all of your Pinterest pins. Now, it’s time to put your Scooby Doo hat on and figure out what they are:

• Look through your pins and see if you start noticing any patterns in the rooms you tend to like.

• Is there anything in your pins that you seem to gravitate too a lot (even if it’s not necessarily objects, you can still find some clues in room types). For example, if you pin pics of lots of etageres and shelves, chances are you are a perfect candidate for starting a collection.

• Do you have a “buy me this!” board? If so, look at the patterns amongst the things you like to pin. Do you tend to always pin Jewelry? If so, perhaps vintage bangles would be a fun thing for you to collect. Are you always pinning baking items? Then maybe we need to start you up with a vintage rolling pin collection or vintage cookie cutters.

• And if you’re not on Pinterest at all, no problem! Go look at some other kickass Pinterest accounts and see if you can find some good stuff there that tips you off. Oh snap!: both House of Hipsters and my Pinterest  feeds are a great place to start.

Vintage shopping at The Savoy Flea. How To Start A Collection. Erica Reitman teaches us how to collect the things you love and fly your freak flag high!The Savoy Flea

Instagram is quickly becoming my new fave search engine. And if you’re looking for some hardcore inspiration, you need to get on this bandwagon too.

  • Go to your search tab on the bottom of your screen (look for the magnifying glass)
  • Then type in your hashtag in the search box and click on the “tags” option right under the box
  • You should then see your hashtag at the top of the list. Click on it and peep your eyes on some real good ish.
  • If you’re finding REALLY good stuff, look right underneath the hashtag once you click on it, and look at the “related hashtags” list. You can try clicking on those as well for even more great ideas.

Here are some hashtags that I love to search on Insta when I’m looking for vintage or collection inspo: #shelfie (to check out the décor on people’s shelves), #thriftscorethursday, #vintagedecor, #vintagehome, #thisiswhyihavetothriftshopeveryday, #colddeadfingers, #finditstyleit, #foundforaged

A collection of vintage navy books. How To Start A Collection. Erica Reitman teaches us how to collect the things you love and fly your freak flag high!

I get that going to the thrift store can sometimes feel crazy overwhelming for a newbie. So this exercise will ease you into things without much of a big commitment.

Find a local Goodwill, Salvation Army or other thrift store in your nabe (check reviews on Yelp first if you want to make sure it’s a good one). Then drive yo self on over, park your car, and set the timer on your phone for 10 minutes when you walk in. That’s all you’re committing to here.

While the time is ticking away, I want you to just start walking around and see what catches your eye. Again, this might feel weird at first, but I just want you to start practicing figuring out what your style is. I want you to pretend that you’re on a TV show, and you HAVE to find the one or two things in there that you love the most in order to win the grand prize to Fiji. You need to figure this out by the time your timer goes off.

Now remember: there is no right or wrong answer here. You may be surprised by what you decide you like, or it might feel super obvious. But I’m hoping this exercise will give you some ideas of what you might like to collect based on the sorts of things that caught your eye. If you try this and NOTHING catches your eye, then either you’re a crazy person, OR, you should just go home and try this all again in a few days.

Vintage shopping at The Savoy Flea. How To Start A Collection. Erica Reitman teaches us how to collect the things you love and fly your freak flag high!The Savoy Flea

NEWSFLASH: you might actually already *have * a collection in your own damn house! It’s possible that you’ve accidentally started a collection over the years and you don’t even know it.

So take a look around and see if you’ve already got something brewing. Maybe you didn’t realize that you’ve managed to accumulate 19 antique linen napkins over the years. Surprise! Or that you happen to have an owl in your kitchen, on your coffee table, AND on a set of dessert plates. BREAKING: YOU LOVE OWLS!

So yeah: just take a look around your joint and see if you already have any collections brewing.

Vintage shopping at South Loop Loft. How To Start A Collection. Erica Reitman teaches us how to collect the things you love and fly your freak flag high!South Loop Loft

If you’ve tried everything and you still don’t know what the heck you should be collecting, start polling your friends. Often times our friends are more observant about the stuff that we dig than we are. Ask a few of your good friends: “if you heard that I was starting a collection, what would you guess I’d be collecting?”

Ask a few of your good friends: “if you heard that I was starting a collection, what would you guess I’d be collecting?”Click To Tweet

I bet you’ll get some kickass answers like: “well, since you’re obsessed with champagne, I would guess you’re going to collect vintage champagne flutes.” So yeah: bug your friends and make them figure it all out.

Ok, if you’re still stumped after all of this, don’t get discouraged. Cause you can steal one of my ideas! I’ve been building my own collections for so long now, I’ve got ideas comin’ outta my eyeballs. Here are some of my fave:

• art deco glassware
• embroidered napkins
• matchbooks
• wooden 60/70’s serving pieces
• wicker animals
• bottle openers
• macrame or wall hangings
• flower pots
• signs (transportation, bathroom, office door, whatever!)
• coins from the year you were born
• photos of strange families on the beach
• portraits of random people
• old postcards
• butter dishes
• quilts or blankets
• brass animal figurines
• woman head vases
• flower frogs
• hotel keys
• vintage items of your fave dog breed
• maps
• baking tools
• iced tea spoons
• ashtrays
• rhinestone brooches
• old buttons
• resin bangles

Erica is sharing all of her best insider-y tricks about how you can find the perfect vintage pieces for your home and turn it into a crazy fab, baller pad. Click here if you want to learn more about Vintage Shop Camp.

Erica Reitman - Interior Designer and Styling Ninja

If you loved this post and want more Erica in your life, read how she’s obsessed with 70’s interior design or all the rules you should break if you’re part of the small space squad. She’s also killing it on HGTV.



  1. Catherine January 19, 2017

    Oh man I love collecting! I have a nice paint-by-number collection, anything brass, milk glass vases
    I really want to get into collecting wicker or portraits of random people (which I’ve been seeing everywhere and getting obsessed with). My mom has a pretty extensive copper and tea pot collection so the apple doesn’t fall far when it comes to growing collections 🙂

    • Erica Reitman January 19, 2017

      It’s so cool that you learned your love of collecting from your mom, Catherine! And art is a fun one to dive into…I have a tiny house, so I’ve run out of room on my walls 🙂

    • kyla January 19, 2017

      I love it when milk glass collectors have a whole shelfie full of it. It’s stunning. I have a vintage portraits collection…I need to figure out a place to hang them all. Hoarders unite!

  2. Julia@Cuckoo4Design January 19, 2017

    Huge Erica fan over here! I’d say my thing is anthropomorphic animals on plates and the collection is maxed out 😉

    • Erica Reitman January 19, 2017

      I share your love of animals, Julia! I just can’t get enough!

    • kyla January 19, 2017

      I love how you’ve displayed your plate collection in your home. It’s beautiful!

  3. Oscar E Bravo January 19, 2017

    First off, let me just say that your images are absolutely beautiful. You have an amazing eye for editing. ANYWAYZ, I love a quirky collection! Great tips!

    • kyla January 19, 2017

      OSCAR!!!!! You’re the sweetest person for saying that. A couple months ago, I decided to really up my imagery game. Thank you so much for noticing. Muah!

  4. Mary January 19, 2017

    I collect plates and display them on my dining room wall. I have over 100!!
    Check out my Instagram feed…@Designfreak.

    • kyla January 24, 2017

      How did I not know this about you collecting plates??????

  5. Eileen James January 24, 2017

    This was an amazing read. I’ve always wanted to start a collection but I must admit I always felt lost and confused. Your tips were really helpful, I’ll definitely make it happen now. Thank you so much!

    • kyla January 24, 2017

      So glad you stopped by Eileen. Erica is a fantastic writer and really knows her way around vintage. Best advice!

  6. […] Collect away […]

  7. South Loop Loft February 15, 2017

    I’ve started collecting vintage bottle openers! They’re easy to carry and don’t take up to much room in my luggage if I find some when I’m traveling! Such a great post and thanks for including an image of our shop! XO


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