Collecting and Aphantasia

I’m 52 and recently realized I have aphantasia.

Looking back on my life some of my weird quirks make more sense, such as not being able to remember faces or past events.

One thing I wonder about is the hobby of collecting stuff.

My house is odd. Every square inch of wall space is decorated with photos, pictures, art, and stuff. I’ve collected lots books and magazines, old fishing lures, movies and videogames, board games, and these are all well-organized and on display. And by “lots” I mean thousands and thousands. My house looks more like a weird, curated museum than a regular family dwelling. Happily, my wife loves the aesthetic, even though her mind’s eye is vivid.

When I think about how I think, I realize that it is all about the relationships between ideas, words, and concepts. Since I can’t imagine visuals, my imagination involves grouping together ideas, and filling in blanks. 

Is collecting stuff directly connected to the way I think? Because now that I know I have aphantasia, my house and collections really seem like I have substituted my mind’s eye with visual memories and symbols.

Do any of you collect stuff too?

Share this post

You must be signed in to comment
Total Comments (7)

so I’m 30 and I’ve only just realised I have aphantasia and a lot of stuff is “clicking”

my mum recently passed away and I’ve been sorting through some stuff – most of which I instantly wanted to keep but I’ve already got a large collection of stuff!

I love keeping old photos and nick nacks – shells from the beach, literally momentos from everything little thing I do. 

but I guess it makes sense because it’s nice to have a visual aid for all your memories (like most people can create in their mind) I found loads of things that my mum had in our house when we were little that I had completely forgotten  about and now after finding them it’s like I’ve unlocked new memories and I can remember more details about the house. 

so now I think of my hoard as “life references” 


I’m 65 and I love to keep pamphlets and other things like that from places I visit. My iPhone has thousands of photos. All organized by year and place. Like you I have a collection of many books.

I can get lost in scrolling through my photos, reinforcing my metadata(words) that build my memories. 

@Emma Cowell – I love your phrase “life references.” 

Vision is my dominant sense. I collect images. I am a photographer who always has my iPhone in my pocket to capture what I see as I walk with my dog. Yearly, I go on a solo road trip with my Nikon and “harvest” images along the way. I have a pretty good eye. This year, I am heading west from Minnesota and will make a loop through IA, NE, CO, UT, ID, MT, WY, and SD.

I am a visual aphant, and I am the complete opposite of you.  I’m a barebone minimalist in my late 30s, and keep very few physical momentos, and I would say only an average number of photos.  I wouldn’t describe your home as ‘odd’.  Plenty of people have houses that look the way you describe.  Especially as they get older, I believe that is the norm.  People just like having their memories close at hand, since even visualizers ‘lose’ visual memories over time.

We do share the love of being organized though.  I find a deep sense of satisfaction in grouping ‘like’ items together. 



Oh  my  hat

you have just described my home, my teaching classroom and every space I have ever been in. I only discovered 3 days ago that I wasn’t just “exaggerating” when I told my mum at 8ish years old that I couldn’t tell her what was chasing me in my nightmare, because I didn’t see pictures in my dreams… I have only just started the journey of discovery, but i know my sense of touch is definitely heightened.

I don’t have photos, I have things from people and places, these are my memories, I touch them and I ‘know’ how it felt to be there/know them. I come home to my chaotic, ‘museum of my life’, and my soul is happy. It also explains why, despite being very sociable, I let very few people into my home – this is my memory bank, and I don’t want random strangers messing with it. 

Kids love my classroom, it is always filled with strange and beautiful things, but some colleges just see it as ‘messy and undisciplined’. 

Gosh, I can really relate to this.

Oh absolutely. You described my entire house to an absolute t (and as a kid and teen my bedroom was like that too!)