The Two Reasons Why Artists And Creatives Make Virtuoso “Pack Rats”

John Maeda
6 min readAug 9, 2022
Rodent saying to themselves, “Come to think of it … I might need that thing I was just about to throw out. Phew!”
Does this sound familiar to you?

“Come to think of it … I might need that thing I was just about to throw out. Phew!” — me

Whenever I visit my 86-year old Mom, she is always showing me something sparkly and new that she’s collected. Or, more recently … because she’s preparing to die … Mom wants to give me the things that she’s held onto from when she was much younger. For example, on my recent trip she gave me this beautiful doll that she’s owned since she was 18.

Wooden Japanese-style doll with carving of blossoms.
A doll that my Mom purchased in the 1950s while visiting Japan from Hawaii just before her arranged marriage.

Like my Mom, letting go of things that I’ve collected over the years doesn’t come easily.

I used to lament how I inherited this unfortunate habit from Mom—who would feature on the Emmy-nominated TV show “Hoarders” if her collecting skills were better known. But I realize that it’s a kind of superpower that she inadvertently taught me so that I might be able to survive in life.

Mom is like a lint brush for random stuff that can range from a shiny Hawaiian keychain with puka shells to a myriad of Franklin Mint porcelain collectibles to her…



John Maeda

John Maeda: Technologist and product experience leader that bridges business, engineering, design via working inclusively. Currently VP Design and A.I. at MSFT.