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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Could the act of collecting things be counterproductive?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (21111 points ) December 18th, 2010

Couldn’t the act of collecting be counterproductive? If one collects something they can’t or won’t use isn’t that just taking up space? Before my late friend and housemate died I emptied his storage to save him some money I thought he was going to live longer than he did. There was your standard ”It means something to me if no one else” type of stuff. The rest was records. He collected records for years and had boatloads of them. He figured one day to sell them off to others who collected. He never got around to it because he wanted the records to get more ”seasoned” then as he got more ill they went on the back burner because health issues took the forefront. All that money and all those years to house records and in the end he never got to do anything with them. To what gain is there to collect things you won’t or can’t use because you will degrade the value? To spend all your life collecting coins, stamps, belt buckles or whatever if you have to keep it wrapped up and unused where is the benefit if you don’t plan on selling off your life’s endeavor? And if you have no one to leave your collection to does that make it even less meaningful? What if you collected beetles or butterflies, something that will never really have a monetary value, what would be the end purpose spending a life collecting them if none of your friends or relatives wanted it when you died?

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21 Answers

augustlan's avatar

…what would be the end purpose spending a life collecting them if none of your friends or relatives wanted it when you died?

To bring you joy while you’re alive, of course. That said, I’m not a fan of collecting things that must be kept in an unused state. I collect things I like to look at (or read), not to pack them away in dust jackets. I don’t really think that’s collecting, but more like… investing. And a risky investment, at that.

seazen's avatar

@augustlan Well said, To bring you joy while you’re alive, of course. I try not to collect, but I used to. That said, I completely agree with you – it’s personal, and everyone can collect to their heart’s desire – from stamps to clamps – and enjoy the process of collection, the collection itself, the showing of it (or not) and ultimately sell it, give it away – or burn it.

YARNLADY's avatar

I have collected so much stuff my daughter in law accuses me of hoarding. She has made it clear that when my time comes, they will throw out all my junk. I recently donated more than half the contents of my sewing room fabric stash to a charity project because of it.

And yet she sees nothing similar about filling my storage shed with her Beanie Babies, ceramic dragons, barbie dolls, rabbit cage and supplies, hamster cage and so on.

I pick up a coffee mug from every interesting/tourist place I visit, and I have several shelves full of them. They mean something to me, but won’t mean anything to anyone else.

What would you rather we do with the space that contains our collections, anyway?

seazen's avatar

I’ll take the mugs, @YARNLADY. Just saying.

Trillian's avatar

It is not the destination which is important, it is the journey. The act of collecting gave him pleasure. He lived according to what he wanted to do and did what gave him, not you, pleasure. Seems pretty simpe and straightforward to me.

rangerr's avatar

Auggie is right. For most, it’s about the joy it brings you. Most people aren’t collecting for other people. They are collecting for themselves.

“To what gain is there…if you have to keep it wrapped up and unused where is the benefit if you don’t plan on selling off your life’s endeavor?”

I’m this way about certain Star Wars figures/toys. Certain ones, I’ll open and get high and play with. I’m a 5 year-old in a 19 year-old body. Then there are some that are harder to find, that I’ll leave in the packaging and keep displayed in my room. They are all hanging on the wall… I consider it a form of decorating, my mom says it’s my trophy display.
I don’t not open them because of a fear of lowering the value.. I’ve just got a weird OCD thing about certain toys that makes me not able to open them without feeling like I did something wrong. This is the life of a geek, I suppose.

I’m not too worried about what happens to my collection after I die. Assuming I’m not going to die soon in a freak accident, and assuming my kids will like Star Wars.. Most of the Non Boba Fett action figures will become theirs. If they want to open them, cool. If not.. I’ll raise another geeky collector.
Should I die anytime soon, my mom has already planned on shipping everything to the boyfriend.. who collects more than I do.

Collecting takes up space, sure.. but what would I do with that space without something there? Empty walls/shelves? Meh.. I like having stuff there. I like being able to say “Yeah.. I’ve got the 1978 Darth Vader with telescoping lightsaber.”
It doesn’t mean anything to most people.. but to other geeks.. it’s how I brag.

thekoukoureport's avatar

This really speaks to the need we as a people have to attach ourselves to inanimate objects. Mostly we use these objects as markers in memory, other times the adrenaline of the hunt, the release of endorphines at the capture is the best high in some “collectors” lives. Nothing wrong with and should be enjoyed to the fullest. But like most things, only in moderation. Just another human addiction.

Seelix's avatar

You only have to watch a couple of episodes of Hoarders to see how collecting can become counterproductive.

My grandmother collected all kinds of stuff that she thought might be valuable. Glass bottles, stamps, coins, buttons and pins, you name it, she probably had it in her house somewhere. When she passed away we were able to sell a bunch of stuff to local collectors – some of whom had visited her years earlier and wanted to buy stuff that she wasn’t ready to part with. But some of the stuff was pretty worthless, and it was sad to have to get rid of it knowing that it was something that she, for whatever reason, loved.

I don’t really collect anything myself. I have a million billion books, but I don’t acquire them for the sake of collecting them (with the exception of a few signed copies I have) – I read them and love them and keep them so that they can be enjoyed again. Recently I’ve been giving away a lot of books after reading them – those that I don’t think I’ll read again.

The fiance collects a ton of stuff. Comics and Star Wars/Spider-man stuff, mostly. We don’t have the space now to display his collections properly, so most of it is boxed up in storage at his parents’ place. But I’m cool with it; it doesn’t bother me that he collects things. @rangerr – one of the coolest Star Wars things he has is an Episode II miniature Mace Windu lightsaber hilt that I got for him about 7 or 8 years ago. I bought it at a store for like $50, then later we realized that it was gold-plated – one of only a few like that which were released along with the regular run. Pretty cool happy accident :)

rangerr's avatar

@Seelix Fuckyeah! Get on that space-making business, though! Wall shelves are your best friend.

BarnacleBill's avatar

All that matters is that it gives you enjoyment while you’re doing it. If if brings monetary gain for your heirs, that’s incidental. You don’t live your life so your children or siblings should profit upon your death. Or shouldn’t.

Judi's avatar

Haven’t read all the other answers yet, but this society is obsessed with stuff. I changed my entire paradigm about stuff when I watched the video on thestoryofstuff.com.

Coloma's avatar

I can’t relate to this at all. lol

I enjoy my nicely decorated home and have fun adding a new piece here and there but I have never been a ‘collector’ or had hoarding tendencies.

I am a big ’ out with the old and in with the new type.’

I don’t like clutter, and do not attach a lot of sentimental energy to ‘stuff.’

I adhere to the ‘if you havn’t worn it, used it, for a year, get rid of it!

I could never live with a collector, would drive me nuts. haha

LuckyGuy's avatar

I won’t say I subscribe to this way of thinking but as an engineer/physicist I can think of a positive aspect to having a house filled with stuff. If you live in a cold climate, the junk/stuff/collectible materials act as thermal mass and help regulate the temperature indoors by reradiating heat when your heat source stops. The most efficient setup energy- wise is to have the smallest home you can tolerate filled to capacity. Wall units and shelves should be on outside walls to act as additional insulation.
Finally, in an emergency, 20 pounds of cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin, i.e. wood, paper, cotton clothing, etc. are worth the same heating value as one gallon of heating oil in a wood burning stove in an emergency.
If the big one ever happens, hoarders and cockroaches will have the best chance of survival.. ;-)

HungryGuy's avatar

When I was younger, I was a huge fan of the game Final Fantasy VII. I bought two sets of the characters (Cloud, Tifa, Aeris, Barrett, Yuffie, etc.)...one to keep sealed and in mint condition, and one to open and put the characters on display in my room in different locations and various battle poses.

I’ve since misplaced the sealed one (I know it’s packed away in one of my moving boxes in my basement that I’ve never opened since I bought this house), but the display ones are all standing on top of my TV right now watching me whenever I play GTA :-p

Coloma's avatar

@worriedguy

Hahaha, aaah, I love the ‘out of the box’ spin you put on this! lol

My house is comfortably cozy, and provides a haven for cat caught reptiles that snuggle into my wool persian rug with a pile depth of about 2.5 inches.

Many a cold lizard regenerates under the furniture.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Coloma Those same rules apply to a refrigerator or freezer. In a perfect world, to save energy you buy the smallest one you can keep full. Big empty spaces are wasteful. Ideally you want it full. You lose less heat when you open the door and the thermal mass will keep food cold longer if you ever lose power. Dieting hoarders can store their newspapers in the unused vegetable or dairy drawers.
Your house sounds warm, relaxed, and friendly. Perfect for a beanbag/foam settee.

HungryGuy's avatar

Or plug your fridge into a UPS.

If your heat is gas or oil, you can also plug that into a UPS to keep the electronics running and have heat (but not A/C) during a power failure.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@HungryGuy I’m talking about the “big one”. The kind that takes down power lines and gas stations for weeks – like an ice storm in my area, a hurricane in Florida, a big twister in the Midwest, a flood in New Orleans, or an earthquake in California. Folks living in the large, mostly empty McMansions with the 18 ft cathedral ceilings are the most vulnerable. The roaches and hoarders don’t even notice.

HungryGuy's avatar

Oh, you mean like when Yellowstone supervolcano goes boom sometime during the next hundred years or so and exterminates all life in North America…

LuckyGuy's avatar

@HungryGuy Yep. That’s another example. Or if a nutball on the other side of the Pacific decides to lob a play-toy in this direction.
I’m 3 years ahead on my firewood collection.

Coloma's avatar

@worriedguy

And 3 years ahead on termite breeding. lolol

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