Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Fine Line Between Collecting and Hoarding

Almost everyone, at some point in their lives, has amassed a collection of something. Some choose baseball cards, others postage stamps, and yet others collect driftwood. The possibilities are endless for collecting. A collection does not have to have any inherent monetary value. It can be a collection for purely emotional value. Most collections however, straddle both these worlds.

Take, for example, someone who collects vinyl records, as I do. There are items in my collection that are prized for their rarity, or the cost incurred in acquiring the item. Others are prized because the music contained within is emotionally important to me. Yet others are kept because of the cover art, or innovative packaging. This is true for most types of collecting.

The trick lies in knowing when a collection is complete, or as complete as you are gonna get. There are only so many Sonic Youth records one can acquire, before it becomes more of an exercise in completism than an enjoyable pastime. There are only so many shoes a woman can buy before the ridiculousness of hundreds of pairs for just one pair of feet becomes self-evident. Many collectors fear this. Once they have amassed the collection, it is more favorable to them to then sell it to others, allowing the new owners the same thrill they received previously. They then go on to collect something else. Even if they do not get rid of the previous collection, they begin with a new collection right away.

Many collectors have several groupings of things they collect. The greatest collectors will go on to donate their collections to museums or institutes of higher learning, allowing the public to share in their acquisitions. Others hold onto them with a strong grip, to the grave. These are the collectors who blur the line between collecting and hoarding. They become so obsessed with acquiring any and all ephemera associated with their particular collecting “jones” that they lose sight of the true goal, which is to take enjoyment from the collected items! Certain people get so protective of their collections that they barricade themselves in their home, adding layers of security, until they must feel like they are living in a prison of their own making.

The odd part is that while two people may share the exact same delusional drive to collect,the one that gets anal-retentive and creates displays and keeps his items spotless and in perfect condition, all sterile and unused, the masses see as normal! The people who clutter their lives with the collected items, whose homes look more like a child's room than a museum, are seen as warped, sick, maybe needing help of some sort. While they are both worlds apart in appearance, their inner lives are probably very much alike. It is a near-delusion, the mania of a collector in the full throes of the hunt, and not for the faint of heart.

Is it that a person who hoards seems to give no thought to the actual care and maintenance of what they hoard? Collectors take great care in buying the right furniture to display their collections, oftentimes having cases and shelves custom made. Hoarders seem to be satisfied with the ownership of an object, and do not seek to properly organize. Their organization mainly consists of grouping like items together, with no consideration to the decay or damage caused to the hoarded material. A collector would be shocked at such ill treatment of their prized possessions. Where does the line exist? It may be a far blurrier line than ever imagined.

January 2012

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