The Daily Heller: To Collect or to Hoard? That is the Question

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With such a massive quantity of used books, tiny lending libraries are great for keeping good stuff in circulation.

Chaos is a common state of being that design is meant to cure or, at least, curate. However, more often than not, designers become the beasts they attempt to tame. We become collectors of the things that inspire and serve us … but in the blink of an eye, these inspirations become collections that grow into obsessions that we feed to excess. When the beast becomes a monster, it’s time to get help.

“You are an addict,” a cognitive therapist who treats obsessive compulsive disorder told me. Looking around his office, I noticed he collected vintage medical apparatuses. “So, what’s the difference between the two of us?” I asked. “How can you be a collector, while I am a hoarder?”

“I know when to stop,” he replied. “I know when to let things go. You are focused on what you want, but lack discretion and discipline.”

Then he added an invaluble coda: “You amass, I acquire.”

Is this just psychobabble semantics, or is it an example of chaos versus control? For decades I’ve collected/hoarded anything that captured my fancy that might serve a professional need—even if I had to invent a need. I never considered where or how the item(s) might be stored, displayed, preserved or accessed. I am not on the same level as the Collyer Brothers, yet after decades of hoarding, I can see the red flags. Furthermore, I’ve reached a point in my hoarding where what I possess is so disorganized on random shelves, closets, attics in homes, apartments, offices—anywhere and everywhere it can be squirreled away—leaving me unable to access it for the ascribed purpose I claim to have hoarded it in the first place.

I neither live nor work in complete disarray, but if I’m not careful, the edge of a bottomless pit is just inches away. Already when I search for some artifact, document or book that is necessary for essential work, I am unable to instantly locate it (and sometimes never do). So, as Labor Day weekend approaches, I’ve decided to go cold turkey and take the dumpster cure. Anything—including objects, files, films, papers—that no longer serves as a resource (or gives me emotional-visceral joy) is getting dumped into the bins and swap shop of my town dump. I’ve done it before without regret—and I can do it again. I’ll keep you and the therapist posted. Nonetheless, here are some exceptions …

Of course, these items I have to keep. (Wouldn’t you?)
There’s no way I can part with my mini toilet and modern chair collection. (Could you?)
I guess I can thin out these bookcases and empty the closets … but there’s some great stuff here!
This is one of the closets where I keep things I don’t look at but once every few years. (But what if I need something?!)
Posted inObsessions The Daily Heller