I have a lot of stuff.
About 250 DVDs, at last count. A staggering graphic novel collection. More coffee mugs then I could hope to ever use. Books on shelves and in piles distributed throughout my apartment, or boxed up and awaiting a new home in my parents house. Clothes-well, the less said about that the better.
I have strange ways of organizing these things. My DVDs sit together by genre, but sometimes the ones by the same director live together. The superhero films have their own home amongst my comics. Dresses have their own spot in the closet, one for party dresses, another for everyday.
It’s a pain to move. I spend hours and hours boxing everything up. I live on the third floor of an apartment without an elevator so you can imagine how annoying it was trucking the boxes up and down the flights of stairs (even with the aid of movers).
Now, if you’re expecting some tome about how I need to divest myself of my stuff and how I’ll be so much happier without more stuff, you’ve come to the wrong place. Because I love my stuff.
I have heard and read many stories about why its great to get rid of anything and everything. Mass consumption is evil (fair), being a pack rat is a gateway to hoarding (I don’t keep old newspapers or have a cat, so don’t worry), that it makes moving easier (also fair), and that its a lame way of cultivating your personal identity.
People that say that think that people are trying to define themselves by owning certain things. That people who own “House” on DVD, or have a bookcase full of Faulkner and Joyce are trying to say something about themselves; namely that they’re intellectual snobs. There’s a degree of truth in that I think. There’s a whole field of study dedicated to this in fact, that talks about branding and social media and synergy and a whole bunch of other unnecessarily fancy words.
There’s also a weird thing where people who think that less stuff is great somehow feel superior to those who do need a lot of things. “I don’t need THINGS to define myself.” They say this often as they sip chai lattes reading an old used book or — god forbid — a Kindle. Yet, by that very act, they DO need things — or perhaps a lack of things — to define themselves.
Truthfully, I think the reason we need these little collections in our life is because it does speak to something important. It speaks to passion … and to interest … and to love. People that spend money collecting baseball cards or stamps of whatever do it because they love it, period. They form communities around that activity and share their own collections with others. They proudly display their collections for the world to see.
I can make this inference because I am one of these nerds and I know other nerds who do the same thing. I talk movies and comics at least once a day. I’m a member of that community. Having the physical goods to back it up is just a part of belonging.
There’s also the emotional connection to our collections. Certain films or TV shows I could never part with because they bring me back somewhere or remind me of where I’ve come from. I always used to watch “The Red Shoes” at my grandmother’s house. She’s long gone now, but watching it brings me back to her living room, perched on a chair watching that old VHS. Or “Buffy” — well, frankly, I couldn’t have survived junior high without “Buffy.” Are there movies I have that I’m not so connected to? Yeah, of course there are. But that’s just the nature of the collection.
What is the difference then between a hoarder and a collector? Well, a hoarder doesn’t know when to say no. They collect everything so much that it ceases to become a collection and just becomes masses of stuff.
I had to teach myself to say no. No to bargain DVD bins. No to sales at Chapters. No to all these things. And I learned what to give away. Though my clothes collection never gets smaller, it also manages to stay about the same size thanks to regular weeding. This process makes the additions all the more interesting and unique. I think the best way to put it is that I’m actively trying to curate my collection; I want to ensure that it’s the best.
So don’t be so quick to knock people who have a ton of stuff. Let’s rethink that minimalist mindset, and enjoy our own little collections and all the wonderful things they say about us.
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