For as long as I can remember, I have been a collector. As a child I collected rocks, coins, stamps, paperweights, seashells, books, and various other bits of randomness. Now, all of those collections have fallen away save books, but I have started a few new ones along the way.
The urge to collect stems mostly from garage sale “hunting” with my mother. She would spend all week circling garage sale listings in the newspaper, trying to decide which three-line classified blurbs represented the best items. This was before the Internet reached mainstream status and long before websites like Craigslist made advertising a sale so easy. Friday mornings we were out the door before dawn to reach the most promising sales ahead of the mid-morning rush. She was mainly on the lookout for antiques, I simply enjoyed wading through giant piles of discarded belongings. These outings became my education into how to find a deal, how to haggle, how to spot an item likely worth more than its two dollar price tag. I loved every minute of it. It wasn’t long before I started picking up small things I found interesting and negotiating the price with the seller. I am certain they found it cute. An eight year old working a one dollar action figure down to fifty cents often resulted in raised eyebrows and a chuckle.
Haggling turned into my hobby. The stuff I acquired was nice, but the items themselves were secondary to the memories of how I attained them. Watching a seller crumble under the weight of my unwillingness to pay full price was my favorite thing in the world. However, even though the items were not the point, they became doorways to that fuzzy feeling. To get rid of the thing felt too much like erasing the memory, and so my collections grew.
Video games became my obsession after I entered college. I started buying them in bulk off Craigslist and Ebay as if making up for not having many at a younger age. I joined online forums dedicated to video game collecting and shared my finds with the community. Fellow collectors’ admiration became my new drug of choice, but their attention spans were as brief as my own and to keep up a high status meant always needing new “cool” or “rare” items to display. Not only did I buy the games, but also promotional items, store displays, limited editions, and more. Money ran through my fingers like water and, like many college students, I paid little attention to my steadily climbing debt.
Following college, the video game collecting only increased. I spent two years letting the collection grow until it filled more than half of the living room in my one bedroom apartment. It is only now, two moves and two storage units later, I have finally come to the tipping point.
The epiphany came when I realized I was an addict in a very literal sense of the word. Finding the next piece for my collection gave me a high, but I began to develop a tolerance. With each new game came a briefer moment of happiness. I had to buy stuff more quickly to feed the itch. Finally, after opening yet another package, this time there was no excitement, no happiness. This bit of plastic and paper was just another thing. My life was not improved by owning it, it was not useful. Just like that my life as a collector came crashing on my head with the full weight of all the debt and useless crap I had accumulated. Something needed to change and it needed to change quickly.
I began selling my collection shortly afterwards. To date I have made back over a thousand dollars, and I have sold only a small fraction of what I own.
To any collector out there who may read this, no matter what it is you collect: I implore you to take a long, hard look at the time and money you have exhausted amassing your pile of useless belongings and consider how you might have spent those resources. Keep in mind that “collecting is just hoarding with a prettier name.” We can make this change. We can move to a more fulfilling lifestyle with less stuff weighing us down, if only we remain determined. We can kick the collection habit.