Tag Archives: collecting

guilty pleasure strikes back

When I need to relax, I do not partake in edifying behavior. I watch the worst possible television or spend time playing social games on Facebook. Farmville was an initial part of the inspiration to look deeper at hoarding. I could see I was compulsively acquiring virtual animals, and as part of the game requires visits to your “neighbors” farms, I could see their lots were not much better.

Lately I’m more interested in Castleville which is equally pointless and requires collecting. Then my guilty pleasure jumped up and bit me in the face, so to speak. This is the challenge I was issued a couple of weeks ago.

Soap and bedding, really? Never mind. I of course conquered that task without much effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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collectin’

When I was little girl and my family moved to Montana, my brother and I started spending hours collecting rocks on the  foothill behind our house. We had an old coffee can and our main ambition was to find quartz and smokey quartz crystals to put in it. This entailed scanning the ground while we walked with sharp attention to detail. Any glimmer required some dirt scratching to see what treasure we’d unearthed. My brother also got into panning for gold and tumbling rocks. He was much more committed than I.

Years later, I still find myself staring at the ground for treasures as I walk along. S., now three years old, has inherited the passion distraction. Yesterday we walked D. to the train station so he could catch a flight home to the U.S.. It was raining quite heavily, but S. and I plodded along, hand in hand, scanning the ground for treasures. She picked up little leaves and said, “It’s for my collection.” Or, “I’m collectin’ this for you, Mommy.” So far this week, in addition to numerous interesting leaves and flowers we would never see in Kansas, we’ve seen some possum poo, interesting skinks, and very speedy caterpillars scooting down the hill in the rain.

S. and I glued our collected leaves (but not the poo, bugs or skinks) to a piece of scrap cardboard. We showed it to D. and it went into the recycling bin a few days later. I love seeing beauty in the little things, but need I worry about S’s new fascination with collecting every pretty little flower or seed she finds on the ground? Each one she drops, she shrieks, “Oh! My flower!” and I try to brush it off so she won’t keep thinking about what was lost. In the meantime, yesterday, I told D. I really still wanted to find my umbrella that I last saw in Florida in 2010.

Collecting is a fun activity. I just need to keep working on the letting go part of it.

why we collect stuff

In case you missed it, the New York Times ran a collection of pieces in Room for Debate on 30 December 2011, “Why We Collect Stuff.” Randy O. Frost defines the moment when collecting becomes hoarding, and Philipp Blom has a well-written piece, “Objects of Desire and Dreams.” Blom explains:

Collected objects are like holy relics: conduits to another world. They have shed their original function and become totems, fetishes. Collecting by its very nature is animist and transcendental.

The objects and their organization bind us to something larger than ourselves, and as religion was born out of a fear of death and the wish of eternal life, collecting expresses the same fundamental urges.

This gets to the crux of my interest in memory and hoarding. The objects we cling to attempt to say something about ourselves and tie us to a broader spectrum of people, eternalizing both the objects and the sentiments behind them. The object becomes symbol of both self and community.

This works for collecting, but what about hoarding? The desire to preserve begins the same but the attachment to the object seems to be as linked to decay and destruction as it is to safeguarding. Amassing the sheer volume of things surpasses the ability to control and the collection implodes. Items are lost in the debris even if they remain in the hoarder’s memory.

 

social hoarding?

The last few weeks while I’ve been buried in writing places other than here, I’ve been mentally teasing out the difference between collecting and hoarding. At the root of it, collecting seems to be a social activity – one that both takes the collector out into the world and one that brings others in to appreciate the collection. But what of hoarding?

Hoarders are known for the isolation that accompanies their stuff. They cannot bring people into their homes and their own family members are generally pushed out. Home becomes inhabitable. Stuff rules. But many of these people also lead active social lives outside of their homes, and they often seem outwardly gregarious. Is it just the home-space that is overrun with things? And then, in some ways, both the crazy couponing people and the collectors are making their homes unhomely by allowing their collections to take over, as organized and catalogued as they may be. The gathering/gleaning aspect of hoarding forces the hoarder into the world and in some instances does create social connections.

Of course, I could read one of the twenty research articles I’ve downloaded on this very topic rather than letting the digital files gather dust as I write into the vacant blogosphere from which answers rarely come.