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The Incurable Collector

Tim Lucas Video WatchBlog on the collecting instinct. Lucas writes candidly about his own completist desires in collecting DVDs, but his post really could refer to any kind of collection. The reader responses also contain many insights. What makes people collect — a hoarding instinct? In my experience, the people who get extremely obsessive in this regard tend to be men. Why is that so?

Although I’m not obsessive with collecting DVDs per se, I can relate. Compare it to a drug user who is dependent one week, then cold turkey the next. I actually go through periods of acquiring things, followed by periods of selling things off. Usually at the same time. Maybe it comes from living in a small house, but I can’t stand having lots of unnecessary things cluttering up my life. But then again, having different exquisite vintage items around the house (often artfully arranged on a shelf) makes me feel comfortable. On the other hand, I have a bad habit of accumulating things that pile up for unknown reasons here and there. In my bedroom, I have a particular small pile of various papers (that I don’t really need) which I store on my computer chair. Every time I use my computer, I have to remove the pile and stick it on the bed. That’s fucked up. Why don’t I just chuck that pile into the garbage?

I’m rambling here, but I just want to close by extolling the virtues of getting rid of things. On eBay, I’m currently selling off bunches of Russel Wright dinnerware which I collected throughout the ’90s. While I originally thought it might be hard to let go of these items (and I’m certainly not selling this stuff for more than the prices I originally paid for them), it actually feels wonderful to set things free. Liberating, even.

4 Thoughts on “The Incurable Collector

  1. We’re currently moving house and I’ve found that
    my digital camera (and sometimes my scanner) is my best friend.

    When I’ve come across aesthetically-interesting items that I don’t want to keep (or move…or lug around) I simply take a couple of good digital photos and get rid of (recycle, donate) the original.

    I’ve done this especially with strange, kitschy and/or ugly presents friends have given me…
    things that are interesting to look at once in a while, but that take up too much space.

    Another technique I use to clean out still-usable items (books, magazines, small fun things)
    is to take a bag of them with me when I go out on long walks and leave them in strategic places.

    The other day I left a small “Spock Must Die” Star Trek novel in front of a local art gallery and
    a large Herman Hesse novel (The Glass Bead Game) on an otherwise normal street corner.

    Leaving things about (instead of stealing or finding things) is sort of
    a mild form of performance art…and it’s helped clean out my place for the big move…and maybe even spread around a little “knowledge” and “joy” (people love to find things!)

    It’s also fun to imagine the person finding one of my *LEFT* items…
    “Wow…what’s a book by Herman Hess doing on this streetcorner? I better grab it!”

    BUT..the best view on these things was outlined by comedian
    George Carlin in his funny bit…”A Place for My Stuff”

    and Happy St Patrick’s Day


  2. Christopher on March 17, 2006 at 3:33 pm said:

    Kurt: You should register your books at

    You release your books, they are found; the finders register that they were found, and the books are released again when they are done with them.

    Matt and I have done it and it is really neat hearing where they end up. (We left in Eureka, California, a copy of the children’s book we wrote and it ended up in Canada!)

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