Collecting Stuff vs. Having Things

These days, it’s not uncommon to be obsessed with collecting stuff. One person’s trash is the next person’s “hey, look what I found!” Instagram post.

The search for random shit, it can be very exciting.

Christopher Pierznik discusses this in “When Collecting Becomes an Obsession.” It’s about his tireless quest to obtain every single book ever published.

The post hit home with me, because I too, have a history of collecting things. Records, books, magazines, postcards, etc. — if it’s something thought-provoking, I want it.

But there’s a big difference between collecting stuff and having things — or, what you might call hoarding. The former might actually be better than the latter.

Typically, with collectors, they’re experts on what they’re looking for. They may search high and low for the rarest of records, but with their institutional knowledge, they know why that record is so rare. Whether they listen after they find it doesn’t matter. They don’t need to listen. They already know what it is.

With hoarding, it’s compulsive. There’s no rhyme or reason as to why people want that thing, they just know they want it. Rare, not rare, whatever — they acquire stuff. Mostly because it looks cool. And these things pile up. Eventually, they look back and think: how did I get all this crap?

Myself, I fall somewhere in the middle. I have thousands of records, magazines and books. I don’t know what they all are, but I’m aware of how and why I got them, if ever spent any time with them. If I didn’t, I don’t beat myself up about it — life is short and who really gives a shit?

Mostly, I hold on to this stuff for the sheer fact that to me it has value. Sure, it takes up space. Yes, it’s annoying. But I don’t really want to live in a world where art and information and thought-provoking material is looked at as nuisance.

In fact, it’s the complete opposite — that stuff is arguably life itself.

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Wrote for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vice, Fader, Vibe, XXL, MTV News, many other places.

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