When it comes to geek culture, what is it about us that leads us to collecting, and sometimes even hoarding? What about our fandoms keeps us searching for the next trinket, t-shirt, poster, etc? Why do we go on endless searches for a hard to find collectible, why do some of us go in to debt to build up our collections, and why do we care so damn much? The interesting thing about these questions is that there is a fine line between enjoying your hobby, and unhealthy obsession. All of these questions are ones I’ve been contemplating over the past two years, as they represent me and how I’ve approached my various fandoms.
A little background on my collecting and hoarding ways is in order. I own over two hundred anime figures (some still in box), way too many anime DVDs (most never watched), a Steam video game collection of over sixteen hundred games (easily 80% never played) and many other media and collectibles that have overtaken my house whether displayed or in storage. Only a couple years ago, I was easily paying for these items with massive amounts of overtime via work. Overtime came to an abrupt stop, and I continued to try maintain my collecting habits. I ignored the fact I was racking up some debt until I actually made a budget for myself. Whether it is the debt or just the hoarding, this is something I have had to come to terms with over the past couple years and I still have to fight off urges on a consistent basis.
Keeping your collecting to a healthy limit is a tough fight, as the intellectual properties we are fans of produce merchandise to touch upon our mentality of wanting to show just how much we support it by collecting anything and everything. We love showing off our fandom, both as displaying it for ourselves, as well as for others. We try to one up our friends and fellow fans at any and every chance, and once someone exceeds your fandom, you can’t help but compete to be the bigger fan. There’s a strange sense of pride in owning more shit than the next guy, or being first to get something, and I have been that guy many times. I just recently did it with Steam badges, which is a worthless digital number, but damn if I didn’t make it to level one hundred amongst my friends first.
How many of us look at our collections of media, and think to themselves, “I can’t get rid of this, I will watch/play/read this soon!”. I bet more often than not, months or even years later you still haven’t done so with many of those items, because you’ve acquired more media and have forgotten about that particular item. One problem I suffered from is going through boxes that have been packed up for years and see an item, and convince myself to continue holding on to it. I’ve done this with items for easily a decade, seeing them in the same box every few years and not throwing them away or selling them to recoup even a slither of cash. I know many out there reading this can relate, as the clutter in their homes continues to grow. When you have to dedicate a room to storage of extra items because they can’t all fit in your collection, it might be time to downsize.
It took me to my mid-30s to realize how ridiculous, and dangerous in many ways, all this collecting/hoarding is. It isn’t easy to give up, and I still give in quite a bit. One thing I forced my self to do is to analyze my various collections and decide what can I sell off and make some money back from. I have started with items that fetch high prices on sites like Amazon or Ebay. I’ve been lucky in selling some anime box sets for upwards of three to four times my original purchase price. Most of the stuff I have been able to get back what I have paid for it, and at worse fifty percent less of what I paid. This has been an enlightening first step for me, and one that has led me to minimize my anime and video game collections by about half.
In all honesty admitting my spending problem is one of the toughest things for me to do right here on my very own blog. I haven’t let that stupid mistake get me down though, and have used it as motivation instead to work on righting the ship. I have put most of the money I received from selling items in my collection towards credit cards. Whenever I do give in to urges to buy something now, I try to match the price with an equal amount of money to my savings account, which will later end up on a credit card. This keeps me from buying something I don’t often need, as it makes me realize if I can’t match the price, I can’t afford it. These are a couple things I do to help ease the burden I created for myself by allowing my fandoms and hobbies run my life.
How many fellow geeks fall in to the traps I pointed out? How many are out there right now buying something they lack the actual funds for in their checking account. It is oh so easy to turn to a credit card, and how many do so? I doubt many will admit how often they do it if you asked them. I know people who will spend hundreds, if not thousands, at conventions, and then claim they have no money for food. That is the extreme of unhealthy collecting, and sadly exists a lot. Here’s a tip: If while at a convention, you have to pay for a meal tab in change, stiff the waiter/waitress a tip, or eat off a dollar menu, maybe you should realize you can’t afford that next figure, anime box set, etc. Honestly if that’s the case, you probably shouldn’t even be at the convention. Thankfully that is one problem I’ve never allowed myself to fall victim to.
I hope what I highlight here will help many to realize the dangerous hole they are digging or have dug for themselves. It’s a tough change, but one that can be made with just a little dedication and self-awareness. Many reading this may shrug this off as not pertaining to them, and and maybe it doesn’t reflect who you are. Then I suggest taking what I have written and use it to study others around you. Look at your friends and family and see if they fit this profile. Even if what I write here doesn’t help you, maybe you can identify someone with these problems and help them.
I want people to understand I don’t view collecting as a negative, as I think it is a very fun way to contribute and celebrate hobbies, just do it within moderation. Nearly everything I discuss here is due to an introspective look at my own collecting habits, and the damage it has done to my life in certain ways. All I wish for this piece I have written is to show a lack of moderation leads our fandom collecting habits down a slippery slope, one that can affect our lives in terms of relationships, finances, and even health.
(Featured image contains pics of my own collection)