Problems with collecting and my thoughts on minimalism

In a society that’s moving more towards minimalism and downsizing, collecting is becoming an increasingly misunderstood hobby. In fact, I have considered the topic of collecting time and time again without ever reaching a satisfying conclusion about whether it’s a good or a bad thing.

But it’s fair to say, collecting isn’t cool anymore.

When I Google the phrase “collecting is” the first auto-suggestion that comes up is “a waste of money”. And one of the first results for this search is this article by The Minimalists titled “Collecting is Dangerous“.

It is a very short article and makes no argument as to why or how collecting is dangerous. I suppose in the context of their message it’s a point that doesn’t need to be proven or explained—The Minimalists is about living with less, and collecting is the complete opposite of that.

The main argument against collecting, from what I can see, is that it serves no real purpose. It’s just a bad habit that results in piles of stuff, stuff you’ll one day come to resent for taking up all the space in your home.

There was a time when I bought into all that new-agey junk about how to live your best life, but I think the world is too complicated to live by a special formula. At the end of the day, everyone is trying to sell you something. And if that’s the case, I’d rather decide for myself what to spend my money on.

To me, collecting is neither a good, nor a bad thing. There are various psychological and evolutionary explanations for it, all of which are interesting to read about. Can collecting get out of hand? Absolutely. Like anything, it has the potential to become stressful and interfere with your life in a negative way.

There are times when my collection gets overwhelming and I have to take a step back from it to focus on other things. Collecting doesn’t always make me happy, and when I find myself feeling anxious, or concerned that I am running out of space to put things I try to deal with it in a healthy way. I put stuff away, sell a few things and move onto something else to occupy my time until I am ready to face it all again. Decluttering and minimising are great ways to give you both the physical and mental space to overcome the burden of collecting.

Other times, collecting makes me happy, especially when I find something I’ve wanted to own for a while. And that happiness is not always fleeting, I can look at something I’ve had for years and still experience that same sense of joy as when I first bought it.

Collect experiences, not things

You might have seen this quote floating around the internet, “collect experiences, not things”. The idea behind it is that experiences will enrich your life far more than any material object. On the surface it’s a very nice quote—of course the happy moments you share with your loved ones are worth far more than say, an expensive car.

But if you treat experiences as something to be collected, you will run into the same problems as you would if you were collecting things. You’re just after the next thing, and the next—never truly being present in the moment. You won’t be satisfied until you’ve checked off everything on your list, a list that’s constantly growing. Your life becomes a mission to do things, rather than to have meaningful moments with the people around you.

It’s the same dangerous mentality that turns collectors into hoarders.

I think if you’re a well-adjusted person, collecting things should not get in the way of having meaningful experiences. Of course, the people you love should come first above all, but you should never feel ashamed for wanting to collect things. For some of us, it’s a relatively harmless hobby that makes life just that little bit more enjoyable.

Anyway, I’d love to hear your opinions on the topic of collecting—is it a bad habit? Or  harmless and fun? Leave a comment!