When Collecting and Hoarding Collide

Some time ago, Gellman over at SCU wrote an article entitled “How Does Collecting Cards Relate to Clutter“. Although I never posted a comment, partially because my internet browser was being a PITA and not allowing me to comment on blogger sites, his article really got me thinking about a subject I had secretly been worrying about for a few months. As I am in the midst of trying to finally organize my entire collection and catalog all of my cards into Microsoft Access, as well as a form of self-prescribed therapy, I am finally writing my thoughts on this subject.

Ever since I was a kid, I have dealt with obsessive hoarding face-to-face. My mom, although she will never admit it, is one of your prototype hoarders. She keeps everything. There are stacks of newspapers every where in my parents’ house. Almost every room has a mere “goat path” or two to get around. There is a kitchen table I’ve never seen in 23 years of life because it has been consumed by a mountain of junk. Why does she keep all of this stuff, other than an obvious chemical imbalance that has caused what doctors are only now discovering is a not-so-rare form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? She might need it some day. Coupons that are far beyond expired. Newspapers that are almost as old as me. Little sheets of paper with check numbers and amounts scribbled down that were supposed to go into her checkbook 15 years ago. Receipts for clothes that were thrown away or donated years before. Stuff I’m sure none of us even remember existed. All because she might need it or it might be worth something some day (like the Elvis plates and collectibles that price guides already show are worth far less than she paid).

The house is a complete disaster area. As a child, I was never allowed to have friends over to play. Family members haven’t been to the house in years. Even my wife has only been inside about four times, two of which my mom does not know about. There is so much guilt and shame in the way she lives and maintains her home. A house that I remember as being a cluttered but happy place as a child is now shut off from the outside world. Windows and shades are almost always shut tight and the screen doors haven’t been installed for years. My dad is miserable in his own home because of all the clutter. And why? Because she can’t bring herself to throw anything out.

In studies, scientists are determining that hoarding is a hereditary problem, meaning that I am already predisposed to suffering from the same mental condition. My home is currently clean and organized, other than what remains to be unpacked from my recent move. My dorm room in college was almost anally organized. I should be fine, right? But wait. My mom wasn’t always like this. Her house didn’t accumulate all of that stuff in the matter of a year or two. It was something that slowly progressed and slowly worsened until the state it is today. And after all, I already collect things.

When I was first really getting into collecting cards, I thought it was awesome that I was buying whole boxes of cards. Granted, they were retail blasters, but I thought they were great. I guess in a way, I wanted to hold onto that feeling, and I kept every cellophane pack and every box I have purchased since then. I have countless card boxes full of nothing but empty pack wrappers. I have large cardboard boxes full of hobby boxes that are empty or are filled with stacks of cards that have no other home. This is a big part of why I am trying to finally bring organization to my collection for the first time in ten years. I have a feeling though that I will always feel like there is too much to tackle if I don’t rid myself of these extra things. But, ironic as it may be, I can’t bring myself to throw them out. Much like my mother.

So I turn to you, faithful card blogosphere, for help. What should I do? The simple answer would be to throw anything that’s not a card away. But I keep telling myself it will be cool one day to look back on how pack and box designs have evolved over time along with the cards they packaged. Another option would be to keep the one pack and one box of each product I’ve purchased that is in the best shape. I like this idea, but then I’m still left with a lot of empty boxes laying around that are taking up space because I’ve never purchased more than 3 boxes of the same set. Do I collapse the boxes to make them flat? Do I cut off the box top? What about box tops that were meant to be display boxes and have since had their perforated edges separated?

This is a very difficult topic for me. I do not want to turn into my mom and live a life of guilt and shame, not to mention dealing with a house full of worthless junk, just because I can’t throw meaningless things away. But at the same time, I am already coping with a mental state that talks me into keeping things like empty packs and boxes.

I hope the fact that I am willing to discuss this and realize it is an issue for me is a sign that it’s not too late for me to reverse my hereditary tendencies. I hope I can learn to discern what is worth keeping for nostalgia’s sake and what is basic garbage. I hope…

UPDATE: I just found a similar article Rob from VOTC wrote more than a year ago. I like his make-a-collections-list-and-get-rid-of-everything-else mentality. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one struggling with this.

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4 Responses to When Collecting and Hoarding Collide

  1. Alex says:

    Having been in the same boat, my advice is, prepare yourself mentally for a day where you will get rid of the packets/boxes and unwanted cards. Set a date a month or so in advance, tell someone you can trust that you will do it, prepare yourself mentally for that day, and then do it on that day(with the help of the person you told if necessary). In the short term you may feel some apprehension over what you have done, but in the long term you will feel so much better about it.

  2. as a set collector, I always put a pack or wrapper as the first or last “card” in the set. I too like to see what the wrapper looked like. I also keep an extra one to give to the wrapper collectors i know.
    The boxes get thrown out after awhile… sometimes the top is cut off and taped to the inside cover of the set binder.

  3. jswaykos says:

    Find a young collector to pass them along to! I unload LOADS of “junk” on my nephews, but ya know what? To them, it’s not junk. They appreciate them just as much as every card I appreciated when I was their age.

    I turn a lot of them into TTM projects… let’s see… for older junk, I’ve started just buying complete sets (stuff like ’90 Topps… truly worthless stuff) and throwing doubles away (or giving boxes to goodwill…) This way I KNOW I’ll always have the cards, and they’re kept much neater in a factory wrapped box. I’ve got absurd amounts of junk like 1990 Donruss, 88 Score, etc, and this seemed like a reasonable solution. They’re a huge part of my collecting history, so I don’t want to pretend like the junk wax era never happened, and at $6 a set (or so) at my shop, this is truly a cheap alternative!

  4. joymom says:

    Please visit the “children of hoarders” website. Your inability to make decisions is directly related to your hoarder mother. There are behaviors that you have that you probably don’t even realize that are directly related to your mother’s hoarding. I feel sorry for your father for having to live his precious life with a hoarder. Please don’t be offended by this message. I too am a child of a hoarder. If you watch the documentary “My Mother’s Garden” on MSNBC you will see what happens when you clean up the premises of a hoarder.

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