Possession

Obsessive collecting takes many forms. There are those tragic types who collect the titles of books they fondly imagine they will read some day. Some of those types even have lists of more than 200 books.

Cover: CollectomaniaThen there are the people who just can’t bring themselves to throw anything away. Chastened by too many viewings of Hoarders, they claim that they have ‘collections’ because somehow that seems more connoisseur and less crazy cat lady. Purists say you need to have three of something before you can call it a collection, but, even if it’s one random item picked up at the last car boot sale, finding another one is a great excuse to peruse every publicly available pile of tat possible.

These people look for reassurance that they are not going to end up crushed under a pile of ‘vintage’ (sounds so much better than second hand) Christmas decorations that include cardboard balls that were once strung across the streets of Geraldine. They hope that when they are found the small piece in the newspaper will not say things like ‘Librarian’s Body Lay Under Old Christmas Decorations Until February’.

They revere Andy Warhol; admittedly before his death he was unable to get into most of the rooms of his house because they were full of his ‘collections’, but when his belongings were auctioned in 1988 they fetched $5.3 million dollars. Warhol’s example is the perfect answer to the threat of the skip parked up the driveway.

Reassurance that things aren’t really out of hand can also be gained from reading about other collectors. Collectomania presents collections from Bakelite radios to classic cars in a chapter by chapter format, with lots of photographs. A Collector’s Year takes the reader through 12 months of one man’s trawls through car boot sales, auctions and odd shops in search of the next great addition to his stuff.

One Coin is Never Enough addresses the psychological aspects of collecting coins in a nicely upbeat way with the emphasis on how the choice the collector makes when he or she adds an object to their collection transforms that item. Satisfyingly intellectual.

Cover: Proust's OvercoatProust’s Overcoat is the story of an even more rarefied obsession – the work and belongings of Marcel Proust. I came across it when I was reading books about Proust rather than actually reading books by him (could be why completing his magnum opus is once again on my 2013 resolutions list).  It’s about a man who started out collecting Proust’s books and letters. When the opportunity presented itself  he branched out into material items like furniture and then the ultimate prize – Proust’s overcoat.

On the “if only” front, Herb and Dorothy is a delightful DVD about a postal clerk and a librarian (!) who spent every spare penny from their modest incomes on collecting modern art, ending up with a museum quality collection worth a very large amount of money. But, true to their principles, they have donated it all to the National Gallery of Art.

Do you have a picturesque collecting obsession?

But I need it! Crafts and collecting

Are you a hoarder, a collector, someone who just can’t bear to part with things? Maybe you feel you must be a keeper of the knowledge of your life, community or every piece of paper you ever owned, including receipts. As a child, did you not want to eat because you felt the food would be sad and feel pain as you chewed? Are you a compulsive shopper, buying gifts for people, but once your purchases are home, you can’t part with them? Then you will find kindred spirits in Stuff – compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things. This riveting book sheds light into the crevices and dark tunnels in the homes of America biggest hoarders. And yes, apparently there is a reality show!

CoverI found it a fascinating read, even bored my fellow library lunchers with it in the staff room. In it are people whose lives are limited and crippled by a need to collect and an inability to throw away. There are often links strangely to perfectionism, ADHD and giftedness and it had me thinking about the more sane end of the spectrum –  the collectors amongst us.

I for one have always collected. Trade Me has been my recent undoing, my sparkly brooch collection is impressive, as are my necklaces and the group of very useful old Temuka pottery in my kitchen. I’ve just married a retro collector who also has ‘throwing away’ issues, so lord help us!

Whether it is rare bone china tea sets, GI Joe comics or making your own retro lamps , it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t collect stuff. Some do it for long-term rewards, hoping that in their dotage they can sell their collection and live off the profits. Others may love the feel of the objects in their hands, or the memories they evoke. But for whatever reason, it’s a trend that’s big and getting bigger.

The popularity of Antiques Roadshow and the ability to hunt down maker’s marks and the histories of objects on the internet as well as trade amongst others with ‘The Sickness’, all makes it easier and more exciting than ever before.

The libraries stock many books on objects, furniture, books, stamps and many other things people collect. Price It! is a searchable database is constantly updated and contains more than 20 million images and prices received on treasures people collect, buy and trade.

Just ensure the things you collect don’t take over, so you have to engineer complex tunnels through your possessions to get from one end of your house to another, as the reclusive and obsessive Collyer Brothers did in 1930s New York, one of whom was crushed to death by the ceiling high piles cramming their four storey mansion.

‘Stuff’ makes you think about your own attachment to ‘things’, our materialistic world and ways to collect but not obsess. Now, back to my Trade Me watch list…