Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Why Do People Collect Things?

The other day, we were shopping at Wal-mart and as we checked out, I looked on the display case behind us and saw hundreds of collectible cards. They had Pokemon, Magic, and many others that I had never even heard of.

So, what happened then? I wondered why do people feel the need to collect (sometimes inane) things?

Well, when trying to analyze any of the oddities of humanity, I usually start with the topic I know the most about...myself.

I, myself, am a collector of books. When I was younger I would save up my money so I could buy series. If I didn't have every book in the series, I didn't feel complete. I bought every series with the intention that someday I would read them to my children, but I never bought a book unless I had the intention of reading it again myself. If I didn't enjoy a book, I wouldn't buy it. I was a voracious reader though, and by the time I graduated from high school, I had a couple bookshelves full of books.

My collection didn't end there. In college I continued to buy books, but I also began to collect DVD series. By the time I went on my mission, I had the entire Stargate and Macgyver series.

For me, it was because when I felt the urge to watch a show, I wanted it available at my fingertips. Showing off the collection was a side-benefit, but my books and my movies don't sit on the shelves collecting dust. They are frequently read and re-read by me.

When Grig and I got married, he added his collection to mine.  We have probably too many books. We have two large bookshelves full, and most of our books are still in storage. We would like to have them all out, but we just don't have room now.

So, collecting things that you love and enjoy makes sense to me. I guess if you love the game Pokemon and play it frequently, I could understand collecting the cards. Probably most collections are started out of love or admiration for the thing being collected.

Rare coins can be interesting (and worth a great deal of money). However, for people who collect pets or children, the reason behind it may be something else entirely.

The Wikipedia article "Psychology of Collecting" stated a few different reasons for collecting. Usually collections can be passive and have emotional attachments (such as in the case of my books). One person related the following memory:
Oxlade- Vaz describes the intense emotional bond she had with her grandmother, and the rich heart-warming memories she had amassed at her grandma’s house as a child and even as an adult. Her grandmother, a product of the Great Depression, "saved" everything. As a child, the author recalls the loving and gentle way her grandmother organized seemingly ordinary items: rubber bands were neatly bound together and artfully displayed on the mantle. Tops of pens of all colors and sizes were neatly arranged in drawers and bins. Artificial flowers, saved from the dumpster decorated every room in the house. At her grandmother’s death, Oxlade-Vaz recalls the overwhelmingly pleasant emotions that overcame her as she sorted through her grandma’s collections. Though not valuable, the author kept these collections to remember her grandma’s thrifty, sensible, wisdom—reminders of the graceful way her grandmother was able to provide seemingly useless items dignity and respect.
However, collecting is not always so harmless. I found very interesting comment from a collector:
Petrulis also admits there is a dark side to collecting, providing some support for views that certain passions can be bad. "It gets addictive," says Petrulis, "just like gambling, drugs or sex. It's like putting a coin in a slot machine. It might not pay off this time, so you put another quarter in and keep doing it until you are tapped out or finally hit the jackpot."
I think that is true. Anything can become harmful if done to extremes. When collecting moves from a hobby to an obsession, it can become very detrimental. Other, better things, might be pushed to the sidelines in the pursuit of collector's items. People go bankrupt collecting things they can't afford, lose their families in the pursuits of their items, and starve themselves to feed their obsessions. Hoarders are a case in point.

The article talked a bit about hoarders. It states:
There are also times when collecting is not pleasant for anyone. These are the collectors that have surpassed healthy collecting behavior and are considered hoarders. When a collection becomes hoarding is when it also becomes pathological. Hoarding is pathological because it interferes with living a normal daily life. Steven W. Anderson, a neurologist who studies hoarding behavior, posits that the need to collect stems from a basic drive to collect basic supplies such as food. This drive originates in the subcortical and limbic portions of the brain. According to Anderson, people need their prefrontal cortex to determine what supplies are worth saving (or hoarding). Anderson has found that many compulsive hoarders with brain injury had suffered damage to a region of their brain that regulates cognitive behaviors like decision making, information processing, and organizing behavior—the prefrontal cortex. Those with brain injury who did not display hoarding behavior, did not have damage to theirfrontal cortex, but showed damage distributed throughout the right and left hemispheres of their brain.
So, be careful that collections don't pass the realm of healthy, natural human behaviors and interfere with the more important things in your life. I've known of people who are pet hoarders and spend all their money feeding their pets while they live in filth and starve. It's a pretty tragic lifestyle, and not a  healthy one.

Grig and I have had to draw a line on book collecting as well. He has known a few people who used all their money on books and had nothing left to live on. We try to carefully budget our money and only get books when we can afford it. We try to only buy healthy and wholesome books that are going to bring a good spirit into our home and be appropriate for our children to read.

Family should come first before things. Even if Kevin were to rip up one of my favorite books, it's just a thing. It's not more important than my son. If it ever began to
became more important, I would know I had a serious problem.

I learned a lot today trying to answer my question. If you have anything you want to add, please teach me. I would love to hear your perspectives.

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