In Defense of Hoarding

Over at Minimal Mac (a terrific site that everyone should read, even if you’re not a Mac user), they recently pointed to a metafilter comment about the dangers of coveting possessions. The commenter suggests that the best way to beat any hoarding impulses we might have is to simply adjust the way we look at things.

> All of the computers on Ebay are mine. In fact, everything on Ebay is already mine. All of those things are just in long term storage that I pay nothing for. Storage is free.
> …
> The world is my museum, displaying my collections on loan. The James Savages of the world are merely curators.

It’s a lovely sentiment, and one I really wish I could get behind, except I’ve just got one little problem: Me. Or more specifically, people like me.

What do I mean by this?

I recently found a stash of old PlayStation games that I thought I’d lost. There are some real gems in there. PaRappa the Rapper, BeatMania, Final Fantasy VII. All great games. Will I ever play them again? Probably not. I’m having enough trouble keeping on top of new releases to ever really go back and play old games. So why don’t I get rid of them?

There were a finite number of copies of PaRappa the Rapper published. Taking into account losses, breakage and the effects of time, this number is constantly decreasing. Now, if I was to send my games off into the æther, there’s the strong possibility that they’d be picked up by someone like me: a pack-rat who can’t bear to let anything go. So not only would I be losing my own copy of PaRappa, itwould also mean there is one less copy to “take out of storage”. Eventually, there will be no copies of it left on eBay. Or at least, it would be so rare as to be only available at a completely unreasonable price.

The storage thing is a nice (if slightly smug and self-satisfied) analogy, but it just doesn’t work in the real world, because it assumes an infinite supply chain. Besides, I’d always prefer to be the curator, actually caring for these things, rather than a cold, distant absentee owner.

(My wife will probably beat the shit out of me for this post.)


8 thoughts on “In Defense of Hoarding

  1. Seamus says:
    Besides, I’d always prefer to be the curator, actually caring for these things, rather than a cold, distant absentee owner.
    Since those PS games were lying in your back shed completely forgotten about, haven’t you already gotten over the anguish of them being gone? How does one care for media/books/etc if you’re not going to actually use them – open their cases once in a while, browse through their inlays? Get rid of them I say!
  2. johnke says:
    I wouldn’t say I got over the ‘anguish’. Especially since I’d actually thought they’d been stolen, rather than simply “lost”. Every time I’d see someone talk about PaRappa or Vib Ribbon, I’d think “Sassin’ frassin’ light fingered cunts”. And I didn’t mean “caring” as in “taking care of”, but rather in the sense of having affection for. I don’t watch my Necronomicon edition of of Evil Dead very often, but I look at it and think “Hello, DVD! You’re awesome!” Yes, I still project a personality and feelings onto my possessions.
  3. Whybot says:
    Get rid of the packaging, I say. I did a massive overhaul on my music collection some time ago, digitizing all of it losslessly and selling off what was easily found again (mainstream stuff). I keep the remainder in boxes in my parents’ attic. It was quite a bit of effort, but now I have it obsessively backed up on three seperate discs and I’ll never worry about a scratched CD again. The money I got from the sales covered all the storage costs and kept me eating heartily for a few months (I was unemployed at the time). Vinyl is another matter, of course… Next up: DVD’s.
  4. Helena says:
    You make me sound like such a wagon! Why didn’t you marry PaRappa the Rapper then if you love it so much? Eh?
  5. johnke says:
    @Whybot – that’s a very good point. I ditched all of my CDs in favour of MP3s a while ago and I don’t feel like I lost anything. DVDs are another matter. I will often buy up from the digital version – that is, if there’s a movie I have downloaded, I will quite happily buy a copy of the DVD (when the price falls), just so I can free up some hard disk space. On top of that, I get a nifty cover and extras. Besides, have you ever tried watching a compressed copy of Tarsem’s The Fall? @Helena – I wasn’t trying to make you sound like a wagon. I was just pointing out that you’re a lot more sensible than me when it comes to things like this. I figured my display of irrationality would send you into spasms. @Robin – I really try to avoid emulation where I can. It never feels right (although Ian Bogost is trying to fix that and I love him for it). But okay, so PaRappa is one example. What about BeatMania, which came with its own custom controller?
  6. Whybot says:
    Hmm, well, a terrabyte disc would accommodate perhaps over 100 DVD9’s, uncompressed. With a little compression on the shorter ones, you’d probably get many more on there. Then sell off the easily acquired / non-essential ones (not the Necronomicon ffs)… and the whole thing pays for itself I bet. For a while I had these strange visions of waking up in 20 years and being surrounded by irrelevant plastic junk. If I had a huge library of laser-discs right now, that were all digitally available, I’d feel a bit of a tool. Space is too precious for this stuff, even though fidelity is important.

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