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 √¶ther, 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.)