In Defence of Collectors

The truck from the charity shop came yesterday and took away six boxes of household belongings that I no longer need (and maybe never did need). I was very pleased to see it go. However it did get me thinking about where all those things are going to end up.

The age of materialism has been building momentum for centuries, and unfortunately we have used too much of the worlds resources making too much stuff, only to throw it away later. Like many people, I am reluctant to see the things that I no longer want to keep go into landfill if they are in good condition. I hope they will be useful to someone else. But who? Am I just palming my junk onto someone else who has not learned to say NO to a cheap deal or a freebie?

Fortunately there are people who are willing to take on second hand goods and give them a new lease on life. These are people are acting out of a commitment to sustainability, or want to save money, or who appreciate old things.

Collectors who appreciate old objects are a special group, because they get pleasure out of gathering things to them, which seems to be the exact opposite of a minimalists mindset. These are people who get a lot of pleasure out of the beauty of physical objects – of art, antique furniture, old cars and the like. They enjoy the challenge of sourcing, purchasing and restoring old things, and in the process develop friendships with likeminded people. Is this a bad thing?

Of course there is great scope for collecting to get out of hand, in terms of the time devoted to the hobby, the money spent and the space taken up. But if people do have the time, the money and the space, and get pleasure out of keeping or restoring a little bit of history, then I think they are performing a useful role by handling some of the material excess that would otherwise go to waste.

There is a difference between appreciating the beauty of the physical object, whether it be a painting or well crafted chair, and rampant keep-up-with-the-Jones materialism. Collecting is not a lifestyle for me, but must confess that in the interests of sustainability, I am glad there are people around who are willing to make use of our castoffs.

Old bicycle

  1. reretro said:

    i (think) i’m a collector because i grew up in canberra, in the 70s, with style-deficient parents (triple whammy!) now i love things that are old and have a history and can still be used (or repurposed) because they were well designed/made in the first place. i enjoyed your musings on collectors- thanks!

  2. laitkin said:

    Glad you enjoyed it. I am a minimalist who enjoys Antiques Roadshow! I like to be eclectic. I agree an appreciation of history is important, and objects from the past are a great way of staying in touch with our history. Its not the same to look at digitised images. By the same token, we cant all keep everything that was ever made, so there has to be a selection process, and I am happy that collectors are willing to take on that role.

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