Up until I was 18 years old, I used to collect some weird things.
I collected some weird shit.
Obviously as a kid I had normal tendencies towards things like rocks, tree branches and collectible toys. I succumbed to the temptation of dollar store novelties and I even had a pretty grand collection of lined notebooks. I thought I was going to write amazing stories in them. I’d get about two pages in and stop, then the notebook remained 98% empty for the rest of it’s life.
Even when I went to college, the collections and amassing of objects and clutter got weirder and weirder. I remember in my first year I had a collection of old Starbucks cups in my room.
There was no point to them at all.
Absolutely zero point. But for some reason I got satisfaction about lining and stacking them all up on my windowsill and looking at how much Starbucks I could consume over a weekly period. I had a collection of granola bars that never got eaten, they just collected more and more. There was also a collection of small wooden scraps that served no purpose at all. They were to small to do anything with, but for some reason I kept a hold of them.
The rock collection was cool though. To this day, rocks are perhaps the only thing that I can look back on happily and feel proud that it was something I collected. While I don’t still collect rocks to this day, I can still find value in reminiscing of times when I was six and seven, digging in the front yard and scrapping rocks with a tooth brush to clean them.
For the most part, my collections were meaningless.
I owned a lot of clothes, most of which I rarely wore anyways. Many of the items were old, things I had worn throughout high school and just didn’t want to get rid of because of ‘sentimental attachment.’
But realistically speaking I didn’t feel any attachment to them at all. I was attached to the memories they possessed. I thought that those memories were valuable. In hindsight, they were just memories, nothing special. They didn’t do anything to change my life and impact my path at all.
They just, were.
For most of my life I had fallen victim to the paradox of possessions. The real explanation of this paradox goes way back to the reason why I started collecting those Starbucks coffee cups and lined them up on my windowsill. I couldn’t give you a definitive, hard and fast reason why I collected them, but there’s definitely a subliminal purpose.
I thought that by exemplifying my possessions and accomplishments so that I could see them, it would make me happier.
“Hah! I got 21 Starbucks cups this week. I’m going to try for 25 next week!”
For some reason, I believed that collecting more things would in turn, make me happier. That was the reason behind the rocks. I felt like I was a fantasy wizard, or some magical being who conducted his magic through crystals and gemstones. The rocks had a purpose. Each one was unique and different and had it’s own story attached to it.
These meaningless collections were pacifier’s for unhappiness.
The coffee cups, the granola bars, the notebooks…were all pacifier of a greater issues that I was dealing with. I was unhappy. These items, which were easy and simple to obtain, were supposed to make me feel better. But as time lead on and the collections grew, the energy that these items soaked from me increased and the strain that they put on my began to grow.
I had no time for myself.
I was surrounded by stuff, crap, random things that I had no intention to do anything with other than sit and look. Slowly, I was drowning in my own possessions, choked by the Paradox of Possessions.
But you CAN resist the paradox. It’s not impossible. It takes understanding and self reflection, looking at what truly makes you happy. What adds value to your life? What can you live without? Why do I feel like I need to collect these things?
You need understanding and self reflection.
I asked myself these questions. There’s not rule that’s set in stone on how you can overcome the paradox, that more things makes you less happy. Ultimately, it’s something that needs to be discovered for yourself. I looked at what truly made me happy, which wasn’t coffee cups, granola bars, notebooks and extra clothes. I quickly got rid of those through several purging episodes and soon enough I found my happiness coming back. I was starting to find purpose again.
It’s that ‘A-ha’ moment that people often search for when pursuing a passion. The point where it clicks, changing from a hobby to a definitive passion.
I looked at what added value to my life, what I could live without and the reason behind my collecting.
In time, I was happy again.