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06 Mar '17

Collectoritis--Warning Signs and Symptoms

Posted by Lanchi Vo
I am blessed with a sense of wonder. I am easily fascinated by "varieties" of all kinds. Thus, I become a collector of many things. Or so, I thought. As I pondered a bit more about the thrill of collecting, I realized that it stems from something more primal, rooted in the survival instinct, the egocentric desire for anything perceived as 'rarity', whether real or imagined, natural or artificial.

I still remembered very clearly the time when I accidentally tumbled onto a rare orchid species that I had coveted for a long time, Constantia cipoensis, to be precise. There it was, a perfect specimen, lying among many other species brought to the orchid show by a Brazilian vendor. As I made the purchase, my heart palpitated, my limbs felt weak, my stomach tighten, and my head felt like it was about to float, carried away by elation. How else can I get to that level of excitement in a totally non-chemical, non-sexual way? There I was, holding a beautiful plant. It was uniquely mine, exclusively mine, selfishly mine. It was a wonderful feeling! Not so much of having it, but of having found it. More and more, I realize, it is not what I have amasses that brings me the satisfaction. Like hunting, it's more the process of selecting, searching and acquiring that is so thrilling.

Now, with internet search, online commerce, social media, wikipedia... collecting is dangerously easy. Fortunately--like it is usually the case--Money (or the absence of it) puts a healthy brake on my impulse. Time and Space add their own set of constrains. Operate within those sets of constrains is what make it even more exciting. Collecting is a great hobby. I highly recommend it. It is both engaging and educational. Being a collector means you have to do some research, prioritize your acquisition, organize your collection, budget your fund, exercise self discipline...All are great skills to cultivate.

However, one has to be very careful. Indulge in this activity predisposes you to collectoritis, a pathological condition colloquially known as 'hoarding'. There is a very fine line between collecting and collectoritis. The first warning sign is when you don't even know that you have a certain object, and if you do, you have no idea where it is (caveat: this can also be a result of old age, but that's a different issue all together). Next, you becomes less and less selective, the collecting skill sets listed above begin to deteriorate one by one. When you found yourself squeezing side-way, contorting your torso to navigate though your living room, bathroom, bedroom, bed...walled in by your acquisitions, then it is too late. The condition has progressed to the 3rd degree. So, be vigilant.

If you still keep a record (either physical or mental) of your inventory; have a systematic way to display or store them; trade, sell, or gift your items occasionally to refine and streamline your collection, then you are safe. Congratulation! By being a collector, you have chosen the best addiction of all addictions. If you happen to collect art and craft, specially wooden items, please do keep at it! You are the enablers for us artist and crafters to keep on creating. You are part of a rare population with a keen appreciation for the finer things. If, after reading this blog and a bit of self diagnosis, you find yourself heading to the other side, or had already ensconced yourself there, you have all my condolence and sympathy.

Now, if you please excuse me, I need to go search for that rare wood sample I collected last year. I know I have it somewhere....