23 Feb 2016

Hoarding versus Collecting

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As Mythbusters airs its final season reminiscing is natural. Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman have had a profound impact on science education and popular culture. They will be missed.

Over the years Adam Savage has told interviewers that he is a “long term, high functioning hoarder”. Back in 2005 a season 3 episode, “Shop ‘til you drop”, had a small segment where Adam showed us a part of his home and a part of his collection. Some portions of his home were cluttered and disorganized, with some encroachment on walkways. And some of the things he showed us were not in very good condition, or would be considered junk by other people.

To be a hoarder is to have an inability to let go of things and to have difficulty making an objective valuation of a thing’s worth. It is to have things encroaching on living space to the point of hindering passage and preventing the use of rooms for their intended purpose. I don’t wish to argue with Mr. Savage, so let me just say that the evidence provided indicates that he may have been on his way to being a hoarder.

Let’s contrast that with a collector. A collector is always proud of his collection and loves to show it off, just like Adam, but a collector maintains his collections and keeps them in display condition. A person who hoards tends to treat his collection somewhat indifferently, with clutter and spread the by-product of that indifference. Hoarders know the original cost of their things, while collectors tend to be aware of the current values of their possessions and seek to improve them. Perhaps an example will help.

In Burbank, there is a hanger situated next to the airport. This hanger houses what may be one of the world’s largest collections of vehicles, and is the pride and joy of its owner, comedian and TV star Jay Leno. This one hanger is the home to at least 130 cars and 93 motorcycles.

According to David Undercoffer, many collections are built around one model of car such as the Ferrari or the Porsches. Jay Leno’s passion however is different. Jay Leno collects cars that he likes. He buys his cars out of love and passion and not for any kind of investment. Mr. Leno even goes so far as to claim: “I never thought of it as a collection”, yet he has managed to create one of the world’s biggest and most valuable collections of vehicles. Jay Leno is interested in doing the work and the restoration on his cars himself and said in his interview to Jane Wells, “I’m like the Mia Farrow of cars. When I see something, a car abandoned by the side of the road, I have to bring it home and nurture it and try to get it running again’“.

In his interview with Joanne Wolf, Leno explains: “When you buy an old car and fix it up and you drive it, there’s a bit more pride because you know what it took to get it running”. According to Keith Charvonia, all of Leno’s cars run, “literally any of these cars can be started and driven at Mr. Leno’s whim”.

Many old cars were given to Mr. Leno, as he says to Joanne Wolf, “Old cars find you. I get letters every week from guys in their 70s, 80s, 90s who say ‘Oh, I’ve had this car all my life…’”. Jay Leno, though claims he has no idea what his cars cost nor how much they are worth as he admitted to Jane Wells: “I have no idea,” Leno said, “but I think it’s safe to say whatever I paid for it has doubled or tripled in value”. According to The Richest, Jay Leno’s vast collection of vehicles is worth an estimated $50 million.

Let’s get back to Adam Savage. 2005 is a long time ago. What do things look like now? Mr. Savage has both a Google Maps and video tour of his shop. His secret lair. His man cave.

Things have changed. Adam has changed. In the video tour he shows us his workshop and part of his collections, but he spends almost all of the time explaining his organization techniques. “Of course, I love tools. I also love arranging them, to the point where I came up with a name for my organizing metric: first-order retrievability”, he says. Now, he neatly keeps his costumes in labelled vinyl cases; and he has specially crafted display cases for other items.

Adam Savage may have been a long term, high functioning hoarder, and he probably still battles with it, but now, he is a collector.

About the Author

works mostly behind the scenes at Conquer the Clutter, supporting Maria's efforts to make the world a neater place to live.

One Response to Hoarding versus Collecting
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