Hoarding, Part 2

I ended my last post on hoarding saying that I would explain exactly why everything you own is worthless. Before I do that, let me get into a little more detail on what it means to hoard. Hoarding is not owning a lot of things. You can own a lot of things and not be a hoarder. You are a hoarder if you own a lot of ”useless” things. You have a problem with hoarding if you are not willing to throw any of that stuff away. I also want to be clear that, despite what is seen on shows like Hoarders, anybody can be a hoarder. You don’t have to be a redneck to be a hoarder. You don’t have to be poor to be a hoarder. Shows like Hoarders make it seem like every hoarder comes from the bottom rung of society. That isn’t necessarily true. The poorer you are, the more obvious your hoarding is to others, but having wealth doesn’t necessarily mean that you ”aren’t hoarding”.

I mention poor hoarders, because it is easy to conclude that they hoard because they have so little to begin with. It is also understandable to think that they hoard because they think what they are keeping is worth something, and if times get really tough, they can sell everything they own. I’m here to say that that isn’t true. Everything a hoarder owns is worthless, everything you own is worthless.

Well, technically not everything you own is worthless, but a lot more of what you own is worth a lot less than you think. I will explain this by sharing a personal example. Readers of my blog know that I’m a gamer. More specifically a PC gamer, and over the years I have built up quite a collection of video games. Those that lived through the 90s know that PC games used to be boxed in large boxes. These boxes were about 14x12x2 inches cubed in size. I saved the box of every PC game I purchased. To give you an idea of how many boxes that is, I got my first job when I was sixteen years old. I was making minimum wage, and working less than 20 hours a week, but I was bringing home about forty to sixty dollars a week, enough to buy a new video game every week. Though I didn’t necessarily buy a new video game every week, I was doing so at a rapid rate. Over a nine month period I had probably purchased around forty games. To put this in perspective, if a game’s box is 14x12x2 inches cubed, the volume of forty games is about 8 feet cubed. Over the next few years my collection built up to around eighty games. I ended up with three boxes about three feet on each side, taking up about 24 cubic feet of space. That is enough to fill more than an entire coat closet. (If you’re doing the math you’ll realize that this adds up for more space than you would expect, but remember this, whenever you put something inside a box, there is going to be a lot of empty space where nothing fits quite right.)

The question you ought to have is why did I kept all those video game boxes. The answer is because an original box increases the resell value of a video game if you’re going to sell it on eBay. That was it. I mean I had spent ten to thirty dollars per game. My collection had cost me at least five hundred dollars. To me, that collection was valuable, and if I was going to sell parts of it, I wanted to get as big a return as possible. Selling a video game as a disc alone is maybe worth a couple of bucks. With the original box, it can be worth over ten bucks.

I was wrong to hoard all those video game boxes for two reasons. First of all, I wasn’t using them for anything. I had them sitting in boxes in my mom’s garage. I sold a few of my games on eBay, but the return was always so low that it was never worth it. I mean I put in all that effort to list the game, answer questions related to the auction, and go to the post office, only to get something like four bucks, when all was said and done. Four bucks isn’t even enough to get a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. I felt like I came out on top, though. If I had sold those games without their original boxes I probably would have gotten two bucks. I wouldn’t have even been able to get a Big Mac then.

In 2005 I realized I was being an idiot for keeping all those boxes. I realized that I had put a lot of effort into selling these games, and all I got was a couple of bucks. It was hardly worth the effort. I had made less money than one hours worth of work at minimum wage. Early in 2006 I threw out almost all of my video game boxes. I kept the manuals and discs and the boxes went straight into the trash. I admit, this was my first time throwing out some hoarded items, and I was tempted to go and get them out of the trash. I restrained myself, and watched the garbage man haul them away.

I have no regrets. They were worthless cardboard boxes. I shouldn’t have kept them to begin with. I’m happy they’re gone. Soon after, I realized there was more of my stuff that I could get rid of. I had a stuffed animal collection from when I was very young. I realized that I had no need for them. All my stuff animals were in boxes as well, most were more worn out than the Velveteen Rabbit. They took up two big boxes. I was never going to play with them, and if I ever had children, I’d just get them new ones. I donated the boxes of stuffed animals to a thrift store. It was that easy. I’d already gotten rid of my video games boxes, which seemed to be more important to me than my stuffed animals, so it wasn’t that hard.

That’s something else I want to be clear on. When I say that you need to throw something out, I don’t necessarily mean throwing something in the trash. Donating to a thrift store is fine. Having one yard-sale is fine. Let me say that again, you can have one yard-sale. Only one. I knew a couple that had the habit of buying entire garages or trailers full of junk. Their entire house was full of junk. Like many hoarders, they parked their car in the driveway because their garage was full of junk. They held a yard-sale every Saturday. They made about two dollars a week. Two dollars. They kept buying more junk. One yard sale is enough. Whatever you don’t sell, you donate to a thrift store or throw away. If you’ve ever watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition you might have an idea of what I’m talking about. These guys always hold yard sales, and they don’t sell much. The hosts of the show make them haul everything else to the junkyard. Usually when they make money it is from selling something that actually does have value like a piano or a motorcycle.

This is exactly why everything you own is worthless. No one wants it but you. Everyone looks at the things you own, and questions your intelligence. I kept video game boxes because I thought they were worth something. Not only were the boxes worthless, the video games themselves aren’t worth anything, except to me. When my collection was at it’s biggest I could have maybe made one hundred dollars if I sold everything. That is less than one days worth of work at most jobs. It would have easily taken me more than eight hours to go through the process of selling that collection.

Getting rid of the boxes was just a start. I had saved all the manuals, and the games were still in their jewel cases. They still took up three shelves of a bookcase. My DVD collection was also taking up a lot of space, not to mention my music collection. I went on to downsize all these collections.

My music collection was the next thing I downsized. I had kept all my CDs in their original jewel cases. Again, I did so in case I wanted to sell them. Let me explain why this was idiotic, CDs are more worthless than video games. They sell for $0.50 a piece on Amazon.com Marketplace. When I reached that realization I bought a couple CD wallets and put my entire CD collection in them. I reduced the space they took up from two shelves, to six inches on one shelf. I’m ashamed to admit that at first I took out all the paper inserts and saved them. That way if I ever did decide to sell the CDs I could put the paper inserts into a jewel case and get the higher resell value of $1.00 instead of $0.50. I threw out those paper inserts a few years ago. Now, I buy almost all of my music digitally. I don’t even have to worry about CDs and jewel cases, but on the rare occasion when I do buy a CD the first thing I do is throw away the jewel case, paper inserts and everything.

That is one of the benefits of the modern era. Most media can now be purchased or rented digitally. Video games can be purchased from online services like Steam and Good Old Games, music can be purchased from Amazon MP3 and iTunes. Movies can be purchased or rented from these stores as well.

A few months ago I finally threw out all my video game manuals, and other manuals that I kept. I realized something very important. Something called the internet exists. First, I didn’t need any of my manuals becuase I know how to use everything I own. Second, if I forgot how to use something I could look it up on the internet. I kept the manual that came with my TV for years. Why did I do that? I ask myself. Anyone who lived through the 80s knows how to operate a TV.

The majority of this post has been about multimedia collections, and that is because multimedia collections are generally the most worthless thing that people own, yet they think otherwise. I hope I am making it clear that multimedia collections are worthless. By that I mean they have no resell value. Sure, you may like your collection of movies and music, but you can’t expect to sell them. It is a sad day when someone walks into a pawn shop and expects to make some money.

Digital purchases have helped me out. When you buy something digital you can’t resell it, so there is no reason to hoard. Not to mention the fact that you can’t hoard something that is purchased digitally. It does takes up space on a hard drive, and in the case of video game services you can re-download your games as often as you need. With Amazon.com Instant Video you just stream your movies to whatever computer you want. So you really don’t even need to use up hard drive space.

I’m proud to say that my DVD and Blu-Ray collection, which by itself took up almost two full book cases, has been reduced to three CD wallets that take up less than two feet worth of shelf space. I have thrown out almost every CD/DVD/Blu-Ray case I own. My entire multimedia collection of CDs, movies, and video games take up only one shelf of a book case. With all the boxes I was saving before, they used to take up an entire section of a garage.

Now, I want to go into something that I personally never really had a problem with, but something that many people a generation or two older than me have, and that is analog multimedia. Specifically VHS tapes, cassette tapes, and vinyl records. By the time I was old enough to really buy anything, everything was digital, and as I mentioned digital media fits into CD wallets, and takes up very little space if you want it to. Analog multimedia doesn’t have that luxury, and the only thing I can say about it, is that you need to throw that stuff out. Unless you own an original Beatles vinyl signed by Ringo Starr, you absolutely need to throw it out. VHS tapes are even worse. They are the most worthless item you can possibly own. They have a resell value of about a penny. When resellers list VHS tapes on Amazon.com Marketplace, they make their money through overcharging shipping. A VHS collection of one thousand movies, might get you fifty bucks if you tried to sell it. Thrift stores are full of VHS tapes. You know why? Because the owners of them couldn’t sell them. What’s worse is there is nothing you can do to reduce the amount of space that a VHS tape takes up. I know people that have entire rooms full of VHS tapes, and they are all worthless.

This is probably hard for some people to hear. My mom has the entire series’ of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation on VHS tape. They cost about twenty bucks a piece for something like 120 VHS tapes. I’m probably underestimating that, but my point is that even though this collection cost over $2500.00, it is now worth maybe twenty bucks. Let me emphasize, ”maybe” twenty bucks. Star Trek on Blu-Ray costs $180.00 for the entire series. The complete series of The Next Generation on DVD costs $309.00. That is less than $500.00 for the entirety of both series. You know what else? My mom has no reason to replace her VHS tapes with DVDs and Blu-Rays, because she’s probably never going to watch the series again anyway.

VHS tapes are the worst. Some people buy them because they sell for so cheap, but believe me it isn’t worth it. They aren’t worth keeping. Get a Netflix subscription. Throw out your VHS tapes. I don’t think you should even donate them to thrift stores. That will only help someone else to hoard. You need to take your VHS collection and throw it in the trash. Face it. You are never going to watch any of these things again. In ten years it will be hard to find a VCR anyway. They are worthless. I don’t care if you paid $10,000.00 for your VHS collection. It isn’t worth anything now, and you’re not watching them anyway.

I allow a few exceptions, for those absolutely awesome movies that have never come out on DVD, and the resell price on Amazon.com Marketplace is in fact in the hundreds. White Dwarf is the only exception I can think of. These exceptions are rare. You probably don’t even own any. Even if you do, I’m saying it has to be something that you like watching. For the most part, you need to throw out your VHS tapes. Unless you are going to sit down and watch it right now, throw it out. The same thing is true for cassette tapes. Chances are you don’t listen to them. It’s even more likely that you will never listen to them again. You need to throw them out.

I haven’t touched on the topic of books yet. I can’t really touch on them yet. They need to be addressed by themselves as a separate topic, because they can be much worse than other multimedia combined. That’s why I’ll get to them in a later post.

My main point in this post, though. Is to help you understand that whatever you own, that you think is worth something, isn’t. If you’re not using it, you may as well throw it out or donate it to a thrift store. You need to get this into your head. Your stuff isn’t worth anything. It’s not worth anything to ”you” if ”you’re” not using it. You need to be able to convince yourself of this. In this post I haven’t even talked about sentimental stuff. I’m just talking about stuff that you think you can sell. Next time, I’m going to get into sentimental stuff, and if you thought throwing out a bunch of empty jewel cases was hard, you’ve really got to get yourself prepared.

3 thoughts on “Hoarding, Part 2”

  1. Thanks for sharing this – it really helped change my perspective on my own hoarding issues.
    Did you ever write that followup article, on getting rid of sentimental stuff? I can’t find it.

  2. @Z.B. No, I never wrote that follow-up post. Can’t remember why I didn’t. Can’t even remember what I was going to say about it. I’m going to have to review my notes and maybe write it in the future.

  3. Excellent! Love this article. I’ve had ocd most of my life and hoard so much. I have to find a new place to live and the choice is between a place for £1000 or £1300 per month. The higher priced property would allow me to take all my crap with me (which incidentally has been untouched in the garage and cellar for 4 years). I realised though that the extra £300 / mth would allow me to buy all the crap again should I ever need to. My hoard / rubbish is not even worth £300 realistically and yet I was (am?) planning on spending get £3600 to keep my rubbish. I’m hoping I sign on the dotted line for the cheaper place next week and force myself to get rid of lots of useless tat.
    Thanks again further article. I’m going to reread it over and over so it sinks in.

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