U3.2 Why do it? – What problems arise as collections build up?

The most obvious characteristic of a growing collection is that it takes up more space; and it is usually space that we haven’t got. Many people are disinclined to have clear-outs unless they really have to, and so, as a collection gets bigger, the clearout task seems more and more difficult so is less and less likely to happen. Whether it’s a desk drawer, a garage, or a mobile phone, we usually end up having to have a rapid clear out in order to make room for the new things we urgently want to store.

Another feature of a collection that’s getting bigger is that it often gets harder and harder to see what it contains and to find something within it. Sometimes things just become invisible and then forgotten about in an amorphous mass of stuff. Even if a collection is well organised, it is very likely that mistakes will be made and items will get stored in the wrong place. Over a period of time such errors may result in a significant number of misplaced items that can’t be found. This problem is exacerbated by the way in which we often design our storage to be easy to get things out, whereas it would be more helpful in the long term to make it easy to put things away in the correct place.

In the longer term, large unmanaged collections will require increased removal effort when we move house; and they will present more of a problem than a joy for those who inherit.

Marie Kondo in her book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ believes that letting collections grow like topsy is not just a practical problem, but that it actually affects people’s lives. She says that, if you keep putting stuff away in drawers or boxes, before you realise it your past will become a weight that holds you back and keeps you from living in the here and now.

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