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Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Experiences, not Acquisitions

Hi, I'm Aki Tan and I'm a hoarder.

I hoard books, not bears, by the way...

The above picture is a small fraction of the burgeoning collection of books and magazines that is threatening to bring down my bookshelf. I have a box of craft materials that is not very used. I have rolls and rolls of washi tape and files of scrapbooking paper. 

Why do I have so much stuff? Well, partly it's GAS = Gear Acquisition Syndrome. The term is more commonly used for tech gear but in this case, I think the same applies to the books, magazines and craft materials that I have.

Which is why I read (and re-read) the articles in Flow Issue 5 with interest. There were 2 articles which I felt spoke directly to hoarders keen for rehab. In one of the articles, "How Great Small Can Be", Alain de Botton wrote:

"Why, then, if expensive things cannot bring us remarkable joy, are we so powerfully drawn to them?... Because expensive items can feel like plausible solutions to needs we don't understand."

So it becomes easier to buy something than to do serious soul-searching to find out what is it we're missing. After all, it only takes a walk to the store and an opening of the wallet. And research has also proven before that impulse buys can indeed bring a high level of satisfaction. (A Google brings up a list of research, I have chosen to link this one: Effects of Impulse Purchases on Consumers' Affective States.) 

This is true for me, for the craft materials at least. When I moved into my new house, I had a whole room which I used as a study/studio. With all that space to play with, I suddenly found myself able to buy and store all the paper I ever wanted, and paper being paper, of course took up space. I couldn't bear to use all the stuff I bought, though, 'cause what if I wanted to use it for another project? What if I used it and it didn't turn out right?

I acquired and acquired and one day, I realized, they become 'plausible solutions to needs' that I didn't understand fully yet. I wanted to Make Good Art, and so I bought all those things thinking that I would some day. But my real need wasn't to buy materials, it was to actually do stuff with them.

It took a lot of acquiring before I realized that the only thing I was doing was collecting materials but yet I had nothing to show for all the buying I was doing. At some point, I told myself, that's it, now it's time to start making

And when I started making, this led to another kind of satisfaction, which was the kind that authors Botsman and Rogers (What's Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption) referred to. 

"We want to fulfil our needs with the material or experience that these products offer." Yes, the experience from the products, not the products itself. 

This is a good reminder every time I am tempted by something new. I ask myself: Am I more interested in buying the book? Or reading it? Do I want to make art, or buy paint? The reminder here is that what we are really interested in is the experience that comes from the product. If the experience can be had with something already in possession, then further purchase is unnecessary. Even if acquisition is necessary, sites like Carousell can help one to buy something secondhand and usable instead of buying a new items.

Nowadays, I let myself be a bit more free when I use the materials, since it's clear that I have nearly a lifetime of craft materials hoarded away. Do I get tempted now and then? Of course I do, and I do end up buying some more stuff. The difference is now I give myself more permission to use and misuse the things I buy, so as to continue to gain the benefit of experience rather than the short-lived one of acquisition. There were times when I wasted some stuff by making some real fugly things, but I was also rewarded at many other times with something that just looked good. It is those times I look forward to, because those remind me what life's experiences are all about. They are about experiences and not products. 

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