Being a fan of something can mean obsession, and that obsession frequently takes the form of collecting. Collections, It certainly has for me. It’s a way to physically demonstrate our fandom of something, and it can take many forms. You may want every comic that stars a favorite character, every action figure from a certain toy line, every piece of ancillary media tied into a major motion picture franchise. And the more things you love (and the more you love these things) the more space it all takes up — not just in your home, but in your life, too.
Yes, there’s a genuine high when you finally get your hands on an item you’ve long been searching for, whether it’s a hard-to-find action figure, a long-forgotten comic book, whatever. There’s also a feeling of satisfaction when you complete your collection — pride in the time and effort (and money) you’ve spent to successfully achieve a goal. This is happiness, but it is momentary and finite. Because after that, you just have a house full of Star Wars toys you don’t know what to do with.
Eventually, you may have more than you can display. Maybe it’s an extra box of old video games in the closet, or perhaps you have so many comics strewn across your house you can’t find your car keys, the bills you need to pay, or the cat. I’ve even seen some people pay for storage units specifically to house the merchandise they buy.
Collections can almost never be completed. You’ll purchase another edition of Luke Skywalker in X-Wing Pilot Gear every few years.
What enjoyment do these hidden things bring you? None. You don’t see them — you can’t see them. You may believe that you’ll drag out that old video game console or rewatch that old Farscape: The Complete TV Series box set, but if you’ve got it in some form of storage, that means it’s less important to you that everything you have out. And if you decide to get nostalgic, you will inevitably choose to rewatch/replay/re-whatever the things you haven’t hidden away. Get rid of the rest.
If you cringe at the idea of getting rid of anything, well, 1) this is exactly why you need to KonMari yourself, but 2) there’s an insidious truth most, Collections refuse to acknowledge: Collections can almost never be completed. Are you a collector of Hasbro’s Star Wars action figures? They’re going to be making them for decades more, and you’ll purchase another edition of Luke Skywalker in X-Wing pilot gear every few years. Been buying Batman comics since you were a kid? DC Comics will be publishing them long after you’re dead. Even if you tend to stick to media whose stories have finite endings, you’re always going to find a new series of some kind to obsess over and purchase.
The idea that collections cannot be completed may sound harsh, but it can actually be quite freeing. I mean, if you’ll never be truly finished, if your task is impossible, then why force yourself to collect everything? A (frequently expensive) weight has been lifted off of your shoulders! You no longer need to buy every toy or comic or whatever for the sake of the collection. You can be selective, and buy what you will actually enjoy.
Unfortunately, that can be a very tough thing for a collector to figure out, not only because of the confusion between the momentary thrill of acquiring something and genuine, ongoing enjoyment but because it’s far too easy to prioritize the collection over the self. You might assume everything that increases the collection makes you happy, but that’s not at all necessarily true.
Say you own the last 40 years of every single issue of Captain America comics. You do not love every Captain America comic equally, of course. There are some storylines you really love, and some you think are garbage. But to you, the comics are not individual stories: They’re a single entity. You love Captain America, so you collect his comics, and that means you often knowingly buy terrible issues of Captain America. It’s not about quality, and it’s not about buying what you enjoy — it’s about the quantity and the collection.
Where Cap gets addicted to meth. What’s the point of keeping them? You’re never going to read that story again, nor should you. These comics are garbage. Honestly, they might even diminish your love of the character, in a way. Wouldn’t the gestalt value of Captain America comics improve slightly if that storyline had never happened? In terms of your own fandom, you can make it come true!
This is Kondo’s philosophy at its simplest: Figure out what brings you joy. Just because you’re a collector of something doesn’t mean you have to collect everything. There’s no law that says you must have a complete set. Likewise, just because something’s part of your collection doesn’t mean you actually enjoy it. You’re not less of a fan if you purge the stuff you think is crap.