The Hoarder’s Dilemma Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, December 6 at noon Pacific for the The Hoarder’s Dilemma Hack Chat with Gabe Emerson!

There’s a lot to be said for the power of a well-stocked junk bin. It’s almost a magical thing, being able to dive into a random box and retrieve just the right part to perform a needful repair or to complete a project without the need to hit the web or hop in the car for a trip to the hardware store. For those who pride themselves on their resourcefulness, it can be a heady experience indeed.

But as with everything, such feats of fix-it come at a price. That little squirt of dopamine that comes from having just the right thing can make your monkey brain fixate on a simple equation: “More stuff is better stuff.” The higher and deeper your stash, the better your chances of having what you need, assuming you can find it, of course. This way lies madness, and perhaps an appearance on a reality TV show.

join-hack-chatIs there a better way? It’s hard to say, but we figured it would be a good idea to loop in someone with a lot of experience collecting junk that somehow finds its way into some pretty cool projects. Gabe Emerson runs the popular and aptly named “saveitforparts” channel over on YouTube, and fancies himself an accomplished hoarder. We’d have to agree, given his recent 1,000-mile drive to pick up a used geodesic dome, or his ever-increasing collection of RV satellite dishes, which he somehow puts to good use. His junk collection is pretty epic; he even has a whole piece of property devoted to the larger pieces of his collection, like an entire monorail train. He seems uniquely qualified to discuss the “Hoarder’s Dilemma” and the painful process of deciding what stays and what goes.

Our Hack Chats are live community events in the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, December 6 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.

31 thoughts on “The Hoarder’s Dilemma Hack Chat

  1. I talk about this a lot with coworkers, who are all hoarder electrical engineers, and one of the things that comes up is the necessity for sorting and discarding, especially when we acquire new stuff and need to find a place for it, or recognize that it replaces some of the existing stuff we had. We even have a phrase for this: as we acquire increasingly good stuff and get rid of the previous stuff to make room for it, we’re distilling it into becoming “essence of junk”, as if we’re converting the raw beer of discarded stuff found on the sidewalk to the distilled spirits of curated cast-offs.

      1. I think the Proof to that statement is about 4 Months.. That is usually my Turn Around time for needing something I tossed out.. Four Months later I will need that part.. It’s still fresh in my Vision, Cauze I watched it hit the Dumpster..

      2. Happens to me all the time. I’ll see something in my garage or on a shelf and say, “I haven’t needed that in 10 or more years,” but as soon as I toss it out a friend or relative calls me to ask, “Do you happen to have a…”

        I’m at a stage in my life where I’m getting rid of as much as I can but it appears no one wants what I’ve got. I offered a couple of working ’80s-90’s era Tektronix scopes to the local maker group but they didn’t want them because they weren’t digital. Tomorrow I’m taking two flat screen TVs, 4 LCD monitors and a box of 13.8 V high-current power supplies to the e-recycling center. Everything works, but no one wants them.

    1. That’s not hoarding, just normal engineer behavior. Hoarders don’t discard.

      You’ll tell me you know a bunch of pyromaniac engineers. Because they _all_ used to burn stuff for fun as grade schoolers, blow stuff up for fun when older. Perfectly normal engineer behavior.

  2. I guess I should not feel bad about all of the induction power supplies I hoard onto rather than throw them in the junk bin like my company wants me to. What really keeps me from discarding things is that I see future value in things that can be fixed or used by someone else. “nothing is broken until you can’t fix it” However, this is not a realistic way of thinking. I just hate for usable stuff to end up being thrown into a landfill. Here in Durham, NC , we do have places like “The Scrap Exchange”, that deals in selling used/donated things that artist and makers alike may find useful.

  3. Sadly, I too am sorely afflicted with the malady. Hundreds of little drawers full of screws and nuts, resistors and transistors, tubes of ICs and boxes of vacuum tubes, etc.

    The one good thing that comes of it is that I usually have the parts I need for my latest project. That inspires me to build more projects. :-)

    The bad thing is that I won’t live long enough to use it all up. I (or my heirs) will have to dispose of it someday!

    1. I have repeatedly taken things from the streets. Heck, both my scanner and my clock radio come from the street.
      I also have had old shoes that I took to the trash, and literally 3 m before throwing them in the dumpster, I thought of something I could do with them and took them back.

      On the other hand, I have had 8 shipping pallets that I took from the curb sitting on my balcony for half a year now that I really need to throw out. But they’re very heavy!

  4. I needed a metal tube to slip into 2 rubber tubes in order to make an extension. I have a container sitting next to the piano in the living room that holds the remnants of aluminum arrows left over from a dual band logarithmic antenna build. They have sat there since 2016. Wife doesn’t care. I knew right where they were and they fit the rubber tubing perfectly. For me it’s about saving money and not throwing stuff I know I’ll use someday. Some might argue it wasn’t worth saving it for almost 8 years. To me, it saved me the trip from the country into town to buy tubing, the time, and the fuel expense. On top of it all, I wonder how many first generation Apple computers got pitched in the 80s and 90s. See what they are worth now? I’m a Commodore guy and almost every single Commodore computer my brother and I ever bought plus all peripherals, 1000s of floppy disks are all in the basement at the parent’s house. As classmates sold their systems off in the 1990s, I swooped in and bought them. It’s going to really suck hauling all that stuff out of there, but on the flip side I have a fun retirement project awaiting me.

  5. One of my good friends has hoarding so bad that his wife left him. I tried to show him some thumbnail calculations that he would need to live past 100 in order to fix and use all the stuff he currently has, but it hasn’t sunk in.

    I hoard (therefore I am), and I LOVE that I can tackle many projects just using stuff on hand, and not spending a dime, but I’m getting better at being realistic about what I will actually use. Plus I have an amazing wife, and she limits my geekspace to one office and part of the basement; the rest of the house is delightfully normal.

    One successful practice I can recommend: I find it therapeutic to take stuff apart. So any curbside acquisitions, if not useable, are stripped and mined for useable parts, and the rest tossed/recycled. it’s much easier to store selected parts than untouched electronic cadavers.

    Other solutions? It would be cool to have more hacker/maker spaces that keep a parts inventory for members to use. Donating gear or parts would allow the donor to tap the inventory for stuff they don’t have.

  6. I also keep stuff at more than one location (my place, all of my parents, step parents, aunts, etc) and periodically (sometimes rather often) you need to look over/integrate recent acquisitions into the sorted system refresh your mental inventory regarding stock and location… and then it’s 5:30 am and you’re surrounded by components looking halfway between a baseball card collector and a bombmaker

    1. If you need to rent space, or impose on family or friends to store stuff that most people would consider junk, that’s a pretty reliable indicator that you have probably accumulated too much.

      Of course we all spend on our hobbies, but at least do an honest accounting of the real cost. If you assess the true cost of storage (not just out of pocket, but loss of space in the home), and the labour involved in managing the hoard(s), including the final reckoning when your or executors finally have to dispose of it, you might find that it’s cheaper to just buy parts when you need them.

      You don’t own stuff; stuff owns you.

  7. Me, I have a different issue.
    Like most comments here, I do actually throw things away, so if I am a hoarder, I am not a very good one. Or does that mean I AM a good one? You decide.
    When I throw stuff out, I sincerely HOPE that someone calls me up with a need for it, because if that doesn’t happen with in 2 weeks time, on day 15, MORE than what I pitched shows up, I have noted this effect on several occasions.
    This is why I think the very CONCEPT of a junk DRAWER is rather quaint. My collection has grown to encompass my workplace (I own a repair company, so I always have a steady supply of incoming parts), a storage warehouse (that’s part of the business property), my own basement (unfinished), a building I built in my backyard for the purpose of making into a blacksmith shop, and a shed which has lawnmower parts and bicycles.
    Nope, Not a hoarder though.
    But I automatically say “yes” to the following three questions:
    do you have?
    do you want?
    can you fix?
    But I am jealous I dont have a MS

  8. Why am I a pack rat? Because I’ll keep something for years, and the minute I decide to throw it out it will become the perfect thing for something I’m doing. Every, f*ing, time. I can’t understand it. Item sits around for five years. Throw it out and two weeks later I need it. Had a right hand glove in the bottom drawer of my tool box for years because I knew the other was somewhere. Just found the other a few days ago to discover I already threw out the previous one. There has to be a God and he’s a sick individual because this crap is statistically impossible.

  9. I have a friend with 3 tractor trailers and many storage units full of stuff. He has been mad at me ever since I moved and got rid of most of my stuff. Now I live by the theory bring one thing in get rid of something, except little development boards.

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