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On Extreme Collectors, someone has a collection of snow globes valued at $600,000.
On Extreme Collectors, someone has a collection of snow globes valued at $600,000.


In the age of decluttering comes a confusing new trend Add to ...

Okay, now I’m confused. Typical, say some of you, but never mind, some of you. I’m confused because for some time now, we have all been encouraged to declutter. Get rid of stuff. Simplify the home, the office and the life. Use one mini-computer and a radio the size of a wristwatch. Clear out the basement.

This is not just a local phenomenon. My mother, beyond in Ireland, is a great woman for decluttering. My old dad lives in dread of arriving home from a pint with his cronies to discover that his golf clubs are now on sale for a bargain price in a charity shop somewhere.

We have been shamed into getting rid of stuff, in part, because we look at all those shows about hoarders and we start to feel uneasy. There’s Hoarders on A&E and Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC. We watch and think if the pileup of issues of The New Yorker goes higher, we will soon be the sad person on one of those shows, and an intervention by family and friends will be organized. Worst-case scenario, we’ll be diagnosed with OCD. Best-case scenario, we’ll get a visit from Dorothy Breininger, a.k.a. “Dorothy The Organizer” and if you’ve seen Hoarders, you know she’ll say. “Curb the chaos!” and then we’ll be sorry.

The confusion comes from a trend I glean from two new shows tonight. I have a queasy feeling we are now being encouraged to collect stuff because, Jiminy, it might be valuable. Oh no.

Extreme Collectors (Slice, 9 p.m.) takes it as given that everybody is a collector. In the current declutter climate this is probably foolish but, you know, people have their passions. On this show, you’ll meet a guy with a huge collection of snow globes (honestly, snow globes!) that, according to the host, is worth $600,000. This is interesting, one supposes, but the downside is a possible outbreak of snow-globe collecting and entire basements being stuffed to the rafters with the darn things.

If you want to know why a value of $600,000 is put on that collection, you’ll have watch Extreme Collectors and hear host Andrew Zegers explain. He’s a Toronto-based collector, dealer and appraiser. Most segments of the show feature collectors in the U.S. (the series airs on the National Geographic Channel there) and some are definite eccentrics. There’s a guy in Florida with a collection of yo-yos that’s so big it’s in Guinness World Records. If you’re thinking of acquiring yo-yos, be aware the collection is only worth $80,000. It’s not like the snow-globe market, obviously.

Another thing you’ll learn is that the hat market is depressed right now. (I was shocked.) We meet a lady who owns 600 hats. Naturally, she says she’s known around her ’hood as “the hat lady.” One of the snippets of information we’re given is that the highest price ever paid for an old hat was $30,000. But that’s because Napoleon himself once wore it. It’s all very charming, this look at collectors, and their homes seem very tidy, with the collections being carefully shelved and stored, but you just know that some of these people are one step away, or one box of snow globes away, from appearing on an episode of Hoarders.

Lost and Sold (Slice, 10 p.m.) is also new and, in a way, continues the theme of collecting and accumulating stuff. A cheap knockoff of Storage Wars (Storage Wars Canada is now running Thursdays at 9 p.m. on OLN), it is awful television. One gets the impression that the Shaw-owned Slice was ticked off because the Rogers-owned OLN got Storage Wars Canada, so it made this ridiculously cheesy imitation.

Here, we follow dealers who get their stuff from auctions where all sorts of packages – from lost or abandoned luggage off buses or planes, to undelivered courier parcels – are bought and resold. These events are, hilariously, called “misguided freight auctions,” apparently. And “misguided” is the operative word here. While Slice describes the characters involved as “a group of shrewd and savvy dealers,” most are average hucksters hoping to make a quick buck. Some of them seem slightly desperate and others look remarkably like the well-established dealers who appear on the original Storage Wars, but they’re not as colourful.

The point, of course, is to sell us on the idea that there is value in everything. Someone’s luggage left on a train could contain something valuable and worth reselling for a fortune. This doesn’t happen a lot, of course. It’s all just a matter of accumulating a heap of things in hopes that something is valuable. Apart from being a terrible show, it sets a terrible example and might send out hordes of people to buy junk they think they can resell. Oh no.

Now, me, I have these Mole Sisters Finger Puppets … never mind. I don’t want to be confused. Let’s go back to the declutter trend.

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