Before you buy more, enjoy what you already have

Your hobby isn’t buying new stuff, Hamm writes. Your hobby is enjoying whatever it is that your hobby is truly about. 

Ng Han Guan/AP/File
A Chinese woman plays a card games near South Korean soap operas DVDs on sale at a shop in Yanji, in eastern China's Jilin province. In my effort to build up collections, Hamm says he would often add items to his collections at a very rapid-fire pace.

As I’ve mentioned before, several years ago, I was an avid collector of DVDs and vintage sports trading cards. At one point, our DVD collection reached over 1,000 discs. At the same time, I came reasonably close to putting together a 1965 Topps baseball card set (I was mostly missing commons) and I was actually making reasonable headway on a 1934 Goudy baseball card set.

In my effort to build up those collections, I would often add items to my collection at a very rapid-fire pace. I would go to a sports card show and wind up bringing home a small pile of baseball cards, only to find myself going to another show in a couple of weeks. I’d pick up a DVD one day and then buy another a few days later while the first one was still in shrinkwrap.

I did the same thing for videogames, too. I had a large collection of PS2 games, some of which were still in shrink and others of which I had played for maybe an hour or two. Yet I would still pick up new ones at the store. I had a similar issue with books.

I had established a routine of buying more items before I even remotely began to enjoy what I already had. 

Clearly, on some level, I had found myself chasing the desire to acquire rather than just enjoying the hobby. 

I’ve mentioned this problem before and I’d made it clear that I had overcome it, but I haven’t really talked about what I did to start turning the tide.

So, what did I do to turn that tide? I set one simple rule in place.

Before I added a single new item to my collection, I had to thoroughly enjoy the item I just added. If I had some items in my collection that I haven’t actually dug into yet, I needed to dig into one of those as well.

Let me explain in detail how this works.

Let’s say I have ten books on my bedside table that I’ve not read yet. I pick up a new book at the store. Now,before I can pick up another book, I have to read the new book I’ve picked up as well as one of the books already sitting on my bedside table.

If I have some unplayed computer games in my Steam account and I pick up a new one, I need to play through the new game (or at least play it until I’m thoroughly satisfied with it) and play one of the old unplayed games before I pick up a new one.

I don’t include swapped items (via book swapping or game swapping) as “new” items for this purpose. I only count items that I actually spent money on.

My logic here is really straightforward. Why am I buying something new if I already have something much like it that I haven’t used? If my goal is to enjoy my hobby – and that should be the goal of any such purchase – why not just go home and enjoy the hobby items I already have?

What about exceptional sales? I will make little exceptions to this if there’s a ludicrous sale going on. For example, I recently stopped by a bookstore that was going out of business and I bought several items on enormous discount, mostly to give a final burst of support to a business I’ve patronized for many years. However, before I buy anything else new, you’d better believe I’m going to dig through those new items.

What about decorations or other things that are more difficult to continually enjoy? This is trickier. I usually find that I space these things out with time. For example, if I were still actively collecting vintage baseball cards, I’d likely strongly restrict my monthly spending on them and, if I were tempted, I’d just get out my collection and enjoy it. The same philosophy works with home decor and other items.

In the end, your hobby isn’t buying new stuff. Your hobby is enjoying whatever it is that your hobby is truly about. A hobby of reading isn’t about buying new books. It’s about reading books. A hobby of gaming isn’t about buying new games. It’s about playing them.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to