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Stuffed: How Hoarding and Collecting Is the Stuff of Life and Death

One of comedian George Carlin’s (1937–2008) seminal monologues was his 1986 riff on stuff: “That’s all the meaning of life is: trying to find a place to put your stuff. That’s all your house is, is a pile of stuff with a cover on it.” And to paraphrase: “Someone else’s stuff is actually shit, whereas your own shit isn’t shit at all, it’s stuff.” I’m made aware of this every time family members visit my house and see the art I collect. I see those very words etched onto their retinas, and I can imagine the conversations they’re having in the car driving away: “Do you think maybe all that art stuff he collects is a cry for help?”

“That art stuff of his? It’s not stuff; it’s shit.”

“But it’s art shit. I think it might be worth something. It’s the art world. They have no rules. They can turn a piece of air into a million dollars if they want to.”

“So, maybe it’s not shit after all.”

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