This really is a terrific topic, and I'm so glad to see so many AFIers contribute to it. I've more than once glanced at our forum and thought "Hmmm...do any of us put too much importance on these toys, and their place in our lives?"
I can say this - I've spent more money than I should have on toys. I definitely need to stay vigilant about my priorities. I think that's probably true of most of us.
That said, I have no desire to fill rooms with toys and I'm not a "completist". I've always made it a point to consider my purchases carefully, and make sure I'm not just buying something to "make myself feel better" about something else. Toys don't fill the void anymore than food or drugs or any other addiction can. And keeping an eye out to make sure you're not filling an emotional void is so key to making sure a hobby doesn't become a crutch.
I went through a long period where I didn't buy toys (maybe 4 in a year?) and looking back on that time (now that I've been buying more) I'd probably say that I had my priorities more in-line when I wasn't spending time, effort and money thinking about plastic figures. I got ahead in my life a bit more then, and didn't think about figures often if at all. So it's all about balance.
While I know shame and embarrassment are part of collecting toys (Nerd alert!), I do really like being able to see other people's collections, and discussing the habit here. There have been tons of times where seeing someone else's collection has made me feel just as good as if I had one like it myself.
I suspect I'll always be partial to toys in some way, but I also feel confident that pretty soon I'll be done with collecting them on a semi-regular basis (since my interests are pretty limited in terms of lines and properties). After all, it really adds up.
And to my credit, I actually stopped myself from starting to collect a new line a few months back, when some figures popped up and were inexpensive. I said "No, I don't care nearly enough to make room for these in my life." So I didn't
Here's the link if you want to check it out, http://geekvariety.tumblr.com/post/2669
Such a great read, Geek. Thank you for sharing. These bits popped out at me:dead weight...
...seeing them and reading about them brings me much more pleasure than having them clog up my environment.
...the “run” was a route I devised to maximize the amount of stores I could hit in a certain amount of time with the most efficient effort to find as many new toys as possible....
...my life had changed with this person and sadly the things I should have changed for her I didn’t and they ended up playing a part in our eventual downfall....
The term "dead weight" is just such a powerful one. We all have "dead weight" in our lives, and maybe it's a shoe collection, and maybe it's the time we spend doing crossword puzzles, or obsessively cleaning house, or buying things...but jotting down on paper how we spend our money, and how we spend our time is so helpful
. It can show us that what we think we need can be replaced with something that serves multiple purposes and doesn't have as high a price.
I smiled at "the run". I'm pretty sure I do that on vacation. Actually, I KNOW I do
Always want to hunt down some small shop where I can find a figure. Most times, though, I don't end up buying anything. It's fun, but it's also a solitary thing, typically, which is kind of sad.
From the sounds of your list of things you sold off in your purge, you clearly did have an unhealthy need to collect...but I question the blame you seem to put on yourself for not stopping "for her". I've asked people who love me to stop doing things for me before, and as much as they've wanted to, they usually couldn't or didn't. I'm going to guess your ex saw it as a problem because of the money, time and physical space it took up...and sure, that's valid. But resenting you for having a "safe place" that you protected, at the expense of moving forward? That's...not really very understanding. So, don't tell yourself you pushed her away by not complying with her request to end the hobby. Instead, forgive yourself by understanding that even if you HAD purged all your stuff, the relationship might still have ended. And ultimately, you needed support to get over this hurdle. I'm glad you were able to find it within yourself.
Lastly, the term "purge". It bugs me. This isn't about you as much as in general. If you binge, fine, you've binged. It happened and purging it (whether food from your body, or toys from your system) isn't fixing it. So I feel badly that you forced yourself to part with everything. It's much more healthy to pick out the things that do still matter to you...but then, maybe you needed a drastic change, the way some people move to different cities. I just find that people who sell off entire collections typically regret it and eventually restart (as you have). As long as you set the limits and remind yourself of the importance of them, you'll be fine.
Toys are nice, but going out into the world and asking for the things that will really make you happy, and working towards them - that's wonderful. Toys will outlive us, but the memories we make by leading our own lives, happily, that's much more rare and precious, no?