Reyne Gauge: Collecting, or Hoarding?

September 15th, 2010 by

There is a long standing joke among collectors that says we all have a touch of OCD or hoarding tendencies.   But is it really a joke?  Are we really hoarders masquerading as collectors?  Just because we are collecting “things” instead of food, paper, or odds and ends etc doesn’t necessarily mean we are good to go.

Let’s take a look at some of the similarities:

Hoarder:   Keeps random items in large numbers, sometimes to include trash, food, or random items that seem to have little to no value.

Collector:  Is sometimes known to acquire collectibles in large numbers (sometimes broken, soiled and of little value)

Hoarder:  Places sentimental attachment to items that would appear worthless to others

Collector: Often collects due to nostalgic reasons

Hoarder: Often feels a rush when shopping and acquiring items.

Collector:  Loves the thrill of the hunt and will often buy something they would not normally buy if they cannot find something to acquire in their collecting genre to fill that “need to buy something” void.

So this leads to my next thought:  Why does adding to our collections made us feel so good inside?

The Hartford Hospital in Hartford, CT states that often, compulsive hoarders feel distressed when they see something they want, and feel they cannot relieve the stress until acquiring that item.

I think this is a similar feeling collectors refer to as being “haunted” by an item we have walked away from, in that we think about how we should have bought it over and over.  And when we do buy something, we feel a sense of release.

The media has started exposing celebrities that “hoard” items such as shoes, cars, and even pets.  If you’ve watched Animal Planet you’ve probably seen their new show “Confessions:  Animal Hoarding” Who would have thought?  Paris Hilton is said to have 18 pets.  Will we see her on that show next?

I spoke with my friend Janine Godwin, who is a Certified Professional Organizer with Nooks & Crannies this morning on the very subject.  We wondered if the volume of shows on collecting would create a sense of justification for those who do hoard.

I also started to think about the similarities in shows on collecting vs. hoarding.  Take American Pickers on the History Channel.  One of my favorite collecting shows on air.  It follows the two hosts, Mike and Frank on their picking adventures around the country.  They visit with people who have inherited collections or have built them over the years.  They browse through attics, basements and barns packed to the gills with hidden treasures, in hopes of buying a few to resale later.  E very show offers a new stop, and shows the interaction with the owner of the items. You can see many of them struggle with parting with anything, although they have not looked it the items or used them in years.

Hoarding shows follow professional organizers and therapists to meet with families needing assistance with someone they love who is a hoarder.  The therapist works with the individual to understand what their attachment to the items is, and how they can change their way of thinking so to not compulsively hoard in the future. The professional organizer works to determine what has value, and what should be parted with.

Do you see the similarities in the formats?

It is said three or more of any item makes a collection.  So I guess that means not every collector could be considered a hoarder.  I’ve certainly met collectors with 20 items, and I’ve met collectors with 2,000.

When does one cross over?  When is too many too much?  Would a collector be considered “organized hoarding?”  Things that make you go hmm…

Call it whatever you like, at the end of the day, I’ll still collect things; some in large amounts, some just a few.  Some I’ll buy for nostalgic reasons, some because I just like their look.

Nooks & Crannies –