12 July 2013

Are 800 hats the result of collecting? Or hoarding?

Some views of her home make it look like a archetypal hoarder's residence.  But what if she were rich enough to own a larger home and be able to store everything properly?  How does one compare her to someone who owns an even larger number of smaller things (thimbles, matchbook covers, buttons, stamps, coins) that fit in a smaller space?

(For a well-informed response to my questions, see the discussion by Mel V in the Comments.)


  1. The same way you tell the difference between a liquor connoisseur and a wealthy alcoholic. Do they have a hobby, or does the hobby have them?

    Collectors usually display their items and are enthusiastic about showing them to other people. Hoarders generally don't have space or the organizational skills to present their collection well, and usually dislike other people seeing (let alone handling!) their hoard. Collectors can talk about the differing values of the items in their collection, and will let go of less valuable items to make room for better ones. A hallmark of hoarding is being unable to distinguish the relative value of items, and be unwilling to part with anything regardless of its origin or condition. (Oddly enough, if you point a hoarder at someone else's messy house, they can usually do a good job of sorting. The ability to determine value is still there, it's just overwhelmed by their compulsive need to keep stuff.) Collectors will limit their collection to the space they have available (with varying degrees of success), a hoarder will overflow their living space no matter how large, and usually with astonishing speed. Collectors (usually!) stay within their means, hoarders are commonly in severe financial problems because of their hoarding and lack of money management abilities.

    Collecting is a hobby that enriches the collector's life, hoarding is compulsive behavior that gets in the way of life. The difference often isn't apparent to the hoarder, but the people around them can usually tell. That video clip alone isn't enough to tell which category this lady falls into, but the condition of the house and the fact that she's been chosen for the show does suggest there are problems.

    Yes, I've done a bit of reading on this topic. :-D Hoarding is a mental disorder that manifests itself in a very, very physical way, which is fascinating to me. In a lot of ways, the hoard is the person's brain. Discarding any of it is discarding a part of themselves, so naturally it's almost impossible to do. Pulling back that identification with objects is extremely difficult.

    1. Wow, thank you Mel. I've added a reference to your comments to the post.

    2. Quite welcome. I can ramble on about it for a while.

      I should add that while conceptually the difference between collecting and hoarding is quite clear, in real life the boundary can be very blurry and making a diagnosis is best left to the professionals. As with all mental disorders, the severity of hoarding problems and the way it expresses itself varies widely.

  2. The House on the Rock is an interesting example of one or the other.


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