The difference between Hoarders and Collectors
In recent years the amount of ‘self-help’, ‘declutter your life’ type advice has increased. From ‘how to meticulously fold your clothes’ to ’10 step guides’ aimed at helping you to throw away your life’s possessions, it’s fair to say most of us have got the message – nowadays it’s considered trendy to live without ‘stuff’. However it is important to note that sometimes obsessively decluttering to the point of erasing memories can be just as detrimental to your psyche as hoarding. The question is – where is the ‘healthy’ line?
It dates back to...........
The collecting of objects has forever been regarded as a harmless and ultimately normal human behaviour. Evidence dating back as far as ancient Egypt serves to suggest that human beings have a long standing, natural inclination towards collecting items. Filling their tombs with everyday items, food, jewellery, mummified pets and even servants, the Egyptians believed so completely in the afterlife that they would begin filling their tombs ahead of death to ensure they had everything they needed once passing into their next life.
Things have changed a lot since those days (you’d never get planning permission for a pyramid for starters) yet collecting is still very much a part of people’s lives. As children, one would always be enticed by a new, faddish collectable – toy cars, teddy bears, dolls and so on – and as adults one might begin collecting antiques or artwork ready to hand down to future generations. All collections have one thing in common however – the items bring joy to a person’s life, may have some monetary value and act as preservation for future generations.
When you should be concerned
Hoarding on the other hand is quite different and can have life changing effects on a person’s life. It is widely recognised as a dimension of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and many psychologists believe that it is triggered by a trauma, sometimes as far back as childhood, causing a person to experience difficulty in discarding or parting with possessions.
Hoarders tend to collect items which appear to have little to no use, fill living spaces to the point of immobility around the home and may display distress or negative psychological behaviour as a result of hoarding. Living in this way can be extremely detrimental to one’s health, hence it can be helpful to reach out to specialists who can guide a hoarder through the turbulent emotional experience associated with compulsive behaviours.
Although the people advising us to throw away all that we own may see collecting and hoarding as distinctly similar, it is important to recognise the differences. To summarise the difference between the two behaviours:
- Feel proud of their collection and enjoy conversations about it
- Keep items within their collection organized and well maintained
- Find joy in their collectable items, willingly displaying them to others
- Join clubs/associations with others who share their interest and have collections of their own
- Invest time and money in their collection
- May feel embarrassed by their possessions
- Have their possessions scattered randomly throughout their home, often without any sense of organisation
- Live surrounded by clutter, often reducing the amount of functional living space
- Feel uncomfortable about inviting others into their home for fear of being embarrassed by their possessions
- May be in debt, sometimes to an extreme degree
- Feel ashamed or depressed after acquiring additional items
Therefore the answer to the question ‘are “hoarders” the same as “collectors”?’ is no. But if you feel concerned about hoarding - whether it’s a concern for yourself or for a loved one – you are not alone. Help is available across the UK in a variety of formats so if you’d like some advice, take a look at the Help for Hoarders website
which may come in useful if you’re looking for someone to talk to.
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