The Difference Between Collecting and Hoarding

As many of us take out storage units from the likes of Ready Steady Store in a bid to keep our belongings safe and sound it raises a very poignant question – if we can’t fit everything into our house, are we simply a nation or collectors or hoarders? While collecting shoes, bags or anything else that takes your fancy might be considered a hobby, hoarding could be seen as something of an unwanted habit.

Of course, there’s a rather fine line between the two but when does a simple pastime become a worrying obsession? Let’s take a closer look:

What is collecting?

The hobby of collecting including tracking down, buying, keeping, storing and displaying items of interest such a thimbles, stamps, mugs, plates, CDs, magazines, vintage posters and such like. Virtually anything can be collected and the collector usually gets great satisfaction when they buy or seek out something they’ve wanted to own for many years be it a special edition comic book or original memorabilia from a much-loved film.

Often, collecting is considered perfectly harmless with friends and relatives even supporting the hobby by buying gifts related to their loved one’s pastime. It’s possible for people to collect more than one thing although there’s usually a specific theme to items they long to find.

What is hoarding?

According to The British Heart Foundation, a whopping eight out of ten Brits are self-confessed hoarders stashing away on average 32 unwanted household items worth an incredible £514. This is very different from collecting as rather than finding and keeping things of interest, many of us simply refuse to throw away things we want, use or need.

While the majority of people find it hard to dump items (even if they’re old, rusty or unloved), compulsive hoarders take things to a new level by actively seeking all kinds of bits and bobs to bring home. Often, they find use in others people’s junk and get so connected to things that they struggle to throw anything away. If you’ve seen Channel 4’s The Hoarder Next Door you’ll know this can lead to a very untidy living environment where the hoarder finds it hard to live amongst their various trinkets.

Similarities and differences?

Like collectors, hoarders tend to love finding new and unusual things to own. They enjoy filling up available space with unusual objects and become particularly attached to both new and old items. While collectors tend to look for specific products, however, like mugs with penguins on them or superhero literature, hoarders will often be more general. Common things people hoard include magazines, newspapers, boxes, old mail, plastic bottles, and broken appliances.

Moreover, while collectors are usually proud of their various collections and will happily show off their prized assets to family and friends, hoarders are often embarrassed about their compulsion and don’t like inviting people round to their homes. They worry people will make them throw their stuff away which to them would seem like the worse thing possible as everything has a use. Although hoarding can verge on absurd to people without the condition, hoarders will usually know where everything is amid the mess and can explain why they own what they do.

Collecting and hoarding certainly have similarities, but with extreme hoarding more commonly linked to mental health issues like OCD it seems there’s a clear difference too.

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