Saturday, January 30, 2016

Collecting or Hoarding?

I collect things.  For instance, I have 50 stuffed animals.  For awhile I collected clocks - especially old mechanical clocks.  I have a DVD collection of about 400 films and TV series.  I also collect Japanese furniture, scrolls and other things both decorative and useful.

This morning I bought 2 new things for my collections, and felt a little guilty for a moment.  One of the things was a big, stuffed tiger.  The other was a figurine of Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony - Friendship Is magic.
So here's the stuff I got today..

The guilt didn't last long, and I have put to rest any fears that I might have had that I might be a hoarder.

I get a lot of pleasure from my collections.  They are kept in a clean, orderly manner, and I get rid of things on a regular basis.  I have a rule.  The rule is, one in, one out.  If I get something new, I get rid of something.  The two things don't have to be similar in size, monetary value or type.  They are usually simply the things I have the least use for, room for or attachment to.  This rule is not only a useful rule for making me think about how and why I value the things in my collections, but it keeps my smallish living space navigable.

And here's the stuff going out.  A Balinese wooden horse, and a year of National Geographic Magazines.
Just in case you have concerns about yourself or another as a hoarder, here is an article about how to tell the difference.

I added the pictures.  They weren't part of the original article.  They go down the text from least scary to most scary.


What is the Difference between Compulsive Hoarding and Collecting?

People keep confessing their secret hoarding tendencies to me.

Psychology Today  Posted Dec 17, 2010

A surprising number of people, when I tell them about my book (link is external), confide nervously that they think they might be a hoarder, too. I'll usually ask then if they have any rooms in home that can no longer be used. 

"No," the person will say, surprised. 

"Your bathroom and kitchen are usable?" 

"Of course." 

"So your collection of antique salt and pepper shakers isn't disrupting your life or anyone in your family's life?" 

"No," the person will respond, shaking their head at my ludicrous question. 

"Then I'd say you're pretty safe. It sounds like you're a collector."

Since it keeps coming up, I thought I'd address some differences between collecting and hoarding.
Let's start with the generally accepted definition of compulsive hoarding, which comes from a 1996 article (link is external) by doctors Randy Frost and Tamara Hartl: "(1) the acquisition of, and failure to discard a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value; (2) living spaces sufficiently cluttered so as to preclude activities for which those spaces were designed; and (3) significant distress or impairment in functioning caused by the hoarding."

So in other words, ask yourself if that baseball card collection you've had since you were eleven is impeding your life in some way. What about the salt and pepper shakers? Do you take pride in them, and leave them out on display? Do you enjoy looking them and perhaps even invite others to look at them? If the answer is yes, I'd say you're a collector.

Can a collector become a hoarder?

Hoarding is often set off by a trauma, though symptoms of it appear earlier, sometimes going as far back as childhood. When I was growing up, my mother was always unorganized, lackadaisical about cleaning, and certainly an over-purchaser, but it wasn't until the late ‘90s, when her boyfriend of ten years died, that she entered the realm of the pathological and became a true hoarder.

Many hoarders consider themselves artists, and art supplies comprise a large part of many hoards. As the authors of Buried in Treasures (link is external), the doctors Tolin, Frost, and Steketee, write: "People who hoard often come up with idea after idea, saving things for all kinds of creative reasons but never following through with those plans. They have become victims of their own creativity." My mother spent close to a year trying to crochet a bikini for me even though I told her a hundred times that I would never wear a bikini at all, and especially not a crocheted one. But she ignored me and continued working on it, pulling it apart and starting over each time she discovered a flaw. (This is an example of the perfectionism that hoarders often exhibit.) Even after she's abandoned a project, she can't get rid of the supplies for it, just in case. She may never find another spool of yarn like it, after all.

Spotting and savoring an item's so-called uniqueness is linked to one of the information processing problems that accompanies hoarding. The concept is called underinclusion (link is external), and it's a thought pattern that interferes with the ability to group similar items together -- a key part of organizing. So, rather than having one category for yarn, the hoarder will see one category for the yellow yarn, one category for the pale yellow yarn, one category for the saffron yellow yarn, one category for the sunflower yellow yarn ... etcetera, thus ending up with forty different categories each containing just one object. Since each item is one-of-a-kind it automatically has more value, and because nothing ends up grouped with anything else, each object must be scrutinized individually before its fate is decided. (Making it difficult, for example, to get rid of an entire garbage bag stuffed with musty and dusty yellow yarn.)

Which brings us back to the difference between collecting and hoarding. While a collector finds beauty and value in one type of thing -- porcelain statues of Chihuahuas, vintage Star Wars figures, flags from every country -- the hoarder finds beauty, and thus a reason for keeping, almost everything.

And then there's the collector of scary things...  What's up with that

And then there are the saddest hoarders of all...  Animal hoarders.

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