When Collecting Becomes Hoarding

Many people enjoy collecting items that add pleasure and richness to their lives: figurines, art, keepsakes from memorable travels, matchbooks or coasters. Items are obtained through thoughtful gifts or conscious decisions and displayed with enjoyment.

The border can be crossed into hoarding, however, when the desire to have becomes more important than the desire to enjoy. Items of little to no value are saved, and often compulsive buying is present. True obsessive hoarding is a recognized mental health disorder in the realm of OCD.

hoardingPossessions become piles of clutter: clothing never worn, broken items never thrown out, items obtained on whim or compulsion. Areas of the home become uninhabitable due to the volume of items, and in the worst cases, health can be compromised when sanitary measures are not, or cannot be, taken. Feelings of anxiety and shame may take over as living conditions decline, further isolating the hoarder, and yet the fear and distress of even an idea of discarding an object continue the cycle of collection.

Researchers have noted that there are differences in the mental information processing of hoarders. Rather than being able to classify “craft items” as a whole, each individual item has its own category, which means that each item has its own importance, rather than being grouped together. There is a perceived reason to keep each and every item, “just in case,” a fear of letting something go that may have value at some point, or that may hold a memory or sentimental value.

Even if you have large collections taking up space in your dwelling, ask yourself honestly whether the items impair or limit your life in any way. If you are unable to answer objectively, you may wish to ask a trusted loved one for an honest opinion.

When a collection ceases to bring pleasure and instead becomes a trap, please consider getting help so that you may live a full, happy and healthy life.

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