Differences: Collecting, compulsive shopping, hoarding


I was hiking recently in the beautiful foothills of Colorado’s Front Range, when one of my hiking friends asked me, “I wonder what you’ll make of this. My father collected postcards. He left thousands of them, from all over the world, when he died.”

I asked a few questions: Were they organized, not in a jumble? Yes.

What sort of value did they have? Sentimental? Not so much, but they were fun to receive. He sent her ones that originated in the area she lived every time she moved to a new place.

Historical value? Some of them.

Monetary value? Some of them.

Did he take pleasure in collecting and owning them? Yes.

I think my friend wondered if her father was a postcard hoarder or a compulsive shopper, but it sounds as if he was a true collector.

SO: how does compulsive shopping or hoarding differ from collecting? Here’s a quick primer from “The ICD Guide to Challenging Disorganization for Professional Organizers,” one of the books in my collection of professional resources.

Collecting behavior: Socializes with other collectors (attends collectors meetings, clubs); has criteria for buying and selling; budgets time and money for the collection; makes rational (not based on emotions) buying choices; organizes and maintains items; willingly shows collection to visitors.

Compulsive Shopping behavior: Doesn’t socialize with other shoppers; buys more than needed; may be in debt due to over-shopping; buying is tied to emotions; often loses track of items; may be defensive or protective about the purchases.

Hoarding behavior: Socially isolated; compulsively acquires items and won’t discard; usually in debt due to acquiring items; acquiring is tied to emotions; items are disorganized, not maintained; ashamed of house conditions, unwilling to have visitors in the home.

For those of you who wonder about your behavior, or the behavior of a loved one, you can probably determine what applies (or doesn’t) in the criteria above. There’s of course more to it than this brief snapshot provides, but this is a good starting point. I’d happily discuss it in more detail with you … !

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