Compulsive hoarding is not collecting. A person with a hoarding disorder is often unable to perceive their mess in the same way that outsiders do.

There is no logical reason for hoarding behaviour. It is almost certainly a sign of a mental illness or at the very least an indication that there is altered brain function.

Research into obsessive compulsive hoarding disorder is starting to reveal that there may be specific brain alterations in people who hoard. Interpretation of this evidence suggests that the parts of the brain that regulate the ability to focus attention for prolonged periods and make decisions is damaged or not fully functioning in the compulsive hoarder.

In the extreme an obsessive compulsive hoarding disorder can be defined as a psychiatric condition that compels a person to accumulate goods and disables them from getting rid of these same objects.

So how can you tell the difference between an enthusiastic collector, a clutterer, and a person with a hoarding disorder?

The answer lies in the reasons for the accumulation of stuff, the effect that the behaviour has on the person's life, and the amount of control that the individual has over the behaviour.

The Hoarder

  • compelled to constantly accumulate stuff.
  • the material goods accumulated appear to others be useless or of limited value.
  • unable to get rid of clutter. Trying to declutter creates dramatic emotional responses that the hoarder finds unpleasant and wants to avoid
  • the accumulation of stuff creates cluttered living spaces that prevent the space from being used for its normal activities.
  • there is significant impairment in the ability to live a normal life.
  • does not perceive clutter to be annoying and may in fact find comfort in it.
  • social isolation often results from the hoarding disorder.
  • the hoarding behaviour continues despite the negative social, emotional, and physical consequences that result.

The Clutterer

  • accumulates things almost unintentionally. "I have no idea how it got like this."
  • lacks organizing skills or does not apply them consistently.
  • may have difficulty with setting priorities.
  • lacks assertiveness skills such as saying "no".
  • does not make timely decisions.
  • cannot categorize and sort items in a meaningful way.
  • may be motivated to get rid of clutter but unsure of how or where to begin. In other words the clutterer can see the clutter but is overwhelmed by it.
  • may experience shame at their inability to control and create order in their physical space.
  • often has emotional attachments to accumulated objects and will use rationalizations or excuses as to why it should be kept.
  • may have underlying emotional issues such as depression and anxiety.

The Collector

  • engages in accumulating specific objects.
  • regularly attains and disposes of the collected items through sale or trade, sometimes for monetary gain.
  • socializes with others who place similar value on the collected items.
  • continues with collecting because it adds value, interest, and meaning to life.
  • displays collected items with pride.
  • is often able to categorize and sort collected items with precise categories and labeling.

Clearly there are differences between collecting, cluttering, and compulsive hoarding that show the differences in the pride and pathology that can be both the cause and effect of accumulating stuff.

Author's Bio: 

The organized environment has many effects on human health and well being. At Beverly OMalley invites you to learn more about how to create more peaceful spaces in your own organized home.