Are we all hoarders?

I really believe that to some extent we are all hoarders. I would never have even put myself in that category one month ago, were it not for recent events.

So background: I am a prototypical type A personality. I am a self diagnosed obsessive compulsive and neat freak. I am the oldest child, which means that I grew up with the job of herding six younger siblings and organizing our household when my parents were working which was often.

Subsequently, I am never quite settled if things are not in order. Everything has a place in my house. I go through the house often and throw away things regularly.

Recently, my siblings and I started the arduous task of trying to downsize my parents from the large home where we grew up to something smaller since there are no longer kids at home and they are now retired. This has been quite the work so far because we discovered my father is a hoarder. We have all known this for some time but did not know to what extent until we started trying to ‘clean up’/declutter and get the house ready for sale. Needless to say, we would submit him to be featured on the television show, ‘Hoarders’, if we wouldn’t die from the embarrassment of it.

By coincidence, I decided to embark on a challenge for the new year of giving up shopping for 3 months. In those 3 months, I would shop in my closet. I was also instead of giving up something during lent, I was going to take out one thing a day during the 40 days from my closet to donate.

What I have learned doing this challenge is that I have way more than I thought I did. And I can ‘shop’ in my closet for another 3 months if I wanted to. I found clothes and shoes that I had even forgotten that I owned or for that matter bought. I found clothes with tags still on them. I have so much that I have started putting off season clothes and shoes in another closet downstairs. Even with doing this I still have not much room in my closet.

With this realization and going through my parents house I started to worry and wonder whether I too had the same hoarding problem.

I looked up the dictionary definition of hoarding and it is defined as -to accumulate or store something for future use. Is this not what I have been doing with the clothes and shoes that I buy?

My psychiatrist husband then tells me that hoarding has been classified as a psychiatric disorder, so now I am definitely worried and felt compelled to do some research to look it up.


‘People with hoarding disorder excessively save items that others may view as worthless. They have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces.

Hoarding is not the same as collecting. Collectors look for specific items, such as model cars or stamps, and may organize or display them. People with hoarding disorder often save random items and store them haphazardly. In most cases, they save items that they feel they may need in the future, are valuable or have sentimental value. Some may also feel safer surrounded by the things they save’

From Mayo Clinic:

‘Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs. Hoarding often creates such cramped living conditions that homes may be filled to capacity, with only narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter. Countertops, sinks, stoves, desks, stairways and virtually all other surfaces are usually piled with stuff. And when there’s no more room inside, the clutter may spread to the garage, vehicles, yard and other storage facilities’

Wow! This is serious.

I then watched an episode of the show ‘Hoarders’ and was done.

As I examine myself and my habits, I admit I buy (collect) a lot of clothes and shoes. But they are valuable even if I don’t wear them all. They are arranged neatly in my closet. I have no problems nor am I distressed over giving them away and I am most definitely not to the point where I need to clear pathways to get around my closet or home.

Many of us have items in our home that we are ‘saving’ for some day. You may have old furniture in the basement that you have not been able to part with. Or old clothes because you just know that bell bottoms will come back someday. Or an old treadmill or bikes that you have not used in years. What about all those books that should have been donated to the library? Or like me you have more shoes and clothes than you need. When does this become a problem?

Well according to my research, that happens when it becomes unsafe. When the your space becomes unsanitary to the point where there are infestations of mice, rats, cockroach and the like that can lead to health issues. To the point where it becomes a fire hazard. It is considered a problem when most of the things being saved are judged to be junk by most people and has no value. When it leads to inability to use certain parts of the home or furniture in the home because it is covered with stuff. And finally when it causes arguments with family members.

This, like all illness is very serious and I’m so happy to say I most definitely do not fit any of this category and therefore I’m not a hoarder. So I retract my earlier statement that we are all hoarders.

Is it possible then that I and many of you out there hoard but are not hoarders.

If you hoard like me, what do you hoard?

Do you know any hoarders?

If so please refer them to a psychiatrist – it is an illness.

Please leave comments below.

As always thanks for reading.



2 Comments on “Are we all hoarders?

  1. Interesting distinction between hoarding things and being a hoarder. I think assessing it the way you did, i.e. being a hoarder results in health or safety hazards or mental distress, is useful. My guess is most people have more “stuff” than we need or is practical. If not, all those storage places wouldn’t exist and peoples’ cars would be parked in their garages instead of in the driveway.

    I also suspect a lot of us raised by parents who themselves grew up during the depression were taught the importance of reduce, reuse, recycle. That was true in my house. I wrote a blog post that addressed similar challenges. It was great to read your take on it. Thanks!

    • Yes I think it’s important to make that distinction. Difference between illness and just acquiring stuff. Thanks for reading!

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