I’m not like those People on TV—I’m a Collector, Not a Hoarder

September 23, 2015 by

saltshakersHoarding is just a word. Actually I would say that some of the loveliest people I have ever met hoard.

Here is the working criteria I offer to clients to decide where they are on the path to hoarding. If you meet the criteria, either you are living with hoarding, or you are somewhere on the path, no matter what the perceived value of the collection is, or the price tag on the items:

  • Would most people describe your collection as excessive?
  • Are you able to manage the items so that each thing has a PERMANENT HOME (you store the item in the place where the item would normally be used) and you don’t have to adapt your life to access the item? You can manage the items by:
    • KEEPING the items and STORING them in their accessible, PERMANENT HOME
    • DONATING to a cause with no expectation of reimbursement
    • SELLING the items if practical to do so and will not result in the item remaining in the environment
    • REGIFTING. Given the financial investment you made in purchasing an item, pick one spot (proportionate to the storage space that your environment permits) and store things for future gifting occasions (only if you will actually re-gift it). NOTE: The storage space designated for re-gifting cannot interfere with any space normally used for activities of daily living. We will talk more about “the activities of daily living” in a future blog.
    • RECYCLING. These items can, and will be removed regularly according to your area’s recycling schedule. Before pickup, they cannot be stored in areas where activities of daily living occur.
    • DISCARDING. These items are taken away regularly on garbage day.
  • Are there some areas of your environment that can’t be used for their intended purpose?
  • In order to live in the environment, do people have to make adaptations? Adaptations include:
    • Walking on things
    • Stepping or climbing over things
    • Moving things to use the space
    • On a regular basis, taking UNUSUAL action in order to access or use the space in the home; for example, climbing over a gate to go up and down stairs because there are so many animals in the house (and leaving the gates in place night and day)
  • Is someone concerned about the condition of the environment OR if they knew the truth about the situation, they would have cause to be concerned? They, might be any of the following:
    • Family members
    • Friends
    • Neighbors (especially in multi-unit dwellings)
    • Landlords
    • Local Fire Department officials
    • Local Bylaw officials
    • Child Protection officials
    • Animal Protection officials
    • Home Insurance providers
    • Mortgage Company

Collections usually have a social aspect to them. We are proud of them. They give us pleasure and we usually want to display them and show them to people who we think will also appreciate them. We are likely to want to share them with others. We take care of them and maintain them. They are part of our “social life”.

So are you really a collector, or do you hoard?


Check out www.hoarding.ca for more information about hoarding and watch for the new book entitled Clearing the Path: Take Back Your Life When Your Things are Taking Over by Elaine Birchall and Suzanne Cronkwright COMING SOON. Follow us on twitter @Clearingthepath or Facebook at Clearingthepathbook.


About the Authors

Elaine Birchall MSW RSW - Elaine is recognized as the leading Canadian expert in the field of Hoarding. With over 20 years’ experience as a community based and clinical social worker, she has provided training and consultation to individuals, families, professionals, and community organizations across North America and internationally. In the last three years alone, Elaine has assisted 212 clients/families and over 130 peers, and offered more than 80 training courses and workshops on hoarding to individuals and professionals in North America. She is sought after as a keynote speaker and her work has received frequent acknowledgement in print, radio (U.S.A. and Canada), and television media, including features on W5, Canada AM, and 16x9 The Bigger Picture.  She recently hosted a six-part series with Canadian regional TV, Channel 22 in the Ottawa area.

Suzanne Cronkwright - Suzanne is a successful technical writer, editor, and instructional design professional with over 30 years’ experience in both high tech and government in Canada. She is recognized for her ability to translate complex technical subject matter into simple, clear procedures. Working with Elaine on Clearing the Path has provided a wonderful opportunity for Suzanne to fulfill a lifelong dream of using her writing skills to “make a difference” in the lives of those around her.