Management & Leadership

Are you a Collector, Clutterer or a Hoarder?

Apr 14, 2021 | By Saranne Durham
Are you a Collector, Clutterer or a Hoarder?

Do you have a pile of odds and ends which lives in the corner or on a chair? Does it grow by trapping more items as the weeks go by? You have been meaning to get to this pile when there’s a spare moment. But now realise that it’s grown to the stage of needing a dedicated hour or so to sort through. Does this make you a collector, a clutterer or a hoarder? Is there a difference? If so, then where’s the tipping point?

What is the Difference between a Collector, a Clutterer and a Hoarder?

The great news is that most of us are collectors or clutterers and not hoarders. Essentially, hoarding creates a toxic environment whereas clutter creates a chaotic environment. And collecting is a hobby.

“Collecting is an art; Clutter creates chaos and Hoarding is a compulsion.”

The Collector

There is an art to true collecting. Its neither random or unplanned. Rather a collector grows their collection with specific intent and searches for exact items. They enjoy the seeking out of the object they set their sights on and feel satisfaction once they find it. Some collections are valuable and most require years to build. As a hobby it can provide a connection to others who are like minded via clubs or online forums.

The Clutterer

When people accumulate things that are usually stashed away in a shed, garage or attic, they are clutterers. Clutter is often an accumulation of things that we like, think we may need in the future or just can’t part with right now. Sometimes we may even have more than one of the same things, just in case. Clutter is essentially anything that doesn’t really add value to your life or serve a purpose. It generally takes up space that could be used for something better. Often it agitates us by accumulating in piles and disorganised draws or corners, making things we need harder to find.

The Hoarder

In contrast, hoarding is a compulsive need to accumulate things. Hoarders tend towards accumulating things like clothes, food, newspapers and magazines, electronics and appliances or plastic bags. Some even collect animals.

A hoarder is someone who is affected by chronic disorganisation. This is different from clutter as it:

  • Persists over a lengthy period of time
  • Often undermines well-being and quality of life
  • Is a repetitive cycle which can’t be stopped despite self-help attempts

Furthermore, a hoarder’s compulsion can reach a point whereby the safety of themselves and those around them becomes an issue.

What are the 5 levels of Hoarding?

A hoarder doesn’t collect items of value but rather is compelled to keep objects, trash or animals. Hoarding is often classified as a condition which necessitates intervention to prevent it from becoming all consuming. The National Study Group on Compulsive Disorganisation defines 5 levels of hoarding which build on each other:

  • 1st Level: A small number of items accumulated within the house
  • 2nd Level: Objects / Trash / Animals accumulated inside the home with noticeable odours
  • 3rd Level: Objects / Trash / Animals accumulated in the outside areas of a home
  • 4th Level: Hoarder neglects self-care such as bathing and basic hygiene
  • 5th Level: Objects / Trash / Animals have accumulated to the extent that they pose health and safety (eg: fire hazard) risks.

Being a true hoarder means that you are unlikely to independently resolve the situation. Usually, a hoarder has tried many times and now feels helplessly trapped within their downward spiral of disorganisation. One of the recommended recovery strategies is to seek professional treatment and on-going psycho-social support. As well as to get someone to assist with or take on the job of clearing, cleaning and sanitising your home environment. There are also online support groups which can provide great support.

How to Start De-cluttering

  1. Purpose: Why do you want to declutter? It’s easier to do if you have a bigger purpose than “knowing you need too”. For example, you want a bigger place but cannot afford it. Thus, creating more space in your current home will help make it feel bigger.
  2. Redefine: Decide what the soon-to-be decluttered area is going to be used for. If you do this, it’s more likely to stay decluttered. Perhaps your entrance area could be a welcoming feature instead of a convenient dumping ground?
  3. Divide: Divide things into smaller tasks and set aside a realistic amount of time to sort through each section. Rather than aiming to clean out your kitchen in one day, do one or two shelves a day over a week.
  4. Conquer: As you sort through things, put them into specific piles. Don’t complicate it. Grubby or broken things get thrown away. Only give someone something if you know they need it. And give the rest to charity.
  5. Vanquish: Your clutter will creep out of the boxes and back into your house if you don’t get rid of the boxes asap. Set aside time to drop them off and do it!

Say Goodbye to Clutter

Part of decluttering is letting go of things. Therefore, if you feel a twinge of nostalgia it’s normal. Instead of dismissing it outright, look at the object and remember something about it. Then smile and put it into the pile it now belongs in. Effectively you saying thanks for the memory and cheers. While it may seem a little corny, many people find it quite helpful and freeing.

Get Some Help

There are various reasons for disorganisation. Tapping into the expertise of a professional coach could make it easier to understand the cause. As well as strategize to both solve the situation and better prevent things from spiralling in the future. Using a life-coach isn’t a sign of incompetence. Rather it’s an excellent way to quickly, effectively and efficiently find an implementable way forward. And get support while doing it.

“A Life Coach is a great resource when you’re keen to make life changes.”

A life-coach can assist with:

  • Situational Disorganisation which is linked to life events which cause disruption. For example: A divorce, a demanding job or needing to assist a friend or family member
  • Habitual Disorganisation relates to habits developed overtime. They creep into our lives and become status quo. Such as only washing dishes when every piece of crockery and cutlery has been used.
  • Historical Disorganisation is a result of growing up in a chaotic environment and replicating it. Alternatively, it could also be the result of a subconscious rebellion against growing up in a highly controlled and organised environment.
  • Social Disorganisation is a bi-product of a society which encourages us to show our success by accumulating more-more-more and by having-it-all.

Become the Help

Are you self-motivated, enjoy finding solutions and helping others? Then consider studying coaching at SACAP. SACAP offers a range of coaching courses, all accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF) and aligned with COMENSA. For more information, enquire now.

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