Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Book collecting versus book hoarding

First, what is hoarding really? Everyone likes to joke that the avid collector is a hoarder but this is not only an exaggeration but also a way of whitewashing the problems hoarders and those around them face as something stemming from a quirky but not too serious compulsion. So, before I say anything else, this is in short what hoarding is roughly about (as explained on

  • The acquisition of, and failure to discard, possessions that appear to be of useless or of limited value.
  • Living spaces so cluttered that using the room as intended is impossible
  • Significant distress or impairment to function.
There are also different types of hoarders, as not all horde for the same reason. These types are: 
  • Clinical compulsive hoarding, which is the most common type.
  • OCD or 'perfectionist' hoarding.
  • Animal hoarding.  This is very rare, although these are the cases that reach the newspapers. 
  • Diogenes syndrome, also known as senile squalor syndrome is exceedingly rare disorder of self-neglect in association with severe personality disorders usually in the elderly.
If you're still wondering about this here is a clearer look at the issue. 

Book collector:

Book Collection by raedeke

Book hoarder (and the hoarding might not stop with books):

So, why did I suddenly want to write about this?
Well, my husband is one of those who'd probably have jokes said about him with regards to his avid collecting and today 6 parcels arrived in the post (2 of which I had to drive to the PO to pick up) and I wasn't in the least surprised. There aren't always 6. Sometimes there are 2 or sometimes a huge box filled with far more than what 6 parcels holds and sometimes there are more than 6. Rarely are there none.

Still, he is a collector. Nor a hoarder. I can still walk around the house, it is still said by visitors to be clean (annoyingly so if I have in fact just cleaned - my family like to have noise making objects lying around so a room without agitates them), he maybe possibly could stop although he would have a breakdown of sorts, and he does sell on some of his collected goods.

Now, this isn't a husband bashing piece because I am the next point. I also suffer from the same condition, when I let myself. But for me it is books. I will compulsively buy more and more books, wait eagerly for the post and there is no way I will sell them off unless I run into financial or spacial problems. I have given some boxes full of books away to places like the hospital but please see the aforementioned reasons. I had no home at the time. I hit a lull in my buying recently because I saw a necessary reason to battle the compulsion to buy more (if I was a gambler I'd say that hitting the cash register or e-checkout with a load of books is like punching that bright little button). Shopaholics, I worry for you. You have more than one item you wish to buy. At least I've only the one and I won't buy more than one copy of the same book unless the first has crumbled.

What concerns me the most about all this is space. What do we, a pair of collectors, do when there's no more storage space in the house? Sell the collections or sell the house?

What have other people done? How connected are you to your collection and what would you do if you ran out of room? Would you continue on to become a proper hoarder or would you make a decision that shows you have some control over your collecting?

1 comment:

  1. You should first guess how many years you have left to live. Then estimate how many books you can read in that time. Then go to your book collection and sort the books in the order that you wish to read them (including those you have already read that you will read again) until you have equaled the number that you estimated you could read in your entire life. Then sell/give away all the other books. Then do not buy any books unless you come across a book you really want to read and only if you want to read it imminently.
    Book collecting is a form of greed, though less intense than book hoarding. I quite understand the attachment to the book as an object that you can visit again and again and turn the pages and look at admiringly on the bookshelf. I also used to have book greed but I grew out of it and gave away and sold lots of them. I now value space and ease of movement more than stuff. I will only buy a book when I am ready to read it.
    The danger of being a book collector is that you buy a book to have as an object rather than to read it. It is like people who buy clothes that they don't actually wear. It can be a big waste of money. And you live in a mythical future when you will read all these books when in fact you will only read a fraction of the ones that you have bought in your entire lifetime.