The word hoarder has always been around but it got a big push once reality TV started to bank on it some years ago. We were then introduced to people around the US who lived in, well, hot messes. Their mementos were no longer relics of their past achievements and hobbies but rather piles of junk that hid a cascade of forgotten pets. I mention this because when you’re an avid collector or like to be surrounded by things, you often get called a hoarder and, honey – that’s not the case. There are huge differences between being a hoarder and being a collector.
My collecting days started as a kid. I’m sure anyone who grew up near nature had a box of rocks shaped like various things. I swear those ones resembling hearts were the coolest. Of course those are long gone now and I’m okay they’re not in my life — that’s the first difference between a hoarder and collector. We don’t need to hold on to everything and know when something is out of hand. Would I give up my Backstreet Boy memorabilia in my mom’s shed? Now that’s a different story.
As a preteen heading into teenage years I got into music and my love for Backstreet Boys did become obsessive. I had to have everything but, coming from where I did, I couldn’t have it all. I still managed to have a crap ton. Today it all sits in my mom’s shed and she swears the termites didn’t get to it and all I can do is believe her. The hoarder would’ve had that tub with them; I was okay with leaving it all behind in storage when I went to college almost a decade ago. Yes, I took a few pieces with me but maybe just a couple.
So yes, I went to college with what I think isn’t that much stuff. I then graduated and had to move out into the real world and if you look at what adorns our apartment you’d think my roommate was an exchange student or on the run from the law. I do get called a hoarder, but in reality, I’m just living with what I have. Yes, I could/should part with the box of VHS tapes in the closet, but maybe I am 2% hoarder and can’t stand to see that Goosebumps tape leave my hands. Plus, all my stuff is organized. There aren’t random boxes lining the walls with junk; those boxes are neatly tucked under my bed and in closets. There aren’t stacks of newspaper for no reason; we recycle.
Some might say that I’ve been a hoarder all my life because as a kid I had to have rocks around, then grew up to cover every inch of my existence with boy band faces, and I tend to take over any living space with all I own, but I keep everything organized and every once in awhile I go through things to donate. Okay, this happens once every two years, but at least you won’t find a dead animal amongst my things.
So in the end, collectors aren’t hoarders because they realize the difference between accumulating things for fun and needing them to feel safe/sane. Plus, you’d never catch a collector just tossing their stuff about until it’s just a pile of crap that needs to be featured on reality TV.