Old Pocket Watches

It all started so innocently, just a Catwoman action figure to put on your desk. Before you knew it, though, you had all the Batman villains. Then you blew a lot of money on comic books, Joker statues and Batmobiles. Now, you’re running out of room to display and store them all.

Ever wonder whether you’ve become an “extreme collector”? Worse yet, could you be a hoarder? Below are some indications that your collecting hobby may be out of control.

1. Your Collection Can’t Be Missed.
When you walk into an extreme collector’s home, you’re “greeted by the collection,” said Rachel Seavey, a professional organizer and specialist in chronic disorganization. Whether the collection is sports-related or a Christmas obsession, you should know the second you walk in.

For example, an extreme Barbie collector might drive a hot pink Corvette with personalized Barbie plates. She displays her collection in every room, in custom-made cases with anti-bump museum poles. She’s got a Barbie toaster, Barbie bath soaps and a pink toilet where she sits to peruse collector catalogs. “She even has an exact life-size replica of Barbie sitting on her hot pink couch in the living room,” Seavey said.

2. You Need Help Managing Your Collection.
Extreme collectors often maintain huge quantities of collectibles, said Sharon McRill, president of Betty Brigade, an organizing and personal assistance company. One client hired McRill’s company for three days to pack and organize 25,000 men’s fitness magazines from the 1940s by month and year.

Seavey has a collector client who rents a warehouse the size of a city block to store 11 high-end automobiles, 20 luxury motorcycles and three airplanes—all in mint condition. Expensive art and jewelry is carefully packaged and stored there as well. The collector hires a cleaning crew to dust and vacuum the space weekly, and spends big bucks on vehicle detailing.

Seavey and her crew document and categorize that client’s possessions twice a year. “He is always talking about what he is going to buy next, with great excitement,” she said.


This is an “extreme” Batman collection.

3. You’re Always Shopping.
An extreme collector might have an antique shop on speed dial or spend more time shopping online during the day than working. Extreme collectors don’t just want to buy new pieces for their collection. They need to buy them.

McRill equates excessive collecting to substance abuse: “They are abusing buying things.”

Maxing out credit cards or going bankrupt is a clear sign that your collecting habit is out of control.

4. You Tell Everybody About Your Collection.
One of Seavey’s clients collects Lladro figurines from Spain, and every inch of her home displays them. Everyone at her church, coffee shop and grocery store knows every detail of her collection, including her current bidding war on eBay for the next figurine.

5. Collecting Interferes With Your Relationships.
A dad may ignore his kids because he’s constantly searching online for Klingon action figures for his “Star Trek” collection. A spouse might start talking divorce. Your partner might even give you an ultimatum: “It’s me or the ‘My Little Pony’ collection.”

My Little Pony collection

Could a My Little Pony collection like this one cause problems at home?

Extreme Collector or Hoarder?

Here are four differences between extreme collecting and hoarding.

  • Extreme collectors are proud of their pristine collections, while hoarders are ashamed of the state of theirs. “A hoarder’s collection may be under 2 feet of trash scattered throughout the house,” Seavey said.
  • Collectors can cross the line into hoarding if they lose the ability to keep their collections organized, said Randy O. Frost, author of “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things.” Hoarding is a complex psychological disorder; collecting is more about presenting a persona to the world. “When the volume of material interferes with the person’s ability to function, that is hoarding,” Frost said.
  • Collectors eventually can sell valuable pieces, but hoarders end up with worthless junk. McRill recently found 5,000 Beanie Babies stored in plastic bags in a hoarder’s home. The woman paid an enormous amount of money years ago for the floppy collectibles, which carry little to no value today.
  • Extreme collectors are motivated to sell pieces and upgrade their collections. But a hoarder can’t—and won’t—part with his or her collections, not even for money.

How to Get Your Collecting Under Control

1. Stop the hunt and sell part of the collection. Seavey advises clients to post an online ad or drive to a collectibles store to unload some of the items. Package them up, and then place them in your car or garage with the intent to sell them immediately.

2. Set limits. Seavey uses the “one in and one out” method. If you buy one piece, you must sell an older piece. She and her collector clients discuss which items will get “cut” when the new acquisitions come in. “If it’s worth keeping and displaying, we discuss where and how,” Seavey said. “We set a limit on how many acquisitions will fit in the future.”

Second photo courtesy of tomztoyz.blogspot.com; third photo courtesy of mylittleponycollector.blogspot.com

For more information about hoarding, visit blog.sparefoot.com/4243-signs-that-youre-a-hoarder.