Is there a difference between hoarding and collecting?


In today’s fast-paced world, people often develop various habits and interests to cope with stress, seek pleasure, or simply express their personality. Two common behaviours that may appear similar at first glance but are fundamentally different in nature are hoarding disorder and collecting behaviours. 

Hoarding disorder is a complex mental health condition characterised by excessive acquiring and persistent difficulty in discarding possessions, regardless of their value (APA, 2013). Individuals with hoarding disorder experience intense distress at the thought of getting rid of their belongings, leading to the accumulation of excessive and often useless items (for example, containers, newspapers, wrappers) that clutter their living spaces. To illustrate, a person with hoarding disorder may move through maze-like pathways in their rooms, unable to cook in their kitchen or sleep in their bed. The excessive accumulation of possessions can become so severe that it impedes the proper functioning of their homes and affects their daily activities and relationships (Mataix-Cols, 2014).

Hoarding disorder goes beyond simple messiness or disorganisation; it is a recognised psychological disorder classified under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) by the American Psychiatric Association. Those affected by hoarding disorder may struggle to recognise the problem and may not see the potential dangers or health risks associated with their behaviour, making it challenging for them to seek help (Frost, Steketee & Williams, 2000).

Collecting Behaviours: The Fine Line

On the other hand, collecting behaviours are hobbies or interests pursued by individuals who derive pleasure and satisfaction from amassing specific items or objects of interest (Lee, Brennan & Wyllie 2021). The act of collecting is often purposeful and well-organised, driven by a genuine passion for a particular theme or subject, or a desire to invest and find financial reward when reselling. Collectors typically take pride in their collections, carefully curating and preserving items, and may even share their knowledge and enthusiasm with others who share their interest (Dillon, 2019).

It is important to note that collecting behaviours are not classified as a mental disorder. Instead, they are regarded as a healthy and enjoyable pastime for many individuals. Engaging in collecting can be a fulfilling and enriching experience, as it allows people to connect with their interests, develop expertise, and find like-minded communities.

Distinguishing Factors

While hoarding disorder and collecting behaviours both involve the acquisition and retention of items, several key factors differentiate the two:

Organisation and Purpose: Collecting behaviours involve a systematic and purposeful approach, with items carefully curated and organised. In contrast, hoarding disorder is marked by chaotic and haphazard accumulation without a clear plan or purpose.

Emotional Attachment: Individuals with hoarding disorder form strong emotional attachments to their possessions, often seeing them as extensions of themselves. Collectors may also have emotional connections to their items, but these connections are usually related to the joy of collecting and the significance of the items in their collection.

Impact on Daily Life: Hoarding disorder significantly impairs daily functioning and can lead to social isolation and health hazards. In contrast, collecting behaviours typically do not interfere with a person’s ability to carry out their responsibilities or maintain relationships.


To conclude, while hoarding disorder and collecting behaviours both involve the accumulation of possessions, they are distinct phenomena with vastly different implications for an individual’s well-being and daily life. Understanding these differences is crucial for recognising when collecting behaviours become problematic and may require professional intervention. If you or someone you know is struggling with hoarding disorder, or if collecting behaviours are causing distress, seek help from mental health professionals.

Take the first step towards a happier and healthier life by booking an appointment at the Centre for Clinical Psychology in Melbourne. Our team of compassionate and skilled professionals is here to provide the support and guidance you need. Contact us today at 03 9077 0122 or book online at


APA. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5 (Fifth edition. ed.). American Psychiatric Association. 

Dillon, A. (2019). Collecting as routine human behaviour: Motivations for identity and control in the material and digital world. Information & Culture, 54(3), 255-280. DOI:10.7560/IC54301

Frost, R. O., Steketee, G., & Williams, L. (2000). Hoarding: A community health problem. Health & Social Care in the Community, 8(4), 229-234.

Lee, C., Brennan, S., & Wyllie, J. (2021). Consumer collecting behaviour: A systematic review and future research agenda. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 46(5), 2020-2040.

Mataix-Cols, D. (2014). Hoarding Disorder. The New England journal of medicine, 370(21), 2023-2030.