Collectors = hoarders?

Engaging article in The San Francisco Chronicle’s Home & Garden section today on collector/blogger Lisa Congdon. Each day of this year, she’s posting a picture of a group of like objects she’s gathered in her 20 years of cultivating collections of, well, “collectibles.” (And I thought blogging for 31 days in a row was a challenge!)

Congdon’s blog is called “A Collection a Day, 2010.” Today’s photo showed four red vintage books. Yesterday’s featured a grouping of black and white vintage photos of children. And Friday’s was 24 colorful laminate sample tags, neatly arranged in four rows of six columns.

Congdon, 42, keeps all this stuff in a 900-square-foot apartment in San Francisco that she shares with two cats, a dog and a guy, the article revealed. If she has enough stuff that she can photograph collections of it daily, does she have a problem? (I’d say no — she enjoys collecting, draws inspiration from her little families of like items and doesn’t feel overwhelmed by her possessions.)

Is she a hoarder? “If people want to call me a¬† hoarder because they think it’s funny, that’s OK with me,” she told the Chronicle. “I have a good sense of humor about myself.”

Never mind humor. It’d be completely wrong to call Congdon a hoarder. Hoarders stockpile just about anything that comes their way, including junk mail, old magazines and sometimes even food. Like Congdon, they have strong connections to the items they gather, but unlike true collectors, they don’t keep their stashes¬† neatly organized or in any type of arrangements. Research suggests that hoarding is an obsessive behavior, and hoarders often feel so ashamed of the condition of their homes that they won’t let anyone in. Clearly Congdon doesn’t fit that description.

I’m enchanted by her collections, which include lots of 1950s-era lamps, ceramics, and vintage school supplies, but I wish she’d been able to articulate the difference between hoarders and collectors — or at least not laughingly lump herself in with hoarders.

I’ll be writing more on hoarders, but to learn more now, you can read my Chronicle article on hoarding or check out A&E’s Hoarders show. Warning: The footage is very graphic. You won’t see anything worthy of a splashy color feature or a blog-photo-a-day.


About organizesf

Professional organizer June Bell ( combats clutter and chaos with sage advice, tested techniques and good humor.
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2 Responses to Collectors = hoarders?

  1. June, thanks for helping us all stay clear about what is hoarding and what is collecting. When I teach a class for the curriculum of National Association of Professional Organizers, PO-204, “Eliminating Excess,” we spend some time clarifying the difference. We can’t help our clients eliminate excess until we’re very clear about how to distinguish a collection from a hoarding situation. By any definition, Lisa Congdon is an amazing collector!

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