Collecting is one thing, hoarding another

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press• July 5, 2014

“Your house is a place to keep your stuff while you go out and buy more stuff.”

-George Carlin

We are all collectors of some sort. And we love our "stuff."

I collect English, Victorian period, magnifying glasses that are displayed on an 18th century pine table.  And ceramic houses that are displayed in an old post office desk...because everyone knows that I am obsessed with houses!

But where is the fine line? The one that crosses from collections to hoarding?

We have all seen the shows on television. These are sad, extreme stories about people who cannot part with anything. It is painful for them and difficult for us to watch.

A collector typically exhibits pride of ownership and puts thought and money into how to display their treasures. A hoarder doesn't care to display anything. Their piles of possessions may give them comfort but not happiness.

 Idea: Display your collections on a pretty tray like this one from from Pottery Barn.

Idea: Display your collections on a pretty tray like this one from from Pottery Barn.

Idea: Display your collections on a pretty tray like this one from from Pottery Barn.Honestly, we all hoard something. All of those "bargains" that we hope to use someday. Old partly used paint cans. Free samples. Pretty cosmetic bags filled with "free" bonus giveaways. Too many books. Clothes that we will never wear but hope is still there. Piles of photos that we hope to "someday" file or put in albums. These are inconvenient but they aren't unhealthy. 

A serious hoarder finds it impossible to part with anything. When faced with discarding something,  they feel tremendous stress. And a sure sign of a hoarder is one who has such huge piles of clutter that it make it difficult to navigate through a room or to find a seat that is not filled with "things."

I have a client who has traveled the world and has something to show from every country. Her museum quality pieces are beautiful. But there is not a clear surface in her home to put  a vase of flowers or a bowl of fruit. Not quite a hoarder (she calls it creative clutter), she cannot part with any of her possessions. Emotional attachments.

Thankfully,  few of us are hoarders.  But we all have too much and most of us struggle to keep it  organized.  Things that we hold onto. And too  much of this can create a feeling of stress and confusion in our homes.  And in our lives.

"We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us."

 - Winston Churchill

The following tips are designed to help you come to terms with clutter and collections that may no longer serve you. For a happier home, say goodbye to these:

•    Things that are broken. Appliances, old computers. Let's be honest. You are unlikely to fix them.

•    Anything that makes you feel guilty. Like that baking, blending, pasta-making contraption that you thought would change your life. Or clothes in your closet that you will never (be able) to wear again. Or organization systems that you have never used. Say goodbye and make them go away.

•    Furniture or accessories that bring up bad memories. Aunt Sadie's antique lamp that you disliked as a child and now it is yours.  It may be someone's happy memory but it's not yours.

•     Items that no longer fit into your life. Old exercise equipment. Large pieces of furniture that worked in your larger home but not since you downsized.  Make them go away and open up some space.

•    Collections that have taken over your home. Put a few of your treasures on a pretty tray or shelf and don't let them become clutter.

 Don't let great memories become clutter. Display them on a wall with this wire mesh shelf from Pottery Barn.   

Don't let great memories become clutter. Display them on a wall with this wire mesh shelf from Pottery Barn.   

• Old decor. At one time you may have loved your artwork or your antiques. But times change and you may be ready for something different.  Find a consignment store and try a fresh, new look. Don't be afraid. And don't hang on to pieces that you don't love.

•    Multiples of anything. How many sets of dishes, cookware, storage containers, potato mashers do you really need?

•    Anything poisonous or dangerous. Old cans of cleaning solutions, spray bottles...especially if you don't remember what they are. Toss and don't look back.

•    Items that you are saving because maybe "someday" you will use them.  Shopping bags, gift boxes, wrapping paper, ribbons, gifts that you can't use.  It will never happen. And if it does, you can buy somethingnew.  Don't let your home become a storage unit for "maybe somedays."

Wrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator. Her practical and affordable interior decorating helps clients transform a house into a beautiful home.  Home Inspirations appears the first Saturday of each month. Visit her website at Call her at 949-1808 or e-mail For more decorating tips and photos, visit