Tag Archives: collector

learning to hoard

Having just watched Toy Story again with S. and just given her another Happy Meal toy over the weekend, the following post which I discovered thanks to ifiwereahoarder.com rings only too true. Derek Boik writes “Teaching our kids to hoard (and making them feel bad about it),” analyzing the progression in the Toy Story series from cute life imbued toys, to collector’s items, to discarded pieces for whom we mourn. How are we supposed to let anything go when it has feelings, life, purpose, and needs us to exist? Boik’s title just needs to be tweaked to “making them feel bad if they don’t.”

the collector

Several weeks ago, a friend shared Shel Silverstein’s “Hector the Collector” with me as we talked about hoarding in literature. I read this as a child but presumably forgot about it in this new context of adult self-diagnosis and recovery. Frost and Steketee also define the collector in their Q & A on Amazon.com:

A major feature of hoarding is the large amount of disorganized clutter that creates chaos in the home. Rooms can no longer be used as they were intended, moving around the house is difficult, exits are blocked, and life inside the home becomes dysfunctional. Collectors typically keep their possessions well organized, and each item differs from other items to form an interesting and often valuable collection. Further, an important purpose of collecting is to display the special items so that others can appreciate them. People who hoard are seldom able to accomplish such goals.

Although a self-proclaimed collector, Hector was seen by society as “Hector the Hoarder.”

Wall-E, collector or hoarder?

S. loves WALL-E, and even though her attention wanes, she thinks the love relationship between Eva and WALL-E is charming. In fact, she says of Eva, “hers his mommy.” When the film was televised recently, I suddenly reanalyzed the scene where WALL-E takes Eva to his home.

WALL-E’s job is to compact trash and stack it up. In the process he finds all kinds of treasures, some only a robot would think to keep. I find this activity heart-warming, probably because I imagine my grandfather doing the same during his trash collecting days. He was always unearthing treasures that he stored up until he died.

WALL-E brings Eva to his home to show her his collected treasures and makes the effort to impress this fancy new she-bot with the things of earth: lighters, light bulbs, television, and a plant growing in a shoe. That is, of course, the turning point in their relationship.

The question I’ve been grappling with in my work on memory hoarding, however, is when collecting crosses the line into hoarding. Sure WALL-E’s place is a bit like the set of Sanford and Son, but he has everything neatly arranged and organized in trays that rotate so he can easily access them. He lives alone, can easily move about, and he uses many of the discarded scraps that he finds, especially the spare robot parts.

WALL-E’s collecting brings him out into the world, is a source of pride, and generally a social behavior. He is only too happy to bring Eva around to see his stuff. Had he been a robot-hoarder, he’d likely be less eager to bring by a lady-friend. Hoarding continually proves itself to be an isolating activity in which the relationship to stuff takes precedence over the relationship to loved-ones. Family is slowly ousted by things and friends are not welcome into the hoard. Fear and embarrassment seem to dictate much of what the outside world is allowed to see.

When the object of collecting, however, is memory itself, and sharing that memory becomes a social project, is it hoarded? Or would hoarded memory also necessarily isolate the individual?