What's the Difference Between a Hoarder and a Saver?

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Hoarding and a thrifty nature are not the same thing.

Just about everyone has heard of hoarders. People with an irrational need to collect and keep much more in the way of everything from food to old magazines have been the focus of countless television programs, radio talk shows, Internet chat rooms, and magazine articles. Unfortunately, all the attention has led some people to confuse people who are thrifty and refer to themselves as "savers" with those who must keep acquiring goods and can't throw anything away. If you are among those who are not sure of the differences between a hoarder and a saver, here are some distinctions that will help you understand.

Hoarders are not the least bit concerned about whether they have room for new things or not. The main object is to acquire whatever catches their eye first and worry about where to put it later. As a result, a hoarder's home is usually packed from basement to attic with piles of stuff, very little of which ever sees any actual use.

By contrast, a saver is usually focused on acquiring goods that are envisioned for future purpose. For example, a saver who sews may choose to purchase bolts of fabric that are on sale, since the material can be used to create articles of clothing, draperies, or other products for use by household members or to use as gifts. A saver will not only determine if there is a reasonable chance of the purchase being used, but also whether there is enough room to house the goods until they are used. If there is currently no room in the closets or other storage devices, a saver will not purchase something and leave it laying in plain view in any of the rooms.

Hoarders have often lived through some sort of life event where they felt deprived of something very important. For example, a hoarder may have lived through a time when it was impossible to purchase new clothes or keep food on the table. After emerging from hard times, the individual goes to extremes to purchase in abundance those items he or she had to do without. This means clothes closets begin to overflow into the bedroom, then begin to make their way into the hall and into other rooms.

A saver may also have learned thrift during hard economic times, but takes a different approach to the hoarder. Savers make sure the food pantry is always full, but tends to consider that enough. A saver buys quality clothing in classic styles that can be worn from one year to the next and look fresh by adding a few different accessories. While both the hoarder and the saver are mindful that deprivation could come again, one focuses on quantity while the other goes for quality that will last through anything that comes down the road.

Hoarders often live in conditions that are not healthy. Going far beyond a home that simply is in disarray, the hoarder may refuse to throw out food after expiration dates have passed, or household pests have burrowed into boxes of pasta or sacks of flour. The sheer volume of stuff packed into each room may make it impossible to clean the home properly, leading to an atmosphere that is increasingly toxic. From this perspective, hoarders are placing themselves in grave danger.

Savers have no problem throwing or giving things away when they no longer have a use for them. Their thrifty nature does demand that they recycle items when and as possible. However, spoiled food is usually thrown out promptly, old clothing is donated to shelters, and luxury items like games or old kitchen appliances are disposed of at a yard sale or some other means. Savers know when to let go and can do it without any great level of anxiety.

There is a big difference between thrift and hoarding. The former is a sound financial practice while the latter is often wasteful and even harmful to body and mind. If you suspect that you are on your way to becoming a hoarder, get help now. Stopping this type of counterproductive behavior now will be much easier than dealing with it after the house is jammed full of useless items.