Pack Rat, Collector or Hoarder?

It’s National Pack Rat Day! Yes! That is a thing!

Do you know the difference between a Pack Rat, Collector and Hoarder?  

Pack Rats don’t usually keep everything. They are drawn to types of things. Some keep spare parts, scraps of wood, bits of fabric, broken china, plastic containers and stuff other people throw out. They are artistic, do-it-yourself type people who have the creativity and skill to use these things to make something new.  If push came to shove and they had to move or downsize, these people could recycle, toss or give away their supply stores though they might mourn the unrealized projects they see in each item.

Other Pack Rats may have a connection to paper. They hold on to newspapers, letters, magazines and paperwork. Maybe they have not yet read the newspaper in its entirety, but plan to soon, so they set it on top of the rest of the unread material. Maybe they have several journals and tear out inspiring magazine articles, then pile or file under categories like “simplify,” “book reviews,” or “retirement advice.” They tend to be curious, introspective people who likely enjoy writing too. If absolutely necessary, these people could admit the information contained in the paper is accessible elsewhere and recycle their stacks, though they would experience some fear of missing out of the knowledge contained in those pages.


Pack Rats “graduate” to Collector status when the items they collect have a perceived financial value. Whether the collection contains Beanie Babies or Picassos, the underlying connection to the items is the same—a heartfelt love of the individual pieces combined with the thrill of the treasure hunt and the satisfaction of investing in something they can see and touch. For these people, downsizing the collection is difficult.


First, they must select a small number of favorites from the many. That may feel like a “Sophie’s Choice” if they have to break up sets. Then they must face the truth of whether or not the collection actually has material value. Are the Beanie Babies, Longaberger Baskets, teacups, antique signs or Hummels still sought after by buyers? The answer to this question will affect how the feel about letting these items go. In the end, they want others to share the connection they feel to the objects.


Hoarders keep everything. They have medically diagnosed condition called Chronic Disorganization. There are stages of Chronic Disorganization, but a tell-tale sign is that trash is included among the other items being kept and their home environment gets progressively more hazardous as they move through the stages of the illness. Helping someone with this condition is best done by a team that includes mental health and organizing professionals trained with proper strategies to support behavioral change. No one should ever just roll up a dumpster and begin tossing their stuff, as much as it may seem obvious to you that the items are useless and maybe even dangerous (black mold!), you would be inflicting serious trauma on someone with this condition.


National Pack Rat Day, May 17, 2019, is supposed to encourage us all to take a hard look at our stuff and begin the process of eliminating the extra, unwanted, useless or no longer needed things from our homes. Some people, maybe you, might need a hard deadline to begin decluttering or downsizing and even then, it may be very difficult. Help is available from Senior Move Managers®if you need it. Check out the National Association for Senior Move Managers website at www.nasmm.orgto find a professional in your area.