The Difference Between Hoarding and Collecting

Do you Hoard Data or Collect Information?

The life of people who excessively hoard a huge amount of items is a popular topic for television. Viewers are shown how the sheer volume of possessions takes over every inch of living space, to the extent that rooms become unusable, severely impacting the lives of the hoarder and their families.

It is often said that information is power. Some hoarders are unable to dispose of newspapers. They fill vast storage containers with their daily newspapers, unable to let go of the newspapers, unable to let go of the information. Some hoarders plan to scan all the newspapers one day and create an historic archive, though they may reluctantly be forced to admit that ‘one day’ is unlikely to arrive.

As well as hoarders there are collectors. Similarly television programmes provide insights into the lives of people who are passionate about collecting a specific item, and how their collection is taking over their homes and lives. This raises the question of what is the difference between hoarding and collecting? In a recent conversation, a colleague made the comment that the only difference was that collectors present their possessions in an attractive manner whereas a hoarder just has piles of objects.

This is perhaps the core difference between a collection and a hoard, a collection is organized in some way. There are other differences between hoarding and collecting such as:

  •  A collector will purposefully search for a particular item to add to their collection such as a rare or differentiated item. A hoarder is less focused and less selective in their acquisitions.
  •  A collector will spend time with their collection, reorganizing it, displaying the items, caring for the items. A hoarder may not interact with their possessions.
  •  A collector knows exactly what items they have and their specific location. A hoarder may lose track of individual items in their hoard.

Information technology provides us with the means to capture data easily. Sensors capture data automatically recording temperatures, traffic volumes and locations. We download attachments from emails, retweet amusing anecdotes, bookmark web links, and share data about ourselves and others through social media. Organizations have identified that they have been hoarding data and seek techniques to manage their Big Data hoards, and transform the data into a collection of information. Making sense of the hoard of data is needed but in order to move from hoarding data to collecting information, organizations need to recognize the differences between hoarding and collecting.

A hoarder may grab and retain items without a clearly defined purpose, just in case the items may be needed later. Organizations need to define the information they need and purposefully seek out ways of gathering the information needed. This includes auditing the collection regularly to identify gaps in the collection, recognize new opportunities that may arise to extend the collection, and even to scale down the collection when information is no longer required.

A hoarder is taken over and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of their possessions and is unable to interact with them in a meaningful way. Organizations need to ensure that processes are in place to enable information to be used effectively in the organization.

A hoarder does not know what they have or where to find specific items. Organizations need to conduct information audits and maintain information maps so that staff are aware of the information available to them to use and how they can gain access to information.

Both hoarders and collectors are fiercely protective of their possessions, but collectors cherish their possessions treating them with care and reverence. Organizations need to address the problems with their data hoarding habits and treat their valuable collection of information resources with respect.

Further Reading: A template for conducting an information audit is presented in Chapter 6. Information maps are included in Chapter 2.

Please use the following to reference this blog post in your own work:
Cox, S. A., (2014), ‘The Difference Between Hoarding and Collecting’, 16 May 2014,, [Date accessed: dd:mm:yy]

© 2014 Sharon A Cox