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MAC: Motorcycle Accumulation Disease

24 December 2013


 December 24, 2013
Category News, Opinions

Collecting… or hoarding?

Most guys into the classic Japanese scene own more than one bike. This theoretically gives us the chance to keep riding when one (or more) breaks down. However, there is often a recurring urge to buy and own more of the beasts that we covet. This leads to nights trawling Trademe and/or ebay  to see what other two-wheeled treasure or shiny parts may be available. The upshot of such behaviour is usually a shaking of the head by our beloved spouses and a gentle muttering of the phrase “You’re a hoarder”.  So, is this what we biker blokes have become or are our aims nobler than that? Most of us would surely believe that we are following a God given directive to save these beauties from the scrap heap, spruce them up and then get the old girls back on the road. But is this fact or the rationalisations of a diseased mind?

Below is an outline based on the latest information around the distinction between collecting and hoarding. (How many bikes is enough, eh?) This information relates to the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), which is the handbook of all things psychiatric that many professionals use to guide their work. Within this, there is a category of “Hoarding Disorder”. In response to this new grouping, some researchers have raised the point that there is, might be or should be a difference between hoarding behaviour and collecting. So, think about your garage and the bikes plus spare parts therein, read on and then decide where you (and the rest of the classic bike world) might fit.

Hoarding is a not so useful, excessive form of acquiring items and it can impair functioning across many aspects of life. One view of hoarding is that it is an extreme form of collecting whilst others suggest it is about saving a large number of items that has no pattern or goal to it. This behaviour seems to be about obtaining items and then having difficulty getting rid of them – even if they are useless or of limited value. The accumulation of things tends to take over the usefulness aspect, such that a hoarder just fills all the space available. These blokes are disorganised and there seems to be limited reasoning  around what is acquired, where it is stored or, indeed, for what reason it is there. As the hoarding takes over, there is often impairment in functioning caused by the ongoing accumulation e.g. not getting out and about or not performing well at work/home. The degree of clutter gets to the extent that the item’s use is no longer possible. Individuals with this condition may have limited or no insight to the problematic nature of the buying/obtaining behaviours. Excessive acquisition is at the centre of the problem.

On the flip side, it appears that collecting of objects is a widespread behaviour amongst humans and there is evidence that it is a normal part of childhood – remember that collection of Matchbox cars from when you were 8 years old? Such behaviour is largely seen by people as a positive activity that we derive good feelings from. One definition of a collection is the gathering and storing of objects that have value to the individual, doing this in a systematic way and then limiting this to a definable  topic. The objects for collection tend to have an emotional grasp on the person and they are relatively constant over time i.e. not a short term fad. (Sound familiar to anyone?)

It is acknowledged that collectors redefine their collections over time as their interests grow and change. However, it seems that discarding is a dirty word for collectors so the “letting go” tends to be done via trading or dealing rather than simple dumping. Interestingly (and here I dare you to check with your beloved), research shows that trading does not actually reduce the number of possessions held by the collector. So, he (and they mostly are men) gets rid of one bike part but then picks up another one (or more).

Collectors have a sense of organization and orderliness to their displays and this is an essential aspect of the collection behaviour. As part of this, there are often some rituals associated with the objects e.g. cleaning (or in our case polishing). Most collectors remain socially connected especially around their activities which they share with fellow collectors e.g. via dedicated groups and forums. Interestingly, the majority of collectors said they would do it all again if they had to start anew. So, overall, collecting is experienced as pleasurable and the amassing of items over time is not random. Rather, the accumulation of objects (bikes and spares) is described as purposeful and goal directed.

Key points re the differences between collectors and hoarders:
  1. Collectors tend to have a theme that ties their objects together (e.g. a particular marque). Hoarders go for large numbers and different types of things.
  2. Collectors tend use their objects (they ride the bikes). Hoarders intend to but rarely do.
  3. Collectors have a strategy for their collection and tend to display them (e.g. CJMG shows). Hoarders don’t plan or organise the items and just dump them anywhere.
  4. Collectors acquire objects in an active and purposeful manner (e.g. tracking down/waiting for a particular model of bike). Hoarders don’t have such a planned approach.

Using the DSM5 criteria, it does look as though there is some overlap between collecting and hoarding. However, the criteria for a hoarding diagnosis that collectors tend not to meet are: clutter i.e. the objects do not impose on active living areas (Hmmm … hands up who has a bike on display in the front room?) and distress (collectors ENJOY obtaining, owning and caring for the bikes) or impairment (they can still go to work – even if it is to earn money for the next bike LOL). So, to make doubly sure you are safe from this diagnosis of hoarding, I suggest you run out to the garage and start tidying it up – put all those spare parts either on the shelf and into labelled  boxes pronto.

But … is it as clear cut as that?

Hoarders are seen to have a relatively high level of perfectionism as part of their makeup (!). They are indecisive about when to throw things away – as it may be needed later. The hoarder frequently lacks insight, often denying there is a problem with the number of things (?bikes) they own. They also resist advice to stop buying further items and defensively rationalize their acquiring!!! (Hmmm, sounds like a description of the entire CJMG membership doesn’t it?)

Hoarder or Collector? You decide… but best not let the wife make a call on this one.