The Fine Line Between Hoarding & Collecting

A three-part system for fighting the good fight between the two.


What’s the difference between a hoarder and a collector? A hoarder leaves everything in uncontained piles that spill into all areas. A collector keeps their shit organized.

One of my first records. A few years after my family moved to America, my father took me record shopping every Friday.

My father started my record collection and fed it weekly. When I was in the 4th grade, he gifted me his entire stamp collection. Why? He couldn’t handle seeing his stamps not perfectly lined up after I tore through his albums. Thankfully my mother was a pro at keeping house. Never a dirty dish in the house, not a spec of dust on any surface, vacuum cleaner marks on the carpet — always. If it wasn’t for my mother, my father would be hoarder, not a collector!

Me? I’m forever straddling the line between hoarder and collector. I collect pencils, sugar packets, and hotel do-not-disturb door signs. I’m a numismatist (banknotes and coins), phillumenist (matchbooks), tegestologist (beer mats), and philatelist (stamps). Seriously — what don’t I collect?

Oh, and pencils. So so many pencils. The RAD AND HUNGRY collection is massive and it’s nonstop growing. We discover new styles every sourcing trip, and I can’t resist them. I must have them all! But my obsession with pencils was quickly turning me into a hoarder. Didn’t matter that we’re constantly going through our inventory, our pencil collection was out of control.

We needed a way to organize the pencils, making it easy to find what we’re after and to rediscover what’s in our collection. Inventory software is nice, but sometimes it’s just faster and easier to handle the pencils than search the database.

So how do we do it? A three-part system. The first is simple and used for archiving every type of pencil in our collection — yes, one of every pencil we’ve ever purchased. The pencils are organized by color in Bonne Maman jam jars. Yes, jam jars. I love their jam and the shape of the jars, so $5 a jar is totally worth it.

Pencils organized by color.

The second system catalogs our pencil inventory — the stash we include in pencil packs, Rad Bags, or custom kits. The pencils are organized by category and stored in 35mm film strip protectors, all housed in binders. It’s super helpful for viewing — by company, style, country, color, etc. We use Clear File Archival Classic protectors. $4.95 for a pack of 25. So many options for binders, but we keep it simple — 1.5” Avery Heavy Duty binder in black. $7.95+. Depending on your style and budget, you can find binders as low as $2.

Pencils organized by style.
Pencils organized by brand.

The last system is for storing our special stash — rare finds, special occasion, vintage pencils — and pencil boxes that I can’t bear to toss. The pencils are organized inside pencil boxes that are then placed in a vintage Logan metal 35 mm slide storage box. I found our first metal storage boxes for $2 each at a local thrift store. You can find used and new ones online ranging from $10 — $45 per box. (But seriously, check out that local thrift shop!)

Metal storage boxes, picked up at the local thrift shop.
Dividers and index chart.
Perfect for storing pencil boxes.
Pencils on lockdown.

Do you collect pencils or pens? How do you store them? Post photos to our Facebook wall or tweet at us so we can see how you do. Maybe your system will help us fight the good fight between hoarding and collecting.