What would we call a person who has a hard time throwing away unnecessary things, and, as a result, has a home cluttered with stuff?

This person is not just untidy. What causes the clutter is their urge to buy things they don't need and being unable to get rid of things they don't use.

I think there is an idiom for it. But a single noun or an adjective would do too.

Thank you!

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  • 6
    I am going to say careful of your audience, several people have said pack rat, as somebody from the UK I have never heard that phrase. – WendyG Aug 21 at 8:42
  • 1
    Packrat and hoarder suggest being unwilling / unable to throw things away ... but it doesn't necessarily mean that they're buying things they don't need. – Joe Aug 21 at 16:07
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    The problem is that you've got two distinct behaviors here. Someone who buys a lot of unnecessary stuff might be a compulsive shopper en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsive_buying_disorder (or depending on one's POV, an ordinary member of western consumerist society :-)), but that person might not have any real urge to keep stuff around - thrift stores depend on them. Another person might keep around potentially useful (in their opinion), ranging a gamut from thrifty to hoarder. – jamesqf Aug 21 at 17:52
up vote 88 down vote accepted

The common term for this sort hoarder, one who hoards. Per the Oxford Dictionaries:

hoard

VERB

[WITH OBJECT]

  1. Accumulate (money or valued objects) and hide or store away.

    ‘thousands of antiques hoarded by a compulsive collector’

Note that this often has a rather negative connotation. There was a rather frightening TV show called Hoarders about such people.

There is also pack rat which is slightly less negative:

pack rat

NOUN

  1. another term for woodrat

  2. North American derogatory A person who hoards things.

Note: no matter what my wife tells you, neither of these terms apply to me. 8^)

  • 5
    You mention 'pack rat' as less negative, yet the definition is 'derogatory'. To me that implies a pretty heavy negative connotation. – damanptyltd Aug 21 at 2:28
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    As a side note, a person who downloads stuff off the Internet and never deletes it from their computer even when they don't need it anymore could be called a digital hoarder: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_hoarding – Mike R Aug 21 at 3:09
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    I don't think "pack rat" connotes carrying (Southern AmEng). I would use it for someone who has a lot of stuff that serves no other use than to decorate their "nest". Basically the same as "hoarder", but more neutral. Speculatively, the slight variation in meaning may occur because pack rats (woodrats) are native to North America; perhaps English speakers elsewhere are more likely to make the "backpack" connection and less likely to make an analogy to the animal's habits. – trentcl Aug 21 at 14:28
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    Throwing my +1 in to the idea that pack-rat has a less negative connotation than hoarder. When I hear pack-rat, I imagine a house with a bunch of useless knick-knacks. When I hear hoarder, I think about a room piled high full of pizza boxes and bags of McDonalds trash and soda cans everywhere; where there's no room to even walk in most of their house because they never throw anything away, not even actual trash. – Shufflepants Aug 21 at 15:44
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    Speaking for the west coast of the US, a pack rat is some one who just hangs on to some stuff, probably thinking they'll use it in the future, while a hoarder is someone who has a real problem. Pack rat is mildly negative; hoarder is significantly so. – Roger Sinasohn Aug 21 at 16:40
  • Compulsive hoarder (the mental health diagnosis)
  • Hoarder
  • Packrat
  • Clutterer
  • Messy (the adjective used as a noun, plural "messies", I think originating from Sandra Felton's Messies Manual, but I could be wrong.)

I'd say that this list approximately follows the spectrum from most to least extreme. The "messy" may even have a relative normal amount of stuff and just be unable to keep it in order. The compulsive hoarder may hoard multiple homes and end up living in their car. Not all hoarders have an issue with acquisition; pretty much all hoarders have an issue with disposal.

The list also happens to approximately follow the spectrum from least to most commonly known--I suspect that only members of messy support groups use "messy" as a noun describing a person.

There's also "magpie", with the implication that the person flits around and collects shiny things. I wouldn't consider this a synonym of any of the others, but it is a related concept.

protected by tchrist Aug 21 at 0:58

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