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A study of hoarding behavior and attachment to material possessions

Hélène Cherrier (School of Business Administration, The American University in Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Tresa Ponnor (Johnson & Johnson, Sydney, Australia)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 19 January 2010




The purpose of this paper is to investigate consumers' motivation to accumulate obsolete items and their reluctance to dispose of material possessions.


The role of attachment to material possession in the construction of consumer identity provides a conceptual framework for the research. A video‐ethnography with eight individuals, who classify themselves as functional hoarders, individuals who accumulate objects privately and are unable to dispose without clear conscious motivation or control, constitute the primary data for this paper.


In investigating the underlying reasons for accumulating objects and resisting dispossession, informants show evidence of being reflective consumers who perceive throwing away as a threat to memory, to security, and to historical and ecological preservation. First, this paper confirms current literature regarding the role of possessions as symbols of interpersonal ties with others and as a cue to past experiences. Second, the paper supports that possessions provide a sense of security to the owner. Finally, this paper reinforces that preserving material objects cultivate a vision for the future. Ultimately, informants' motivations to accumulate, to keep, and to not‐dispose of objects reflects a desire to reassemble the fragments of their temporal experience into a unique space where memories, present, and life projects join together.


The accompanying film gives an opportunity for audience members to personally evaluate hoarding practices and to draw their own conclusion on the dynamic nature of material attachment and consumer identity in terms of past experiences, present orientation, and responsibility for the future.



Cherrier, H. and Ponnor, T. (2010), "A study of hoarding behavior and attachment to material possessions", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 8-23.



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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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