Cable shows about hoarders are popular and offer an informative and sometimes shocking look at how serious a problem hoarding can be. Serious hoarding disorder is a debilitating and even life threatening problem rooted in a psychological disorder. The show offers insight into the extreme end of this behavior and the difficulties it causes to the people whose life it touches. Being a "continuum of behavior" there are also less extreme and even functional manifestations of these behaviors including collectors and at the other end of the continuum, minimalists.
I think many of us are functional "collectors". That's the type of person that is a "saver". They like to keep things "in case they might need or could use it later", or "it's too good to get rid of", or they feel "sentimental about things" or just like "having it". Collecting is not necessarily a bad thing, unless it starts to get out of control and causes problems with daily life.
Personally, I know that we are collectors, for all of the reasons I've just listed. In addition, my parents passed away, and as part of closing out their estate, some of their "stuff" found it's way into my house. With both of us working, we just never took the time to seriously "thin" the collection. It always fell to the bottom of the "to do" list. We just went about our busy lives. We've lived in the same house for 24 years. Things just naturally "accumulated"!
Now that both of us are retired, we've been taking the time to seriously look at our "stuff" and get rid of things. I like to employ the "keep, donate, sell or trash" mantra. My brother and I did that when dealing with our parents' estate. Once done with that, I started going through my own closets and storage boxes. Doing that helps you find out what you actually have, maybe locate something that was misplaced or forgotten about and also gives you an opportunity to eliminate things from your household. It was hard to do at first, but I've kept at it and have successfully started to declutter our lives.
One practice I've employed is this: If I'm not sure what to do with something, I keep it to "think" about it. I go through our "collection" annually and have slowly removed unneeded items each year. I like to think of things needing to "earn" their right to take up space. If it's functional, truly useful or irreplaceable/sentimental, it can stay. If something has passed though my hands more than once or twice and has not "earned its space", it's probably time to let go of it because we really don't need it. It's very liberating to let go of "stuff" and simplify your life.
The last steps of decluttering your life is to stop adding things with unnecessary buying and organize what is left. A place for everything and everything in it's place. Having a cleaner, less cluttered and organized environment is very gratifying and helps you to maintain the hard work you have done.
One last thought. I recently read about changes in lifestyle of the younger generation vs. older generation. What is meaningful to the older generation (with thoughts of passing it along to the kids) is not necessarily important or desired by younger people. Many younger people have different priorities, are more mobile and tend to value "new" things vs "old" things. As a result, treasured or sentimental "stuff" left by the parents ends up in estate sales, trash or is donated. What has amazed me personally, is family heirlooms (like family bibles and significant memorabilia) along with family military items and even photographs of ancestors being sold at estate sales. Sadly, the younger generation is not necessarily interested in great grandma's wedding photos, or grandpa's military uniform or medals. Different generation and different type of thinking.
Below are some links about hoarding and collecting you might be interested in reading. The information might be helpful to you or for someone you know. There are also great tips for organizing and decluttering.
Here are links about minimalism that offer insight in the benefits of this kind of lifestyle.