Walking the thin line between collecting and hoarding

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HOUSTON, TX – If you’ve ever seen the movie “Rushmore,” you are probably familiar with Doug’s Barber Shop on 11th street in the Heights. The film was shot there back in ’98, but walk inside today, and you notice there’s something different about the place. Owner Doug Dreher has covered the walls with everything from fancy art to old newspapers to stuff he found on the side of the road.

“Every place I inhabit looks like this before too long,” Dreher explains. And he’s right! His home in Woodland Heights looks a bit like a booth at an antique mall. More than a thousand pieces of McCoy pottery line the walls of most rooms in the house, puzzles cover the ceilings, and every type of toy rabbit you can imagine is on display in the bathroom.

Then there are the boxes of arrowheads, fossils, Texas-made bricks, stacks of old Life magazines and a box of billiard balls on the front porch. But don’t call Doug a hoarder. “A hoarder,” he explains, “they know the things they’re collecting are of no use. They just have an overriding compulsion to keep it.” Instead, he prefers another title: “A super-collector.  When I decide to go after something, I go in whole hog!”

We’d say so! His current passion is 45 records released by Houston record labels. “In three years, I’ve found over 700 unique labels that existed in Houston for a time,” he says. He hopes to turns those into either a book or a website to share with the world.

Earlier this month, a 66-year-old hoarder in Connecticut died when the floor of her home collapsed down into the basement from the weight of all her stuff. She ended up smothered to death by the very “treasures” she’d amassed.

“What a way to go!” Doug says wistfully, hearing about the woman for the first time. But he doesn’t see anything like that ever happening to him. In fact, he’s thinning out his collection, something nearly impossible for a true hoarder to do.

“I’ve had four yard sales in the last 10 months, and if it wasn’t going to be so hot,” Doug explains, “I’d have another one next month.” Instead, he’ll spend the summer scouring the city for more records. “You never know what can turn up!” he says with a smile.

For more on Doug Dreher and his growing interests, check out this month’s Houstonia.