'My Collection Obsession': One Man's Collector Is Another's Hoarder

TLC special looks at extreme collections: shoes, vacuum cleaners, Dolly Parton.

ByABC News
August 16, 2011, 6:16 PM

Aug. 17, 2011— -- Marilyn Mansfield, a sometimes model and mother of three, loves to cradle her new babies, supporting their heads and holding them close to her maternal bosom -- all 500 of them.

The Staten Island, N.Y., 33-year-old collects custom-made dolls that cost as much as $1,000 each. One even has birth marks and spit bubbles, and the latest lifelike doll even breathes.

"I like flaws on my babies," says Mansfield in a new documentary, "My Collection Obsession," which airs on Sunday, Aug. 21 on TLC at 10 p.m. "Humans are not perfect."

Mansfield's dolls fill her three-bedroom apartment on shelves and in their little seats and cradles.

"They all have their place," she said.

She has even discussed her last wishes with her husband if she should die.

"My daughter has told me which ones she would want and two or three I want to go with friends," Mansfield said. "I know this sounds morbid, but I would definitely like to be buried with them."

Mansfield is one of three other collectors who have taken their hobbies to extremes. Darlene has 15,000 shoe-related memorabilia. Kyle, who is only 16, has been obsessed with vacuum cleaners since he was only a toddler.

Harrell and Patric's 2,500-square-foot home is an homage to Dolly Parton, floor to ceiling. One holds down a job, and the other spends his days keeping up with the collection.

Even the country singer herself is stunned by their obsession.

"I am speechless," she says, after being taken into their basement to see hundreds of costumes, shoes and framed photos. "It's amazing someone could love you that much."

One man's collector is another man's hoarder, but experts say that there are key differences.

"With hoarding, we look at three main behaviors: one acquiring too many possessions; second, having great difficulty discarding something; and three difficulty organizing," said Julie Pike, a clinical psychologist from the Anxiety Disorder Treatment Center in Durham, N.C. "But there is a lot of overlap."

She is featured on TLC's reality show, "Hoarding: Buried Alive."

Unlike hoarders, collectors are usually well-organized and know exactly where each item is and what they have. They are also proud, not ashamed, of their possessions, she said.

"But if collectors get in a place where they are spending so much money that they can't pay their mortgage, that's a problem," Pike said. "Or if they are spending so much time at it that they can't go to their job or leave their house."

More likely, collectors have an "obsession or preoccupation," according to Pike. "Most of us have a degree of that rather than the ends of a continuum."

Viewers will have to decide for themselves about Kyle Kirchbaum of Michigan, the youngest of only 200 vacuum cleaner collectors in the world. His sister thinks he's "weird" going to yard sales to find vacuum cleaners that have piled up around their house.

His mother has told him that when he goes to college, "the vacuum cleaners have to go."