Welcome to Alison Hoff's home. It's cluttered, so watch your step; you wouldn't want to knock over the Paul and Ringo statuettes. Or barge into the stack of Elvis paintings on black velvet. Or step on the Donny and Marie carrying case. Not, mind you, that any of these things have any major monetary value. That old black-and-white Zenith TV engraved with the Declaration of Independence, for instance, cost Hoff just $6 in a thrift shop.

"I just have a few more things than other people," says Hoff, 35, who actually has several thousand more, crammed into the three-bedroom Pittsburgh home she shares with her husband, real estate manager Pat Clark, 41. It's all the ceramic fruits of a lifetime spent browsing thrift shops—and also of never getting rid of anything. "A lot of people buy to sell," she says. "I buy things because I want them."

Hoff's obsession, which she traces back to the influence of her mother, Elizabeth, 69, a lifelong thrift-shop habitué, has led her to put out a zine named Thrift Score for her fellow junk-store junkies. (That's also the title of her book from HarperCollins.) Among the nuggets of advice for thrift-shop forays: Dress comfortably, keep both hands free, don't shop on Saturdays (everybody else is there too)—and never, ever leave your shopping cart unattended. Hoff used to think her home looked a bit like the set for Sanford and Son but then realized there was one key difference between herself and the TV junkman. "Wasn't he supposed to sell stuff?" she says. "I don't do that."