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Finances Food Frugality Organization

The Difference Between Stockpiling and Hoarding

“I’ve got coupons for the crackers!” Katie dug through her coupon holder as we entered the cracker aisle. “How much should we get?”

I checked the expiration date upon the boxes, holding one up to show my daughter. “How many boxes do you think we’ll go through by this date?”

Katie frowned. “Not a lot,” she muttered.

There is a difference between stockpiling and hoarding. It’s easy to forget that in the middle of a pandemic while facing an erratic supply chain. When we see something we use in stock, we instinctively want to buy it all because we honestly don’t know when it will be available again.

I struggle with this personally.

My life could be described as a financial feast or famine situation. I’ve had times of plenty and times of having not near enough. When I figured that out, I began to balance things a bit. During times of plenty I would stock up on bargains in order to survive the times of want.

For instance, a few years back I came across a back-to-school sale that had composition notebooks for an incredibly low price. Katie thought I was crazy as I hauled whole cases of notebooks home. I worried that I’d overdone things as storage and privacy concerns found me shifting my journaling habit to the computer instead of using notebooks but since those notebooks cost nothing for me to store I kept them.

And it paid off. My grandkids have used quite a few of them for school and play. I’ve used a bunch of them to make lists and take notes. My Katie is now working on the last batch, using them in college. Because they have been used, that purchase can be considered a stockpile.

Several years previous I faced an entirely different situation. I worked at a food plant for a while. They primarily made cereal and crackers. They kept a bin of the discards (imperfect boxes, wrong weight, etc.) that the workers were free to take home. I knew I would not have that job forever (I was a temporary worker) so I stocked up. I filled my pantry with those items.

A lot of it went bad before we could finish it. I felt like a fool for hoarding the stuff.

But how can you tell the difference? How can one know if they are simply stockpiling or if they are hoarding? Here are three general rules that I follow.

Can I Afford It?

This might sound silly at first but it is easy to blow your budget when you find a good deal on something you want to stock up on. I have done this more times than I can count over the years. I would see a stockpile of fabric in a thrift shop, arrange to buy the entire lot for cheap, only to realize that, while it was an excellent bargain that I spent all of my excess cash on the acquisition. While the fabric was used over time, I still remember my mistakes. I have adjusted my purchasing habits accordingly after that experience and others.

Sometimes it is better to pass up a deal, no matter how good due to budget constraints. While you can always save up a bit of money to have on hand with which to take advantage of good deals, depending upon when you stumble upon a bargain, your money stash might be a bit low to comfortably make the purchase. Bills and food must always come first. Remember that.

Will I Use It Before It Expires?

Many items like food and medicine have expiration dates. While the dates are just an estimate of how long the item will remain safely usable, those dates can be used as a guideline. When stocking up, check those dates. Estimate how much of the item you will use before the date on the container. Remind yourself that if the item isn’t used up by that date that you may not feel safe trusting it and limit the amount you purchase accordingly.

When it comes to items that expire, less is better in the stockpiling arena. It is better to use it up and purchase more than it is to invest in a stockpile that will go bad before you finish it.

BONUS TIP: Rotate your stock! The restaurant industry has a term for this: FIFO. It means “first in, first out.” Always use your old items first. This will ensure that nothing goes bad before you use it.

Do I Have Enough Room to Store It?

The catch to having a stockpile is that external storage is NOT cheap. Even worse, if you store your stockpile off site, you might forget that you have it and purchase even more. Look around the space in your home before you decide to stock up. If you can reserve a space that will allow you to access the items with little difficulty you are in good shape. If you find that area beginning to overflow, know that you need to stop for a bit and use up what you already have.

I recently had to do that with my book collection. It had outgrown the shelf I had assigned to it by at least a factor of two. Instead of being able to keep the books neatly organized I had them stacked in layers upon that shelf, to the point where it would take several minutes of hunting to retrieve a single book. In fact, when I thinned down my collection I discovered that I’d inadvertently collected duplicates of some titles. I’d collected so many that I’d forgotten what I had.

I will have a similar situation with clothing in the near future. Both of my daughters happen to adore clothes; whenever they thin down they bring their discards to me. Since the local clothing pantry is shut down due to the pandemic I will have to devise a solution. Since I now have a sewing machine, I will probably cut up the ones I can’t wear to either store in my fabric bin or recycle them into cleaning and family cloths. That will keep the storage space to a minimum and allow me to recycle them naturally. I may end up making a lot of patchwork items until the clothing pantry reopens but that’s okay – at least the items will be put to use.

Remember: if you find yourself beginning to trip over your stockpile, you’ve reached a danger point. While it is okay to stock up, it is painfully easy to start hoarding. If you cannot organize and keep track, you’ll find yourself with a problem.

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While there are a range of other questions you can ask yourself, those are the three primary ones that I personally use. Do you have any questions that you ask yourself that I missed? Maybe you can teach me how to stock up more efficiently. Thank you!

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I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
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Smashwords (non-DRM)

Thank you for your support!

Categories
Decluttering

Bookshelf Before and After

I finally got the bookshelf sorted somewhat. I decided to try something new this time. My goal is to cultivate a sense of tranquility in this home so after a bit of thought I decided to remove all of the dust jackets from my hardcover books and arrange the entire collection by color. That runs counter to the methods I’ve used in the past but I actually like the end result. If anything, I will have a valid excuse (“I just liked the color”) if someone happens to comment upon a socially questionable title in my collection.

To demonstrate the change in my collection I dug up a photograph of my shelf from May of 2019. I’d just rearranged the collection. It was two layers deep on every shelf and went from floor to ceiling. It grew exponentially after I took that photo but this will at least give you an idea of the problem I faced.

Taken May 2019

This is what my bookshelf looks like after I culled and sorted the books. The bags on the top contain some of the excess from my wardrobe. The plastic bins contain excess from my office supply collection. Attrition will eliminate these items in time but for now I needed a place to store them.

The top shelf of books looks a bit more chaotic than I would like but I could not figure out how to reduce that. It primarily contains my art and computer book collection. I wonder if it is safe to eliminate the computer books at least; I tend to do an online search when I need the information those books contain instead of using the books these days since it’s faster. Do you think it would be safe to eliminate them if I managed to acquire PDF copies of the books?

Even now I find myself looking at the titles I kept and wondering if I can pare them down even more. I don’t feel secure enough to do that yet so I will have to revist the subject on another day.

The results of this project make me wonder if I could pare down my possessions to the point where I could dismantle one of my shelves and place it in the attic? It would be nice to free up more space and reduce the clutter. What do you think?

Categories
Decluttering

Why do we hoard books?

The space I’ve gained after yesterday’s purge has made me realize that I was devolving into a book hoarder. I had way too many physical books for the house I live in, to the point where it was negatively impacting my quality of life.

As a result, my question today is why do we feel the need to collect and keep print books? What is it about the medium that inspires some of us to hold on to more than is practical?

Pointing this question directly at myself since I am the one who has realized that I have a problem: why do I want to keep so many books?

The only answers I can come up with relate to my history.

When I was a little girl, the first book I remember receiving was a ragged copy of a nursery rhyme book. It had been left in one of the apartments my father owned when the tenants moved out. The cover was missing along with many of the pages but I adored that book. I spent a lot of time just admiring the pages even before I recall having the ability to read. That was the book I would take to my father and beg him to read me a bedtime story from. I’d seen parents read bedtime stories to their children on television so I begged to have them read to me.

I was in the first grade when I recall being able to actually understand what I was reading. I would lose myself in the books I would check out at the school library to the point where I would forget my bus stop–to the immense annoyance of the driver.

I never had enough to read. I was so hungry! I devoured every book I could get my hands on. My parents noticed my hunger so they purchased a set of encyclopedias at an auction around this point. They weren’t readers themselves but they tried. Those books were above my reading level at the time but I adored them just the same.

Internet didn’t exist for the common people in the 1970’s and 1980’s when I grew up so I didn’t have access to the abundance of reading material that we have today. My parents weren’t ones to visit public libraries, so my reading was limited to what I could beg my parents to buy and what I could acquire at school.

It was never enough. I would make bargains with the teachers and librarians to gain extra opportunities to exchange the books I checked out at school. Teachers tried to help by lending me additional books, yet still I felt the hunger.

I wonder if that is the reason I so desperately want to hoard every single book I come in contact with today. Every time I see a book, especially an unwanted book, I want to take it home and love it. I want to place it on my bookshelf just to possess because one day I may want to read it. It doesn’t really matter the subject; I just want to hold them close and keep them.

In light of our modern age, this desire to collect print books no longer makes practical sense. Thanks to Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, the Open Library, and many other resources, older books can be acquired in a variety of formats for free. I have utilized these resources for two decades now, collecting older books in plain text format to save space on my computer. I email them to my Kindle when I am not in the mood to read them on my computer. I even collect PDF books that I read on my computer or my iPad if the books contain images or other items that make reading in their original print format easier.

I have a scary amount of these ebooks. I have over 7,000 titles on my Kindle alone. That’s not including the DVDs and CDs I have burned over the years to archive my collection so it is safe to say that I have an issue with hoarding when it comes to books. I cannot even justify this by saying that I’ve read all of them because I haven’t. I’ve read a huge amount of them but definitely not all of them.

So what makes me this way? is it truly because I felt such a lack of reading material in my childhood? Is it because I’ve went through periods of my life when I couldn’t afford to buy more books? Is it because I feel an attachment to books in particular for some reason?

I don’t know. All I do know is that while the digital collecting of ebooks causes no personal difficulty for me (it is not a burden to store the digital archives since I keep them in a binder with my other files), I do need to learn how to curtail my desire to hoard print books. As much as I adore them, I lack the space to keep every title I encounter. This home is rather tiny and I’m toying with the idea of moving into an even smaller place should the kid decide to move out in the future. The last thing I want or need is for my epitaph to read “Died beneath a mountain of books.”

Then again, if Carrie Fisher can write her own epitaph maybe I can do the same. “Sacrificed her life for the books she loved” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Why do you collect the books that you do? Do you collect purely print, a mix of print and digital, or exclusively digital? How large is your collection (if you were to take a guess)? Maybe if we all share our reasons we will gain a deeper understanding of this phenomena.

Note:

For those who are interested, I stumbled upon this article that discusses book hoarding. I found it rather interesting. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/26/bibliomania-the-strange-history-of-compulsive-book-buying