On Monday, I shared my initial thoughts on TLC’s new reality show, Extreme Couponing. The show spends quite a bit of time showing each participant’s stockpile and viewers tend to be intrigued and sometimes downright horrified about the stockpile situation. Oh, the judgement just pours out of people’s fingers (because they are typing, right?).
“No one needs that much mustard.”
“It’s just wasteful to store that much toothpaste.”
“It looks like an episode of Hoarders.”
Errk. (That’s the sound of me putting on the brakes.) Stop. Let me make one thing perfectly clear. Stockpiling and hoarding are two very different things.
Stockpiling vs. Hoarding
I’ve watched the television show Hoarders. Hoarding is a mental illness and watching people unable to get rid of things, live in filth and choose their possessions over relationships with people is completely heart-breaking to me. I ache for people who struggle with hoarding as much as people who struggle with other mental illnesses.
Stockpiling is completely different. Most of the stockpiles featured in Extreme Couponing and the real-life stockpiles I have seen (including my own) are the following:
- organized and orderly
- out-of-the-way — either in the basement or a closet or under a bed or in a shelving unit
Hoarding items keeps the business of life from happening. Homes are unlivable, smelly and unsanitary. Family members can’t freely move throughout their own home due to the junk and usually have strong negative feelings and reactions about the “stuff” they have to live with. The hoarder hangs on to items regardless of if it has real value or if someone else needs it.
In contrast, stockpiles are stored out of the way and do not keep the family from functioning normally (walking through the living room, sleeping in bed, eating at the dining room table). While people may “live” along side of a stockpile (for instance, my kids’ toys and books share a closet with our toiletry stockpile), it’s not “in the way.” The stockpiler’s family is by-in-large supportive of the presence of the stockpile because they see the value in it and they are willing to give away excess to those in need.
Here’s a quick and easy way to know if you’re a hoarder or a stockpiler:
Your girlfriend is at your house and mentions that she needs to stop by the grocery store on the way home to pick up frozen spinach for dinner. You have spinach stockpiled in your freezer that you got for free with coupons. If you’re a hoarder, you keep your mouth shut and let her take her three kids into Safeway to buy the spinach.
If you’re a stockpiler, you will give her the box of frozen spinach.
Pretty simple, huh?
Here’s the other thing I want to make super clear: I do not believe it is my place to determine how extensive one’s stockpile should be. It really isn’t. If you want a three-year supply of toothpaste and your husband (or wife or mom or partner or roommate) is cool with it, then do it. As long as you’re not acting in greed — clearing shelves, taking all the store coupons, using coupons unethically — I don’t care how you play the game.
If you want my advice about how much to stockpile, I suggest you start with a 3-6 month supply of items your family regularly uses depending on the space you have available in your home. But if you want more, go for it.
There’s much more to say about how to build and maintain a stockpile so I’ll save it for another day.
Now it’s your turn: How do you build a stockpile without entering the “crazy” zone?