Thursday, April 14, 2011

How to clean your house when you'd rather do something else

Watch either "Hoarders" or "Hoarding: Buried Alive." Or try to. I've been on a tear getting rid of things--things that stayed around because I was either reluctant to get rid of them, or I was just kind of inert about the whole thing. Really, I'm down to very little now--the only headache I've got now is paper (things I need to shred) but I keep up with that weekly. I just hate dealing with paper. My home should not feel like an office.

I had to chuckle at the irony of the TLC lineup last night--they've made a show out of "Extreme Couponing" and the show they chose to advertise in the commercial breaks was "Hoarding: Buried Alive." Now, I'm all for stocking up, but whoa. Some of these folks got stuff just because it was free. Their hoard was well-organized and clean, but let's face it, when you've got enough body wash to last you for 20,000 showers (seriously--I am not exaggerating), it's time to stop. Or at least, it's time to donate that stuff to a shelter if you want to continue the bargain hunting. Some people get a real thrill from it, I guess.

One woman would use coupons and deals to get free diapers. Here's the thing: She didn't have kids. She has her diaper hoard for when she has kids. Now, look--I'm a big planner and I like to prepare for eventualities but really? She may never have kids. And then what? Will we see her on a hoarding show down the road, holding on to these packages of diapers just in case?

She was one of two twins, and they seemed like very nice women--they had a good relationship, they were enthusiastic, and cheerful, and funny, and supportive and sweet.  But wow, did they love stockpiling.

They picked up antacid tablets because they could get them for free.  They don't use antacids, but "they're free, so why not?" was the thinking.  Well, I don't use Viagra, and if someone offered it to me free I wouldn't waste the space in my home to store it.

Everyone was clever--they'd buy things because between the sale and the doubled coupons, they'd actually get money back.  But I did see people buy a lot of stuff that they already had a five year supply of or stuff they didn't really use.  And they needed room to store all of this--they'd convert garages or bedrooms or sometimes, they'd store it in every room, including the kids rooms.

One guy--who had been featured in the original special--got a bunch of toothpaste to donate to care packages for the troops.  Which was nice.  But he already had something like 1,200 tubes of the stuff at home.

Most of the people they featured had either grown up in very frugal families, or had struggled financially in the past--either their families were poor, they encountered job losses or other hardships as adults or they had been in serious debt.  I was impressed with the way one woman--who said she put $10K on a a credit card in college--took that same energy and went about getting her groceries for about 95% off.  But I also wanted to give her a friendly nudge and say, "Look, it's okay.  You can take a break now.  You're all set."

My mother was quite a couponer and saved a lot of money doing it.  And she stocked up (our basement has three or four sets of shelves with food and hygiene items on them).  But if we had enough of something, she didn't bother.  She wouldn't clear the shelves of things just because she could get them for free or dirt cheap, nor would she buy things that we didn't use just because they were free or dirt cheap.  A friend of mine does the same thing--she saves money by being strategic, but she doesn't hoard.  (She can't, she lives in a small place, and that would make her a little, um, twitchy.)

I think shopping strategically and couponing is a good thing--if you're buying things that you already need and you can save a lot of money doing it, that's great.  But when you have to insure your hoard to the tune of $30K, or you have to buy or rent a larger home to store it, or you have enough stuff to last you through the next millennium, it's time to relax and enjoy the time you don't need to spend shopping.


  1. I agree. My biggest problem with this show is the fact that people buy things they do not need, arent healthy, or they clear the shelves so no one else can take part in a sale. I also think it will be the next hoarders!


  2. Yep! Don't get me wrong--I love stocking up because I hate shopping, but once I've gotten what I need on sale, I use it and enjoy my freed-up time for other things. Like Zombie Apocalypse Movie Night.

  3. I should be feeling badly for these folks, but in all truth, well, it made me laugh. Come on, diapers but no baby! That's just too funny. I have a friend who totally does the mass coupon/rebate thing. A year ago she got about 200 of those Glade air freshener things, for free. But she says she can't stand them. I asked "why buy them then?" She said she couldn't resist the fact that they were free. She did eventually have a garage sale and got rid of a bunch of them. i suppose we all have our little quirks.
    Now, I do stock up, I call it sensible stocking up. When toothpaste is on sale, I buy 6 or 8 tubes, enough for our family of 5 to get through a few months. When canned veggies go on sale in the fall, I buy maybe 30 cans. And at Thanksgiving, I don't just buy the one turkey, I buy 4. Maybe that sounds crazy to other folks, but for our family, it's what we'll go through in several months. Once a year, late summer, I let everything run down to zero, empty freezers, pantry, fridge. It's my way of making sure we're using everything before it expires. But the diapers, now that's just funny!