Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hoarding: Getting and not spending

A recent post by Frugal Scholar about dipping into her emergency fund got me thinking about hoarding.

One of my GFs said that her mother hoards bras. "She must have nearly two dozen new bras in her drawer, why does she do that?", she asked.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder aside, we hoard mostly because of fear, and sometimes because of love. We are either terrified of running ou
t, or so enamoured of the object that we think owning more will exponentially increase our pleasure.

Types of hoarding


1. The Stockpile

You can't bear to run out: a favourite discontinued lipstick you can only get on eBay, the perfect gel shoe insert, a brand of long-lasting candle.

Or the item is rare: you can only get it when you travel, or when lucky enough to find it, so you stock up. Example: Ayurvedic toothpaste sold in India for one-quarter the price charged here.

We also stockpile when we find a bargain, which frugal-livers remind us is wise only if we are certain to use the item.


2. The Stash

You don't need the item much, but you can't throw it out, so your hoard builds. The stuff is often free: perfume samples, toothbrushes from the dentist, advertising fridge magnets.

When not free, the stash is usually low-value: odd sheets of giftwrap, twist-ties, computer paper, Ziploc bags. My mother stowed enough note pads to last seven lifetimes.


3. The Obsession


This is where it gets interesting: hoarding driven by love, or at least lust.
The hoard is sometimes called a collection. You must have more of it and there is never 'too much'.

For a decade, I was in love with cookie cutters and collected one of every shape I could find: bat, tulip, '50s abstract shapes, lips; you name it, I have it. Eventually, I quit. Sometimes you get over an obsession and purge, an ending as painful and liberating as a necessary breakup.

What do you hoard?



Hoarding money


We can become very attached to our assets; this attachment may be unconscious. We might not realize how welded we are until we must dip into our savings.

Money can assume the quality of hoarding when we grant it an inviolate sanctity, refusing to spend, which depletes the hoard, or invest, which subjects it to risk.

When the rainy day comes, how do you feel about spending from savings?


Some
feel anxiety or guilt when they spend even a few thousand out of a $50,000 fund. Like the pulling of one brick out of a wall, they imagine everything will tumble, their security in jeopardy. Few of us can dip into our slush fund without a twinge, but a hoarding mentality infuses the spending with deep angst.

I see savings as a resource, like the stock of pasta sauce in the freezer. I made it, I use it, and I'll make some more, some years more than others. While it provides some peace of mind, savings offer limited protection from life's most challenging difficulties. "If your problems can be solved by money", my Dad used to say, "they aren't problems."

The well-known words from a Bible verse (1 Timothy 6:10) is often misquoted as "Money is the root of all evil"; it is in fact, "
For the love of money is the root of all evil."

Love of money engenders worry, greed, and a meanness of spirit. When someone loves money, behaviours include accumulation through continual denial, the use of
money to manipulate and, saddest of all, the futile attempt to buy respect or affection. Loving money more than people is a sure path to estrangement from one's self and others.


Hoard
ing at 50+

The tendency to hoard can become more pronounced with age for two reasons. First, sticker shock hits. How often I exclaim to Le Duc, "Can you believe the price of that?" and he replies, "You sound just like your mother."

Sixteen dollars for an ordinary pair of tights! So when I see five for $7.50 each, better stock up.

Second, shopping exhausts me. Occasionally it's a good tired: "What fun; I'm beat, let's have a glass of wine", but often it's an "I can't believe I wasted a day doing this" stupor.

So when I find the right tee on sale, why not buy four, two for this summer and two for next? Then I don't have to go back.
I'll just put them in the drawer with... oh look, the three I bought last summer.

My godfather, an astute and successful merchant, used to smile at this logic and say, "Let the store carry the cost of the inventory, and keep your money till you need to spend it."

17 comments:

metscan said...

Great topic. My grandmother used to hoard everything. I won´t even mention what, the list goes on and on. Nothing would be thrown away. My mother travelled a lot in her youth and bought expensive bags and silverware, but as she grew older, she suddenly gave away nearly everything. In the end she would live on a very small budget and wear cheap clothes, although she had money in the bank. She was convinced, that she was very poor. Well, I don´t collect anything. Money comes and goes. I do have a passion for nice and unfortunately, expensive things. At the moment I´m into functionalism, which for me means that everything I have, I must be able to use or wear. Therefore I have very little of everything. Maybe this sounds weird, but it suits me fine.

Imogen Lamport said...

Have to admit I stockpiled Rice Crackers today - because they were a bargain 50c a packet instead of their ususal $2 per packet - and at the speed my kids eat them they won't be around for that long!

But what do you do when people keep giving you 'theme' presents because they think you collect something - for instance my MIL has sent ugly shoe knick knacks because I like shoes (but only the shoes I can wear, not porcelain ones)!

Deja Pseu said...

Ah, this is a topic that hits home!

My hoarding behavior is primarily fear driven, e.g. "I'll never find anything that fits this well again or is such a perfect color for me."

I recently found that one of Chanel's new seasonal fall lipstick shades is *perfect* for me, and remembering the last time this happened it was discontinued after a few months, bought three on the spot. I may buy a couple more. How long does lipstick stay good? Didn't Simon Doonan recommend finding one lipstick shade and buying 200 to last for the rest of your life??

I do the same thing with t-shirts that you do, Duchesse. I really do need to donate some soon.

Of course, the scarves are a collection, the purchases driven by love. ;-)

I've really been trying to pare down, but seem to react to feelings of deprivation from earlier decades.

materfamilias said...

Google "Yarn stash" is you'd like to see the different meaning that word has in a knitter's world -- we operate a complicated balance between in and out, trying to keep yarn circulating, but I know non-knitters would see only one step away from crazy lady hoarder! Once, at a sale in my local yarn shop, I heard one woman tell a friend that if she died suddenly, her friend was to quickly grab the stash from various closets, under the bed, etc., before the woman's husband realized the extent of the addiction -- and the rest of us chortled our recognition!

Duchesse said...

metscan: How I admire your value and its expression. I TRY to be like this but my closet tells the truth.

Imogen: Stockpiling is not hoarding when the crackers aren't around long! Yum, rice crackers.

Pseu: Internet consensus seems to be two years. The perfect shade is tempting to stockpile but 200 Chanel lipsticks would bankrupt me!

materfamilias: Yarn, fabric, cooking equipment- anything crafters or hobbyists use is prime stockpile territory!

metscan said...

Duchesse: Thank you for your kind words. BTW, the Chanel nail polish is 465 Azur. I only paint my nails one time ( one coverage??).

Belva said...

I would stockpile (well maybe not 200) lipsticks if I found the one perfect shade. Haven't found it yet!

I have a small stash of black and white Cherokee t-shirts I bought at Target a year or two ago. Regretfully, they've gone away and the Merona tees are a bit sheer pour moi. See? Hoarding works - at least for a bit.

Rebecca said...

Good topic. I have a beloved older relative who is increasingly unwilling to part with anything for another reason: the things make her happy because they connect with memories. You see, she is beginning to experience some memory trouble.

Duchesse said...

metscan: Thanks for name of shade. One coat is great b/c wears so well.

Belva: Hoarding does work - at least initially- that's how it establishes itself.

Rebecca: Is there a quantity of one type of object? Otherwise, I'm not sure it is hoarding, just holding on, at a most difficult time of life.

lagatta à montréal said...

I really wanted to post on this topic - couldn't do so because only Google and Open Id were available, which I certainly understand in light of the vicious comments out of the blue recently.

I worked for years in a community association, and finding a solution for tenants who were ageing and beginning to hoard was always a serious problem - we obviously didn't want to see these people evicted as that would lead to a perhaps fatal downward spiral, but the landlord and other tenants or neighbours also had the right to enforce fire and hygiene codes.

One fellow hoarded everything, even his balcony was weighted down with stuff including an artificial Christmas tree (this was in the summer). The firefighters were inspecting for hazards in our densely-populated, hundred-year-old district and raised a signal.

We have a much younger friend, not quite 40, who also exhibited severe hoarding behaviour. At one point we couldn't visit him at home - he just had very narrow little "tunnels" between the boxes in his corridors and rooms, and it smelt stuffy, although he is a scrupulously clean person. An intervention prevented both his eviction and possible harm to neighbours - in this case I won't even say to the landlord as unfortunately he is neglecting his property.

I'm nothing like that but income insecurity certainly makes it hard for me to toss things I'll probably never use, though I force myself to do so several times a year. I had a nightmare a few weeks ago when fire trucks were going by, about losing everything in a fire except myself and my cat, and not being able to properly dress myself, having to wear hideous boxy castoffs that made people turn away from me in disgust. (Beautiful elegant cat doesn't have that problem).

This could be an opening to a book, Duchesse. Even people who have a modicum of financial security can be carrying a hungry past on their shoulders.

The verification word is "weare"!

Vildy said...

for Rebecca,

The memory is in the person and not the object. If the memory were not already in the person, the object could not cue the memory. However, it is a cue and the important point is why does the person feel the pressing need to remember everything. It may then help for the elderly person to be able to have sessions with a younger generation person where the memories cued by the objects are transmitted and the responsibility somewhat discharged.

Duchesse said...

lagatta: I don't have the knowledge to can't comment on the disorders for which hoarding is a symptom, though know they exist. Have often reflected on how cats, in their gorgeous fur coats, are lucky.

vildy: Your comments made me realize I too hang onto sentimental objects like old theatre stubs or cards. Wonder when retaining objects edges into hoarding?

Vildy said...

(1) the accumulation and failure to discard a large number of possessions
that appear to most people [non-hoarders] to be useless or of limited value,

(2) extensive clutter in living spaces that precludes activities for which
the rooms were designed, and

(3) significant distress or impairment in functioning caused by the hoarding.

* Frost, R.O.; Hartl, T.L., "A cognitive-behavioral model of compulsive hoarding" Behavior Research and Therapy (1996)

BUT, Frost himself points out that most everyone has plenty of stuff that appears to *other* folks as useless or worthless and to be considered hoarding you have to have the other 2 features as well.

lagatta à montréal said...

I'm not a psychologist; I've only read up on pathological hoarding because of having to deal with the immediate problems faced by people afflicted by the syndrome. Here is a sad story from BBC News: http://tinyurl.com/bbc-hoarding-story

Since these cases were referred to our local CLSC (Community Health and Social Services Centre) they also have access to doctors and psychologists who may be able to help the people.

But I'm a book hoarder, and paring down the library is very difficult and painful indeed. Everyone who helped our friend got rid of a lot of clutter in their own dwellings during and after the process.

Cats are lucky indeed. Mine is a sleek black cat with white toes, whiskers and a v: a thinner Bustopher Jones - the Cat About Town...

Duchesse said...

vildy: Thanks! Mighty relieved to read your last para.

lagatta: Book hoarding is hardly ever preceived as hoarding even by someone other than the hoarder, as books are considered much more edifying than mere "stuff". One day, hope to add a black cat to the family, white toes are special.

Anjela's Day said...

Great posting!
Today I read on the BBC site that a woman was found buried in her house under her clothes.The police had been there several times searching for her but had failed to find her body.She was a shopaholic and had clothes from floor to ceiling!With all due respect for the dead-When they can't find your body you know you've gone too far with the hoarding of clothes.
My friend's mother hoarded so many things that seven years after her mother's death she (my friend) is still clearing out the house- the garage-the attic- the guest house on the property. She also stockpiled money and surprisingly left a fortune to a baffled family who thought she was without much funds. Seems she played the stock market with her grocery money!
I don't hoard anything.I believe it comes from a childhood of packing and unpacking and if it couldn't fit in the suitcase it wasn't coming with me- hence a lifetime of leaving things behind. I guess unlike the rest of my family who have oodles of money I spend as I earn.I keep nothing. I live for the day.
Now my family of origin may be worried that one day I will be calling the frugal ones for a hand out......lol

diverchic said...

My DH, a physician psychotherapist, reports that hoarding is essentially OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, and is extremely hard to treat, as Lagatta discovered. Seems the most effective treatment is when the therapist actually goes into the home of the afflicted.

Me, I hoard/have a collection of scarves, lipsticks and purple pens.
Not bad enough to require therapy in the home, however.