When I wrote about the rubbing alcohol the other day, I was haunted with memories of my former compulsive shopping self.
I can't describe the amount of stress I was in when our youngest was in the hospital over and over and over again when she was little. The stress level was only marginally better when she wasn't in the hospital, because the responsibility fell to me to do everything the nurses had done for her there. Including waking up from a dead sleep night after night for breathing treatments and laundry. I turned to Target for therapy.
I knew the layout of my favorite store quite well, and I only shopped the clearance endcaps. In many ways, it was my saving grace. I never paid more than $5 for brand new shoes for the girls. I never paid more than $10 for my own. I got brand new clothes for the girls at prices cheaper than the thrift stores, and they weren't worn, torn or stained.
I even bought NFL clothing like 'the coat' at the end of the season and sold them on eBay the following year for a nice little profit. I typically only bought items that were marked at least 75% off or more. If it was something the one of the girls really needed, I would go as high as 50% off, but that wasn't how I usually rolled. I think, if I'd pinched my pennies much harder they'd have bled. I'm a bargain shopper extraordinaire for sure.
Being such a gifted shopper can lead to big problems, though. I would often buy too many of one item, because at 90% off, 1 might be good, but surely 10 would be better. Right? I mean, do the math! I'd be getting 10 things for the price of one! How bad can it be to get 9 items free for every 1 item that you buy? Sounds good in theory. Not so good for someone who has hoarding issues.
I remember getting disappearing ink to put in a squirt gun for the neighborhood kids to use when our oldest was playing with them. I remember I paid a dime a piece for them, but the problem is that I think I still have them! Not all of them. Some were used. But after I brought them home and thought about it, I was concerned over the ink possibly staining the neighbor kids' clothes. I knew how expensive clothes could be, so I couldn't bring myself to pass them all out. Of course I lost the receipt, so I couldn't take them back, but I also have never given them away. They are currently tucked away with the belongings that had been in the basement when it flooded.
The clearance items that seemed to tug at me the most were things that would be fun for the kids. Things that would lighten the stress of having a very ill little girl. Things like St. Patrick's Day pinatas, board games to play with the kids, craft items I envisioned doing with the girls. All things that seemed like they'd be so much fun to do, but I never got around to doing them. I just had so much going on, but I somehow couldn't seem to let go of the dreams of having these happy moments together.
About 12 years ago, I woke up one day and realized that I had a problem with shopping. Seriously. It was that abrupt. I realized I was spending money on stuff that wasn't being used, and it was such a waste. I made a concentrated effort to stop. The tug is still there. The idea of spending fun time with the girls doing projects or playing games still nags at me when I see a great price on a toy or craft project.
When we unload the boxes upon boxes of games from the storage pod on our driveway, I will pare down the games to ones I feel the girls will have an interest in or will be realistically able to play. I'll be getting rid of a lot of them. It will be difficult. The craft items will be even harder to purge.
A part of me will be letting go of a dream.
Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder that is just beginning to be understood. As a hoarder, I have acquired things over the years with a specific purpose in mind at the time of the acquisition, used some of those items for their intended purposes, forgotten the goal for different objects, but now that I find that they have outlived their purpose in my life I am struggling to rid myself of those same things.
You can read the start of my journey here.