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.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Who needs 20 bottles of rubbing alcohol?

I've been thinking. When does stocking up become hoarding?

When our youngest was little, she had severe GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). The poor little thing couldn't keep a thing down. She was missing her esophageal sphincter, so everything that went in came back out. She was sent in for a barium swallow study, where they put radioactive dye in a liquid that is to be consumed while being x-rayed, to see if the swallow mechanism worked. Because her swallow was fine, and she didn't reflux during the testing, she went undiagnosed for several years.

She eventually had surgery to repair her esophagus, called a "Nissan", or a "fundoplication" 4 months before her 4th birthday. The doctors made her a new sphincter by wrapping her stomach around her esophagus, and she was finally able to keep things down. I
n spite of weighing 8#1oz at birth, and daily drinking 10-12 bottles of a soy-based, high calorie drink called "Resource For Kids", she only weighed 21 pounds. She could not sit up on her own, and in fact needed pillows to keep her in a sitting position for any length of time over 5 minutes or so.

On good days, I washed 6-8 loads of laundry that consisted of 2 sets of each of the following: crib bedding, baby blankets and pajamas (12 to 16 changes of bedding) Every. Single. Day. When she was sick with a stomach bug, I often did 10-12 loads (20 to 24 changes of bedding) a day that consisted of just her things. Needless to say, we had several sets of crib bedding for her. She had 4 mattress protectors, 8 sets of sheets, and about a dozen baby blankets as well as numerous sets of pajamas.

Every time I'd take her grocery shopping, it seemed she ended up in the hospital, even though I used baby wipes to wipe down the shopping cart and I did my best to keep her away from the public. She was just incredibly fragile medically. As a result, I knew it was critical to keep her toys and her crib as clean as possible.

I knew that the toys I washed in the sink with soap and a little bit of bleach were fine, because I could rinse them off, but a lot of her toys couldn't be submersed in water, and they still needed disinfected. I ended up using rubbing alcohol, because I knew it was safe enough to use to sterilize thermometers between kids when we were growing up, and it dried quickly, so it didn't seem to be that harsh on the crib.

I went through at least a bottle every couple months. It depended on how sick she was. When I could find it on sale, I'd buy 4 bottles or so, and I'd look for another sale when my stash got low. When she was about 21/2, I found it on sale for 10 cents a bottle when a local drug store did a grand opening sale. I bought 20 of them. I figured I couldn't beat the price, and I'd use it anyway.

After she had her surgery, I no longer had the problem of non-stop loads of crib bedding. I also didn't need to use quite as much of the rubbing alcohol to clean her toys, but I hung onto it. We only had about 6 bottles of it left by the time she started walking when she was 7. Fast forward 9 years. We finally used up the last bottle several months ago and replaced it.

I don't think that I was hoarding the rubbing alcohol. Every single bit of it was used up, and it saved us money when we were broke. It didn't take up a lot of room to store, and I always knew exactly where it was. It had a place. It was used.

Over the years, I've stocked up on everything from notebooks to canned goods to toilet paper and paper towels. But we've used every bit of it. Well. Except the notebooks and theme paper. But they're such a cheap play date for the girls when I get them clearanced after school starts for a nickel each. So I do still have a bit of a stockpile of them, but we do use them. And I haven't added to the stockpile for a few years.

So that brings me back to the question: When does stocking up become hoarding?

This is what comes to mind when I ponder the question:

If a person uses those things which they stockpile, and the things don't go to waste, it's just stocking up. However, if things go to waste, if they're never used, if they are purchased for future projects that have less than a 50% chance of ever being completed, or if they're bought in such quantity that you won't be able to use it completely up in your lifetime, then it qualifies as hoarding. In my opinion it also qualifies as hoarding, if you have no place for it, or it costs to store it.

What defines stocking up vs hoarding in your mind?


  1. hmm I've never thought of the difference.

  2. I think you answered it.If you are using it ,andit has no expiry date,and is consumable a reasonable stockpile is OK (esp if you have room to store it . 20 bottles at first seems extreme ,but at .10 cents a bottle I would hgave been right thare buying it too esp when you were using it so steady , after all case lot sales are there to sock up wouldn't that have been about 12-20 bottles?

  3. I think you nailed it right there. I've been known to stock up too, especially at a good price. And what you can always do is give it away if you have no use for it anymore. Give it to someone who will. I consider a good deal a gift from God, and I shall just pay that forward if I can.

  4. I totally agree as long as its something you will use it is just stocking up.


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