Friday, September 24, 2010

My Favorite Hoarder, or How Not to Stock a Pantry

One of my favorite shows is A&E's Hoarders. I know they have problems and you may argue it is wrong of me to be so voyeuristic with the mentally damaged, but I cannot look away. Mind you, I watch as I do laundry, dust, or de-clutter. It is difficult to just sit and watch unless you tidy up a bit at the same time. Just try it, I bet you can't. As I watch, I look around and see in my own home a pile of laundry that needs to be washed immediately, an overflowing box of newspaper that has to be taken to the car for recycling the next day, or at the very least a smudge on a mirror.

I re-watched my all time favorite the other day. Jill had an entire house stuffed full of expired and rotting food. She held onto a bookcase full of boxes of chicken broth that had expired three years previously. She said it wasn't bad yet because it wasn't puffy. Not being puffy was the excuse she also used for wanting to hold onto the green meat in the freezer, and the eight month past the date yogurt in the refrigerator. At one time the woman had gone through a period when she was poor and hungry. This affected her deeply and she reached a point where she bargain shopped for food, bought way more than she could possibly use, and stored it everywhere.

My favorite scene was when the man in the hazmat suit was shoveling a blackened rotting pumpkin off her living room floor and she stopped him. She said it had been the most beautiful pumpkin ever when it was alive, then she plunged her hand into the rotting goo to save a few seeds to plant. Wow!

With all this talk of stocking a pantry, it is important to purchase only items you would use anyway. Purchase the quantity of items you will be able to use before they expire. If you only eat canned tuna once or twice a year, don't bother to buy more than a few cans when they go on sale, and don't go overboard with perishables either. The point of having a pantry is to have good food available when you need it, not to buy it cheap and then throw it away.


  1. I discovered your blog a couple of weeks ago and have really enjoyed reading it. "Hoarders" seems to have that same effect on everyone I know -- we all have to jump up from the couch and go clean as fast as possible after watching it.

  2. You are so right. You can't turn away. I think it is a blessing we have no more TV.

    Mother Connie

  3. I haven't had a TV since March 2004 but while on vacation I watched a couple of episodes of "Hoarders" with my hostess. Sad, sad stuff. I hope those folks get the ongoing counseling they need.
    That said, I think that cramming your cupboard with loss-leader items is a good idea -- provided you make it your business to eat most or all of your meals at home. I once bought more than 30 cans of tuna when the price was 33 cents. It took me more than a year but I did use them all.
    Ditto with organic canned tomatoes and tomato sauce: Thanks to a coupon and sale back in summer 2008, they were a quarter each. I had dozens of the things stashed. In fact, I'm finally using up the last few.
    Having a deep pantry is good for several reasons. You're paying less, obviously. You're in the stores less often, which cuts down on the possibility of impulse buys. And if you get laid off or suffer a seasonal slowdown in your job, your meals are all sitting there waiting.
    Of course this only works if you don't have a hoarding disorder. I don't think I do, but I'm keeping an eye on it -- which is why my current goal is to eat everything in the cupboards before adding new stuff. Irresistible loss leaders, such as canned fruit for a quarter or pasta for 9 cents, get stored in boxes in my bedroom until the cupboards are bare. I feel rich knowing that if push came to shove I could feed myself for many, many months on what I have (which includes 20 pounds of rice and 30 pounds of dried pinto beans).
    Incidentally, the topic of my upcoming (Sept. 29) "Living With Less" column on MSN Money is about getting rid of television. The folks I interviewed said they spend less because they're not bombarded with ads and product placement. They're also happier, more productive, and more involved with family and community.
    Some still do the occasional TV series viewing online, or through Netflix or the public library. On the whole, they're pretty much TV-free, and healthier *and* wealthier for it.

  4. Mackie, thanks for commenting. Hoarders is one reality show I can stand do watch. It's so fascinating!

  5. Connie, I've gone without tv before and loved it. Luckily I'm not addicted to it. I only watch two nights a week. :)

  6. Donna, :) buying non-perishable food in quantities you will use before they eventually expire is not hoarding. That episode was horrendous! There was rotting stuff piled everywhere in every room.

    I watch one hour of tv on Monday and two to three hours on Saturday, so I don't think I have a problem. However, my husband who is currently clicking away at the remote in the other room.......I'm going to make sure he reads your article too.

  7. Hi there, I saw this horrible episode of hoarders as well, I truly did feel sorry for the lady with all the rotten food. I am in total agreeance with you....It is a waste of money to buy more than you can eat or store within a decent amount of time, and such a waste of money to buy something only to turn around and throw it away...I have also come to the conclusion watching "Hoarders" if they would just have a yard sale, they could probably go on a Carribean vacation!!! I never have any problems cleaning my house after watching that show.

  8. De-ette, watching that show is a great motivation for cleaning!

  9. WP - I agree with you - I feel like cleaning when I watch Hoarders - just like I feel like exercising on the couple of times I've watched the Biggest Loser!

    My grandmother was a hoarder. She was born in 1908 and lived through the Great Depression - 2 room house with 12 children kind of childhood. We really have no idea nowadays what that was like. So she hoarded. She had a bottle of soda pop in her fridge for 17 years. And every time my mom and I would clean her freezer out of the freezer burned food, she would cry all day long. It's sort of a good thing (conserving) taken too far, and I think they need compassion most of all.

    Having been broke and living on $150/month myself for a period of time, I can understand the inner struggle and I admire their bravery for even signing up for the show and knowing they need help.

  10. Jacq, wow thanks for sharing. My parents were Depression children but neither became a hoarder. They stocked up when there was a sale, and my dad always had several jars of nails, nuts, bolts, and screws, but they never went that far. Although we did joke that if there was ever a nuclear emergency, and we survived people would be banging on our door for Dad's stock of toilet paper and Old Dutch Cleanser. I seem to remember a closet full of those two items at one time. Must have been quite a sale!

    I've met some hoarders near here but they are more slobbish than saving for a rainy day. They don't seem to be able to disconnect from the computer game to bathe, take the trash out, mow the lawn, or throw away any of their empty bottles, or pizza boxes. They don't even seem to notice the dog poop on the floor. It's really sad. It's a terrible way to live and it does take a lot of courage to seek help.