Homesteading – and Hoarding

A well-organized pantry - not a hoard!

I’ve said before that I may be the pathological opposite of a hoarder, that I will get rid of good things just because they are taking up space.

People hoard for  a number of  reasons, but I think the main one is that they are planning a life they don’t have yet. They may never have it. Hoarding may actually prevent that life from happening as they get trapped in acquisitions, crippling debt and loss of quality of life. Some hoarding cases I have known: Animal hoarders who tried to rescue abandoned or lost animals, and end up starving them because theycouldn’t afford proper food and care; a woman who bought furniture, decorative items, dishes, clothes and jewelry suitable for a duchess living in a palace when she, a retired school teacher, lived in a tiny four room apartment; a man and his son who were recyclers but never sold anything to be recycled and let it pile up on a five acre property worth in itself a million dollars; and homesteaders whose house sites were piled with lumber, sheds full of old magazines and hardware, and decrepit refrigerators and cars.

Would-be and new homesteaders can be tempted into hoarding. The one really good piece of advice I got years ago about preparing to homestead was not to buy anything for the homestead until you had all the money saved to buy the homestead. In other words, don’t tie up your earned capital in stuff.

That, though, is not what hoarding is about. We can all make some mistakes in judgment when it comes to a new endeavour – I bought a used scythe instead of a new one, which made cutting the long grass too much of a chore, for instance – but I didn’t buy every used scythe I came across. Hoarding is about living in the future,  instead of trusting God to provide for our well-being. It can be about living in the past, when we cannot forgive someone else or ourselves, and we keep going back to the scene of the pain.

I think it is why we need to look carefully and prayerfully at why we want to homestead. Is it to serve God? There can be no other, better reason. We can be serving God in homesteading by living simply so as to leave resources for others, to improve and guard our God-given health, to provide our communities with healthy food, to raise our children separated from the world. But serving God is the core reason.

Have you ever known a history buff who was, well – obsessed? I was the curator of a historic museum in a small town. It was a wonderful job, except for the obsessive founder. He was a champion hoarder. He filled houses, and after I had de-ascensioned some trash he had left at the museum because he had no room for it, he was quite irate with me. It was part of my job to get rid of items that were inappropriate for the collection, and he was the reason. I stood up to him and sent him home with a couple of suitcases of his possessions he had left in the supplies closet.

Homesteading can be an excuse for the same kind of behaviour. You meet these people at country auctions, garage sales, barn sales, thrift stores. They are buying up anything old and potentially useful, at least potentially useful if they can fix it. Some day, they will need that lathe, hayfork, oil lamp sans globe, double boiler, auger, or fence wire stretcher. They can’t use it yet, haven’t bought the land, built the house, found the right stock…

The garage, basement and a new shed get filled. They stack things behind the house. They rent a storage unit or old barn. They have dozens, sometimes hundreds of books on homesteading. Yet they haven’t even planted a garden because there is no room, what with the three parts trucks and the old van in the yard.

They can describe that perfect homestead, how the house will look, how they want the lay of the land, what livestock they will get and what crops to plant. They live in that dream, and reality is ignored. The reality is that they may attempt to live their dream, and fail. Better never to start, than to be a failure.

I don’t mean those of us with delayed dreams – circumstances and finances may prevent us from moving along when we want to. We can contribute to realizing the goals of others with our knowledge and visions.

I mean those whose dreams have become a castle in the air. This is a serious condition. It will make the sufferer miserable, as they try every way but the right one to alleviate their anxiety and pain. It will make the sufferer’s loved ones miserable, as they are controlled by the person’s habits and hoarding.

Hoarders need to control, because they feel they have no control over circumstances. They have received a big shock at some time and felt helpless. They can control things, they can control people, but it is in a passive, manipulative way. They may feel superior to others by spending a lot of money, or “being prepared” for an imagined event or crisis that never happens. (Or if it does, they aren’t truly prepared because the items hoarded are no longer useful, or are inaccessible because of disorganization.)

I’m trying to approach this sensitive topic with an attempt at understanding the problem; I’m not condemning those who have fallen into this illness. But I also believe that we all need to be cautious about avoiding the syndrome. If we have a tendency to “save for a rainy day” anything that would otherwise be trash, then a sudden trauma could push anyone of us over the edge into a pathology. I am sympathetic to those suffering under this illness. It is as potentially damaging to happiness and health as a substance addiction.


12 thoughts on “Homesteading – and Hoarding

  1. excellent post, thank you, and you are soooo right about hoarding being very hard on the hoarder’s loved ones, who have to live with it, be unhappy over it, try to deal with it, and figure out what to do with it after the hoarder dies without having used it all….

    • We all want our loved ones to be comfortable with us, and remember us with love and respect. I’d hate to think the last thing my children thought about me was that I had no consideration for their happiness.

  2. I think that there are those who genuinely suffer from hoarding. My daughter in law for example.

    There are also those who desire to store a 72 hour kit with food water and clothing (to get them through a disaster until FEMA can help); only one year of food and supplies and other emergency supplies.

    We have used our food storage to get through small emergencies like needed automobile repairs. Our emergency heater was used for several days when our furnace died and we had below zero wind chills during the day. It also gets used when the power is out. We have candles and a couple of oil lamps for those times since we live in an outlying tiny community getting electricity back on can sometimes take a day or two. There are those who believe that this preparedness is hoarding. We feel that it is good stewardship of what Heavenly Father has given us.

    It can be a fine line between hoarding and being prepared. Sometimes it depends on the personal view of the beholder.

    • I believe in being prepared, in grocery shopping in bulk, and in being as self-sufficient as possible. BUT if you need to buy storage (sheds, garage, wall o’cabinets) at high expense, then you are throwing good moeny after bad. And not saving a single penny on your bargains.

      I agree, having a year’s worth of food plus what you can grow yourself will save the big bucks if you store it properly. Your kitchen arrangement sounds great. We are planning to buld an island for food storage and prep.

  3. Very good post. I no longer go to garage sales, as I would come home with items we didn’t really need. I only go to the thrift store if I am specifically in need of something, rather than popping in everyweek and oftentimes purchasing items I really didn’t need. Believe it or not I have survived quite well avoiding garage sales, and visting the thrift store only a couple of times a year. Sometimes it is best to purchase a good quality new item that will last and serve you well. The best way to avoid accumulating a lot of unnessecary items is to stay out of the store, and when you do need to go to the store take a list and stick to it. This includes grocery shopping, it is easy to be tempted and suddenly the 10 items you NEEDED are in your basket along with items you had no idea you needed when you left for the store 🙂

    Another tip is if you have a hankering to purchase something, research it well, find out the best price for the item, and then save the money to purchase it. It is funny how sometimes a item can seem like the best idea in the world one day, but if you wait and think about it you realize you do not need it at all – better to think about it and realize you don’t need it than buy it, use it like crazy for a few days, then it ends up on the shelf gathering dust – or worse drastically marked down and in your next garage sale!!

    • I don’t bid on eBay until I have gone back to the same item several times. So far, I haven’t lost out on anything I regret. And you are so right – stay out of the stores – the mall – the big neighborhood garage sale – and you simply can’t buy junk you don’t need. Another hint is to stay out of the big supermarkets that sell everything from produce to blankets. Shop in the smallest store that offers what you need at decent prices.

  4. But…but….mine is all GOOD STUFF!

    And since I’m the only child of older parents who lived through the Great Depression I come by it honestly!

    And someday I’m gonna need it all!
    Honest injun.
    Okayokay. I can get rid of some of it.

    Great post!


    • If you want your kids to remember you fondly after you are gone (or when you’ve gone to the nursing home) don’t burden them with a house full of junk to clean out. There, I said it.

  5. I try to shop once a month, we raise a garden and I preserve a lot, Chickens provide eggs and some meat. The trucks are both 15 years old and Hubby tends to the repairs, most of our buildings on the place are built with recycled free lumber or lumber from trees on the property we have cut and had milled on shares. Yes there are two generators, an extra heater, but learned from having NO power for weeks after a storm that some things are more important than others. And the girls know who gets the quilt stash, I guess it will be OK.

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