This letter comes from Sheila S. from Weedsport, New York. It’s from May 2011. Her letter is in response to a previous question from another reader regarding stockpiling deodorant versus hoarding (included below).

She was so sweet and included a clipping of the original question in my column and she also shared a clipping of a list of what our soldiers can always use.


Original question
Dear Sara:

At what point does it become hoarding? I currently have enough deodorant to last for several years. It was all purchased on sale and with coupons. I started with 6 tubes that I paid 75 cents each for and then just last week added 10 more that were free after sales and coupons. This week I got four more (which usually runs $5.99 each) for 23 cents total. They are on sale 99 cents each and there was a $1.00 off each coupon a couple of weeks back that I still had (had to pay tax). I can get as many as five more for 25 cents each plus tax and am thinking about doing it, but would that be hoarding? So my question is, is the line between hoarding and stockpiling about your mindset or quantity? If I find myself buying more and more but not using any of the old, am I hoarding or just preparing for when I need the goods and they are no longer on sale. As a note, I only have this issue on things that I can get for 90 percent off or more. If it’s free or almost free I will get as many as I can. Am I a hoarder? — Joseph, North Carolina

Sheila’s response:
Dear Sara:

I have a suggestion for “Hoarder”. There are several men and women overseas that have use for some of her supplies. I am sending to you for her. Also send to  tornado victims. Hope I have been of some help.

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

My response:
Dear Joseph:

Stockpiling is a great way to shop and pay less for items that you’ll use in a reasonable amount of time. Have a plan and purpose for the items that you stockpile. If you can’t use it all, you should have a plan to donate it or give it to friends or family. Plenty of people would be happy to be gifted these types of items such as foster care organizations, shelter houses, human rights organizations, American Red Cross, etc.

Hoarding is compulsively buying without any plan to use items or even discard them. Hoarders hold onto the items and they stack up and cause issues and it impairs their day-to-day living.

When stockpiling, a person typically stocks between 3 to 12 months worth of items that they use on a regular basis. In most cases, the stockpile isn’t taking over their living space. It’s typically well organized on shelves, in a pantry or closet, in the freezer or in totes.

One difference between the two is the intent. Stockpiling can become hoarding for people that become addicted to getting things very low cost or free. Some people will buy simply to buy. You are on the border between the two because you are buying more than you can consume (and seems that you will likely continue to do so on free or low-cost products) and don’t mention any plan to share it or do anything with it before it goes bad. Whether you pay full price or a discounted price, it’s not a deal if you’re not going to use it. Rather than let it go bad, please donate these items.

Some might argue that there are products that can be stored a long time. Okay a toothbrush can be stored a long time without going bad, but just because you can get 500 toothbrushes for free, doesn’t mean you should. You shouldn’t clear shelves and not leave anything for anyone else.

To effectively stockpile, evaluate your needs for up to about 3-12 months, know your storage space, note the expiration dates on products, know how often an item goes on sale by watching sales cycles and buy enough to get you through to a future sale.
all start out somewhere. Meaning it usually starts out in a harmless way and balloons into a large-scale problem. I advocate frugality in terms of your priorities, goals, principles and values. What you’re sharing indicates that you suspect you’re not doing this. Visit and take the self-assessment and seek help if needed.

How much do you stockpile?