The Frugal Hoarder Dilemma

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Are you a hoarder?  I kind of am.

One good thing about working on this blog is it has caused me to be a little more aware of myself.  Because I am putting thoughts down on “paper” I think through them a little bit more.  Just about any well rounded mindfulness strategy probably includes writing.  It also has made me want to tackle some things that I would rather just keep putting off.  One of those things is “my hoard.”

I have a really really hard time getting rid of stuff.  It got even worse when we moved to a rural location.

My main shopping source for non food items has been thrift stores for years.  Where we have moved there are very few thrift stores.  And the closest is about 40 minutes away.  PLUS there isn’t a very good selection since it’s still in a small town.

These things have contributed (even more) to my tendency to be a hoarder.  I think it’s partly a frugality issue.  The things I have that I am not using still could be used.  And, what if I get rid of it something and then need to get it again?  It’s not like I have another thrift store nearby to just go find it again (not to mention spend on it again, even if it was at thrift store prices).

I’m to the point with certain clothing items where I am actually relieved when I bend over and, for example, the seam splits.  Thank goodness, “I can finally get rid of it” (guilt free).  And I continue to bring things in here and there as I find them… but usually that doesn’t mean that something leaves.

I think I’ve already mentioned that I live in a pretty small house (by my standards).  It’s under 1100 square feet.  It was a trade off decision when searching for a house that we could afford and plan to pay off early (which we did, in less than 2 years after purchase).  I would have liked a bigger house, but I wasn’t willing to spend more on something just to house all our STUFF.  I am not that bad of a hoarder.  Or maybe I did it to keep us in check too.  My favorite thing to tell my husband when I can tell he’s considering a purchase now is “and where is that going to go?”

All the outside stuff and “man” stuff goes out into the garage or the garage sized shop, or the attic above that shop.  So I’m not even talking about a lifetime of accumulation from my tradesman husband.  My tactic for dealing with this stuff is to pretend I don’t see it.  Or, not my space, not my problem.  We’re just concerned with general household stuff here.

It got even worse once we had the baby.  Our spare bedroom for guests turned into the child’s room.  He still sleeps with us, but he does have his own space.  That meant that my small office/library room has turned into the catch all for everything in the house that doesn’t fit somewhere.

Having a baby did make us work to declutter a lot of things.  We like to collect. We both (my husband even more so than me) associate things with various memories.  We’re not hoarders, we’re memory collectors.  Plus we like cool stuff.  And years of thrift store shopping has left us with a lot of cool items (a bunch of which we sold for basically a wash at a local antique mall last summer.. another story on that some time).

Some of those things got shoved into boxes and into the attic.  I’ll have to deal with that someday.  Some got sold for a little money.  Some got shoved in to the office.  And now, anything new that comes in also seems to go into the office.

Granted we got creative with some of the storage in the house.  But there are only so many types of things that are practical to store away.  Boxes of antiques in my closet?  No. It’s got to go.

Thinking on things more, as I’ve been doing as I take to the time to write, has really had me trying to consider how much the stuff I’m holding on to might be holding me back.  Is the stress of looking at another pile of stuff I don’t really have a place for worth keeping it on the off chance I might need it again?

I don’t have a straight answer for that.  It depends on the items.  It’s also been an exercise in coming to terms with what I should do or want to do and what I WILL do.  This has to do with why we got the antique booth.  The stuff needed to go and no one was willing to take the time and effort to deal with ebay for it.  The stress and anxiety of the stuff was not worth the potential money I might have made selling it in a smarter way.

I’ve been trying to do the same thing with clothes.  I lost quite a bit of weight after baby.  About 20 pounds more than what I weighed before I got pregnant.  Because I’m a bit of a hoarder, I haven’t had to buy many new clothes because I still have items of clothing I was wearing in high school to wear with my weight loss.

But, what about the stuff from when I weighed more?  There’s still a good chance I could gain the weight back.  Is holding on to those clothes giving me an excuse to put the weight back on?  I really don’t want to have to buy a new wardrobe if I gain all the weight back.

So I am working on it bit by bit.  I eliminated two coats from my closet today that are not good enough to resell and I haven’t worn in over two years.  I’ve had both of them since I was 18 or younger.  That’s crazy!  This is a milestone for me.  They are still useful.  They represent periods of my life that are long gone.  I am going to let them go anyway.

I went through skirts and dresses that don’t fit me and tried to decide if I would buy it again if it did fit.  If the answer was no I set it aside.  I put these things in a bag to take to a Buffalo Exchange (buys and sells new and used clothing) on our next visit to to the city that has one – which happens about twice a year.  This is a way I am ok to part with the stuff.  I have to at least try and sell it.  When I lived somewhere with used clothing buying store I was able to fight my hoarder instincts by regularly selling items I wasn’t wearing any longer.

Big question is what to do with some of my nice vintage items or real fur coats etc.  If I could sell them for what I know they are worth, I would be fine to part with them.  I’m not using them any more.  I like them, but, where I live now and or at this point in life they are no longer of service to me except to take up space and cause me stress.  I know this, but for now they are still going back into the closet until I come up with a strategy for how I want to sell them.

And, I’m just talking about clothes here.  Clothes are not the only thing I’ve got way too much of or have sitting aside that I haven’t used in years and is just taking up space.  But, one thing at a time I guess.


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Regina is That Frugal Pharmacist. She’s a PharmD, mother to a son with cancer, breadwinning wife, personal finance enthusiast, artist, writer, and entrepreneur. Regina’s single-income household has been debt-free, including her home, since she was 28 years old.
Her money approach is “holistic financial health.” She encourages mindful spending, awareness of the non-monetary costs of choices, and aligning personal values with money habits. Regina sees a frugal lifestyle and mindset as an important part of environmental stewardship. As such she’s interested in ongoing efforts towards self-sufficiency and sustainability.

2 thoughts on “The Frugal Hoarder Dilemma”

  1. My entire family are hoarders. Cleaning out my grandparents-parents home (same home) was a nightmare. We found rationing stamps from WWII and tax returns from the 1950’s. Aunt’s house even worse, saved no end of unused or useless crap. And my brother’s garage is junkyard haven.

    I’m getting ready to move so having to squarely face my own hoarding. Not easy as I’m always thinking I might need that. But must downsize, and really most of what I have is useless junk I should have ditched years ago because it just sat there for years collecting dust.

    1. I’d argue that those hoarders have some valuable junk perhaps? It’s still a nightmare for the family though (hello estate sales!!). I’m really blowing things out of proprotion calling us hoarders. I’m really not that bad, but the tendencies are there. I know I would never be one of those nasty can collecting hoarders, but, I could see how you could end up with mounds of valuable items you can’t let go of because you know the value. I have a few friends like this… and every once in a while they open up a new storage unit to reclaim some living space. This means they have multiple storage units of things they never get to appreciate or use and they are paying for the coast of storage. It’s a shame.

      One of our commitments when we purchased a home was no more storage units. We kept the storage units because of things that we thought we might eventually use in a home. So if it didn’t fit, it needs to go. Mostly that has meant that it went up to the attic.. and I’m trying to get my husband to get rid of some of those things, but at least we’re not paying for storage.

      We got rid of a lot when we moved. So good luck there. It really helps to make you get rid of some things and can be quite therapeutic!

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