Take Stock of What You're Stocking

During our first session, a client explained what brought her to need my services. For a time, she felt she needed everything in arms reach but recently realized that she was stock piling stuff that she didn’t need to store in her home. It’s as if there were actual stores in her home. What was the point or necessity of this? 

She was ready to undo these accumulations, such as her office closet. She said she should let Staples do the job for her. Let them keep all the office supplies there until she needed them. It’s not as if she was going to have an office supply emergency.

There were many items in this closet that were unused. She bought them thinking she’d use them for an impending project, bought them on sale, or bought multiples when she only needed one. While she’s the type to collect things, she isn’t a wasteful person. Many items were previously used: folders from conferences she attended, old binders, and items she tried but no longer wanted. The results were a closet full of stuff that she (mostly) didn’t need. 

This is a common problem beyond office supplies. Stocking up on food can be an issue too. Sales and trying too many new items at once can lead to too much food in our homes. Tastes change and most food items have expiration dates. Even batteries expire and we often don’t need as many as we think we do. All of this exacerbates organizational challenges and makes us believe we need more space when we don’t. We think it’s harmless, or even helpful,  but it ends up being more wasteful than just taking in what we need and making those items easier to find. Avoiding stocking up minimizes those guilty moments when we stare at products we don’t want to use anymore but feel like we should. Or the guilt we have when throwing away expired or half-used bottles that no one else will want.

I spent two sessions working with a client to undo the stockpiling of beauty products in her second bathroom. Instead of buying one of a particular item, she’d buy two for convenience. But she wouldn’t have a chance to use it all up because her beauty regiment would change before she had the chance. She’d collect cool new products to try, freebies, and travel-sized bottles creating redundancies. Her situation is common. 

Some of this stockpiling even happens inadvertently. For example, we accept the dentist’s “goody bag” and find ourselves with more toothbrushes and floss than we may ever need. My sister once went through a post-dentist repository of toothbrushes to find over twenty just taking up space, despite her family using only electric brushes.

It’s not to say that wholesale stores like Costco can be great cost saving resources, especially for families. For items you’ve consistently used in the past or that you go through incredibly quickly, careful selection can allow for less shopping trips and lower bills for food and household items. The key is to be strategic, aware of your tendencies, and acknowledge that we change, both our preferences and life circumstances. We can’t predict the future and our purchasing should acknowledge this.

With the occasional exception aside, stock piling only furthers our need for space, increases disorganization, makes it more difficult to find what we need, promotes unnecessary spending, and causes wastefulness. Go through your stock piles now, donate what you no longer want, be aware of what you’re storing, and begin to change your stocking up habits.