Tackling the Hoard

I didn’t even know there was a term for this.  Until my sister-in-law mentioned “goo hoarding” over a holiday dinner, I sort of felt like I had a personal problem.  I wasn’t ashamed of myself, but I had no idea how to describe “it”. When we moved into our home last July I became aware of a situation.  Once I recognized that this situation was an issue, I began dealing with it.  With no knowledge of my five-month-long project, my husband’s sister just mentioned this phenomena; I don’t even remember what was said to remind her of this.  Almost daily I had felt compelled to put this project into words, but something was missing: the words.  At last she said, “goo hoarding” and tiny sparks ignited in my brain and I felt honorable for combating this issue that concerned me.  I wasn’t just being frugal; I was tackling the hoard.

This “goo hoarding” refers to the piles, stacks, drawers, and boxes of lotions, shampoos, gels, and lip-balms we have stashed away.  All of them partially used, and each touting some unique quality over the others.  Really they aren’t so different.  The special stretch-mark-preventing lotion with shea butter is also effective on my legs after a shave.  So I started using what I had.

Then, like checking boxes on a to-do list, I started finishing the bottles I had. Throwing them away. Diminishing the hoard.

In March 2011, our possessions were packed up and placed into a storage unit in Hawaii (where we lived) while my husband spent a year deployed to Afghanistan.  My son and I shipped a car to the mainland and traveled up and down the East coast from my mother’s home in Florida to my in-laws’ home in Pennsylvania (and everywhere in between).  For fifteen months my “household goods” as the Army calls it were boxed up, so moving-in last July was a treasure hunt.  Well, on the one hand it was; on the other it was a little horrifying.

Now, every move gives me the feeling of I have too much stuff, but this time I didn’t just move it: I paid to store it! Magazines.  Economy-size bottles of hair conditioner.  Expired medicine.  Oh, believe me, I sorted on the front end.  I sold hundreds of dollars worth of items on Craigslist.  Sofas, grills, kayaks, baby toys all sold.  But somehow these boxes of bathroom items slipped past me.  They made the cut.

Somehow I looked at each object in these boxes and thought, “that will still be useful over a year from now.”

But did I spend the year in a vacuum?  No indeed.  I still bought things.  I had a truckload of stuff at my mother’s house, and another truckload at my mother-in-law’s.  Every truck load had one box devoted to toiletries, too.

So fast-forward to July, 2012, and I’m moving into my new house.  It was built around 1900, though, so this home doesn’t have “bathroom counters” or closets, shelves, cabinets, etc.  It has this tiny picture-frame called a medicine cabinet which isn’t deep enough for day-cream or tall enough for spray-gel.  I began to unpack just my over-night bag and the space was overflowing.

There were boxes, bags, and more boxes full of lotion, shampoo, bubble bath, makeup, and other products.  I had so many!  I put out the basics, more basics in the guest bath, and put the remainder in the hall-closet, and I whispered a promise to myself that I would use these next.

At least every month I’ve worked my way through bottles and tubes.  One lip balm I put by my bed I’m pretty sure was gift from 2005.  Ever since we’ve had a two-bath home in 2008 I’ve made my guest-bath a repository for shampoos and lotions about 1/3 full.  It felt like a justification; like I’m not throwing this away and buying something new, I’m offering it to my guests.  But the real truth is that I couldn’t bring myself to finish one thing before getting some new hot item (which requires avoiding Sephora and Ulta and drugstores and even the bright-lighted “personal care” section at Target).

So out of some unrelated conversation over the holidays my sister-in-law references Jenna Marbles whose recent YouTube video expresses her bewilderment at some of the things women do. The video is hilarious — though vulgar — but it had me exclaiming, Yes! YES!!  I’ve always loved hearing that I’m not alone in any plight, and this was no exception.

Perhaps even better than knowing my “girl problem” was not unique, I found out my very own dear husband had been on his own secret mission to tackle the hoard these same past five months.  At last we can talk openly about this.  He’s agreed to help me finish off some conditioner I really don’t like.  You’re probably doing this too, so here’s your permission to finish what you’ve started!

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