Prepping Vs. Hoarding: What’s the Difference?

Have you ever had a friend or family member come to your home only to accidentally discover your food storage? Has anyone made the comment that you are a boarder-line hoarder? This past weekend my own husband (who is on board with our preparedness, mind you) accused me of turning into a hoarder when I told him I wanted to keep an empty egg carton instead of throwing it away. ME! The clean freak, who hates clutter and throws things away at the drop of a hat because it doesn’t “belong” there. Me, who literally gets anxious and has to change the channel if “Hoarders” comes on A&E. I’ve had nightmares about that show. *Shudder*

(By the way, there are TONS of uses for empty egg cartons, from seedling starters to homemade toddler toysto campfire starters, and the obvious home-raised backyard chicken egg holders.)

But regardless, the conversation got me thinking: Where do you draw the line when deciding whether you’re doing good to prepare for your family or you’re just hoarding junk that you don’t need?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Hoarding is actually a disorder in which someone collects things and possessions, and then has a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with them because of an intense internal need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences extreme anxiety at the thought of getting rid of their items, and thus, they accumulate stuff regardless of actual value. On the other hand, preparedness is defined as making yourself ready for some purpose, for something that you anticipate happening. VS.

To me, the difference between prepping and hoarding boils down to two simple principals: 1) The purpose of your “stuff,” and 2) Organization.Purpose

For me to keep something that others may deem as trash, I must see a legitimate purpose for that item down the road. For example, I like to keep containers of all materials, shapes, and sizes because I KNOW I’ll have something that needs organizing, and I can pull out one of my containers to put it in. Glass jars that once held artichoke hearts, plastic sour cream containers, some of the lunch meat “tupperware,” soup cans (can be used to make homemade candles), etc. I clean them out and keep them all together on a shelf near my food storage. I recently started throwing away my soup cans because I already have more than enough on hand to make a few dozen candles, and don’t need to save any more. There is no longer a purpose for storing more soup cans.

When it comes to food, I look at it like this: Store what you eat, and eat what you store. Don’t go buy 10 cases of canned beans at the store just because they’re on sale if your family doesn’t eat beans! If you already have 20 cans of stewed tomatoes at home, and you know you won’t get through all of them before they go rancid, don’t buy more! That being said, if you know you have that many cans of tomatoes that need to be used, maybe you should plan a few tomato dishes on your next menu so they don’t go to waste.

Which brings me to my next point…Organization

I’ll bet you’ve never seen an episode of hoarders where the hoarder has all of his/her used banana peels lined up on a shelf next to the jars of orange peels. No hoarder has any form of organization or tidiness in their sea of realistically un-needed stuff. There’s trash mixed with clean clothes mixed with dirty clothes mixed with dead rats and food sitting on top of a television that doesn’t work. *Shudder again*

Now, lets put this in perspective with prepping. How do you know that you have 20 cans of tomatoes that need to be eaten soon if you have no idea where those 20 cans of tomatoes are? Much less the expiration dates? If you have canned food scattered all over your house, in no organized form or fashion, you more than likely have several items that are spoiled or rotten and no longer have a purpose. You might have a few flashlights in the closet that don’t work or you don’t have batteries for because you forgot they were in there. THIS is boarder-line hoarding. True, it’s not the same, and not nearly as extreme, but you get my point! There must be some organization in your prepping so you’re able to use what you store, and so that you don’t store too much or too little of what you actually need.

I’m not saying you need all your preps in one room. Definitely go ahead and use all of the extra space you can find: The top of your closet, under the bed, in the corner behind the door, in a side table in the living room…. whatever you need, but you DO need to have a way to quickly and easily know what’s where and when you need to use it by.So How Do You Organize your Preps?

Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned throughout my short time prepping:

Utilize every inch of available space in your home to store your preps. Even if you don’t feel like you have a ton of space, there are several places in your home that can be used to hide your food storage in an organized fashion. It helps if you keep like-items together: Canned tomatoes in the top of the linen closet, veggies under the guest bed, Bug Out Bags in the hall closet… Don’t forget to utilize bed risers for extra space under your beds, and you can add an extra shelf to the top of closets for a few extra square feet of space. I’ve also heard of people making make-shift “side tables” out of 5 gallon buckets and a piece of plywood covered in a tablecloth. Clever and functional! haha , Get creative!

Make sure you’re storing food in an area that will allow the longest shelf life for your goods. An area with good temperature control, low light, and low humidity that is clean and free of critters is your best bet.

Can Rotation Racks! I don’t know what I would do without these! I have a few of the Harvest 72″ shelving units from Thrive Life and they have helped me save so much space! I can store at least twice the amount of canned goods using these shelves as I could using the flat, pantry style shelves that are most commonly used. I love that my oldest cans are displayed in the front while the newer ones go to the back of the rotation. You can also make your own rotating can racks out of cardboard or wood.

Along with the can rotation racks, keep track of expiration dates so you can rotate and re-stock your used items. I don’t go exactly by expiration dates, but they are a handy reminder that something might need to be eaten , You can do this with anything from a simple legal pad and pencil to an excel spreadsheet, to an app on your phone!The Preparedness Planner

Jennifer from Self Reliant School has created a FANTASTIC resource for you! Her Preparedness Planner helps your organize everything that I mentioned above plus much more! It allows you to track your food storage, water storage, Bug Out Bags, medical supplies, pet supplies…. I could go on! There are even add-ons for Essential Oils and your Firearms & Ammunition. Check it outHERE for more info.What About You?

Are you a border-line hoarder? or are your preps meticulously organized? What tools do you use to organize your preps?

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