Sisters Talking On. . .Coronavirus Conundrum– Hoarding vs. Reasonable Stockpiling

Point for Discussion:

We, like most of you, have been spending most of our time at home for the past six weeks or so.  We are learning quite a bit about ourselves and our relationships while we self-isolate.  When we get past this, we may find we are different people than we thought we were and we could very likely be forever changed.

Our Points of View:

(Lynn)

Today, I became a hoarder.  At least by my standards.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, maybe even a bit before, I was preparing to be quarantined or self-isolated for for a couple of weeks.  I made sure we had what we needed in the house so that we could live comfortably for a little longer than two weeks. There was no doubt we were headed to an extended lockdown.

Talking to family, we were all concerned but not overly so.  Seems like that was just us.  Unbeknownst to us, there was a run on critical supplies at the stores.  People were mobbing the markets, stocking up on all sorts of things like disinfecting cleaners and wipes, soaps, hand sanitizers, paper towels and toilet paper.   All of a sudden store shelves were empty.  I was comfortable with the supplies we had so I just watched in awe of my neighbors over reaction to the situation.

At least, I felt that way until I gave some away.  Our brother was running short on TP so I offered him some of ours.  We hadn’t overbought, but we had plenty to get by for a month or more if necessary.   After I dropped it off at his house, the President extended the “stay home to slow the spread and flatten the curve” order until the end of April.  New cases continued to increase in the US, and it remained unclear how long this would go on. So it started as a tickle in the back of my mind, will I have enough?

I have been going to the grocery every week to get fresh fruit and veggies and whatever else we needed to fill in with the pantry staples we had.  I was shocked to see that all paper products were sold out.  Literally nothing was left.  So now, I started to get worried.  On top of that, it was reported that demand for bleach and hand sanitizers was up over 450% versus last year and it would likely be July before the supply chain was replenished. Yikes!  On top of that, toilet paper consumption was up 112% versus last year.

So after giving away some of my now prized stash, I started to think that maybe we didn’t have enough!  But now my supply of paper towels was running low.  I suppose I could stop housecleaning and then I could get by with what I had, but when would I find paper products again?  Something we had always taken for granted was no longer a given.  And if bleach wasn’t going to be available until July, how long would paper products take?

We are taking the stay at home orders seriously and have only left the house for “essential” errands.  We do not want to get sick and are taking as many precautions as we can to stay safe so driving from store to store is not something we are willing to do.  Laurie has tried a couple of different places to find supplies and as she reported in our last blog, she is getting creative to make supplies last.  We have been fortunate, starting early, to find disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer before the stay at home orders were issued.  But like everyone else, our supply of paper products felt lower than it probably was.

National Geographic has taken up the subject and I read an article last week that discussed the evolution of our bathroom hygiene habits throughout history.  I had always assumed that a washcloth could be helpful and they are washable and reusable so, no problem. Well, from what I read in this article, the best method, short of a bidet, was a stick with cloth attached.  I consider this to be brilliant, especially if in older age, it’s harder to move to complete certain tasks.  If you can find the article, it’s an interesting read.

But we do not want to do that.  We are Americans living a pretty cushy life. So we needed to start thinking about TP supplies.  Our fur baby is a cat and we were running low on cat litter too.  We don’t get that at our local market, but rather at a warehouse club.  We tried for two days to get a curbside pickup appointment before deciding to take the risk and just go get what we needed.  So off we went.

The club was not as crowded as usual but far busier than our local supermarket has been.  As soon as we walked in the door, wearing masks and keeping our distance from others, we saw carts with both paper towels and TP.  Bulk sized packages that could last us for MONTHS!  We started by getting what we had on our list, which did not include paper products, but the draw was irresistible!  We had to get some if there was anything left. Who had we become?

We found this stuff in the back of the warehouse.  The supply was larger than we expected so we felt we could grab one of each without guilt.  And we did.  Now we have enough of both that we won’t need to even think about it for at least four or five months!

On the way home, I started to feel like maybe we shouldn’t have done that.  My definition of hoarding is having more stuff than places to put it and I was sure finding a place to store this was going to be a problem.  It’s a good thing we can’t have houseguests right now.  The only place we could find to tuck it away is the bathtub in our guest room, hidden behind the shower curtain.

Today, I became a hoarder.

 

(Laurie)

Lynn has brought up an important topic that I am also hearing a lot about and experiencing myself to some degree.  While we are all following the guidelines of staying home except for essentials, staying safe as best we can, and staying in touch whether by Zoom or other means, we are also changing what our “normal” behavior has been in terms of household supplies – what we buy, how much we buy (how much we can buy), how we search for it, how we use it (and now re-use it), and where we creatively store it.

  • About a week or two before the shelter-in-place order, Spring was on the horizon, and Home Depot had put out their disinfecting wipe multi-packs. I’m glad we picked one up.  But now we must make them last, so we are rinsing them, drying them, and re-using them.  That said, if we see a package of disinfecting wipes at a store, we may have to buy one and an extra (or 2).

 

  • And I would never have considered pink grapefruit luxury foaming hand soap – but it was all I could find, and I had to buy a 6-pack. (I didn’t know soap could be so soft – it makes me want to wash my hands!)

 

  • I must say that another item I have been “hoarding” is granola bars – of all shapes and sizes. It’s a shelf-stable food that can be eaten for any meal :-).  Who knew?

 

  • Back in February, I ordered a small box of face masks. I have still not received them, and it’s ok.  I hope they were re-directed to the hospital heroes.

 

Most of us have seen the “out of stock” and “not available” overlays on products shown online – in addition to the empty shelves.  So when we find them available (like the 60 pack of commercial Cottonelle Toilet Paper I just found), we must act!  This big box now sits in a “hidden” space in a bedroom – a “secret” corner of the room, hidden from view that I never thought about needing.  And, bonus!  It’s 2-ply, so we are saving rollers to “split plys” to double our supply.

As a researcher, I’m used to looking for input, opinions, answers to questions, and asking how people feel.  And I shop online quite a bit under normal conditions.  This should be a winning combination of master sleuthing.  I’m researching where to find essential supplies in new and creative ways, thinking that I’m going through some “backdoor” options, but nope!  Also sold out. 

If we are lucky enough to find coveted cleaning supplies, personal hygiene supplies and paper goods on the shelf, while we may feel compelled to buy more than usual, we are asking ourselves – do we need more, or should we leave it for someone else?

So in addition to the physical need, there is now a psychological need for these products when they become available and an emotional guilt if and when we buy them.  Add to this the uncertainty of when society will open back up for business, and it’s a recipe for the “inner-hoarder” in all of us to emerge – and then feel bad about it.  Disinfecting spray?  I gotta have it – lots of it (I don’t have any)!

Once we do get back to our new normal, it will be interesting to see how long this behavior stays with us.  Maybe, the new normal will also reflect a shift in products being manufactured (e.g., a renewed appreciation for disinfecting spray, so they’ll make more and make multi-packs, more 1-ply toilet paper rather than 2-ply), a limit to how many a household can purchase, and possibly an increase in price (though I hope not).  Supply and demand, you know.  And we are all becoming more demanding 🙂.

 

Our Question for you

Have you discovered something about yourself that surprises you?  What is your number 1 item that you are “hoarding” during this coronavirus period?

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