Prepper 101: Is Hoarding Wrong?

November 26, 2012 by

Empty Shelves
Some years ago I read on a survival website a note about a large solar flare heading our way.

Knowing the tremendous risks of an EMP, but not fully knowledgable about what kind of solar storms could cause the next Carrington Event, I became Chicken Little.

I literally ran off into the night - to the great consternation of my wife - to purchase as many last-minute supplies as my checking account could handle. I even brought along a backpack to carry some of the supplies home - just in case an EMP knocked out  my truck before I could get back.

The fact I'm writing this today proves I was quite wrong about the magnitude of that incident.

We've long-since eaten all the food from that late night rush to Walmart. I still retain some of the other supplies though which have also proven useful to have on hand at times. So it wasn't all a loss.

In truth, it was a great gain as I learned a valuable lesson about hoarding and preparedness that night.

What Is Hoarding?

Thanks to hoarding reality shows and news reports about bad behavior during and after emergencies, many have a negative view of hoarding. The word usually conjures up images of either:

  1. a mental disorder leading to heaping piles of junk cluttering your house to the point you can barely walk through it, or
  2. rushing to every store in town just before or during an emergency to get everything you can get your hands on before it's sold out.

Two different types of hoarding. One common element: fear.

Most would agree neither of these situations are desirable.

#2 certainly described me the night I became Chicken Little.

Why You Should Hoard

According to Merriam-Webster, to hoard is nothing more than to lay up a supply or fund, often hidden away. Which turns out to be a fairly accurate assessment of what most preppers do.

You'll notice the definition makes no mention of a mental disease, clutter or even fear.

An honest look at the world around us with even a cursory review of recent disasters shows it's prudent to set aside at least some food, water, medical supplies, and yes, even a means to defend what you have ahead of any crisis.

Some are content with only a basic 3-day or 7-day emergency kit set aside and little else.

I also know preppers who have a year or more of food stockpiled. Clothes, medical supplies, fuel, water purification systems, alternative power generators, heirloom seeds, manual tools, toilet paper, firearms and much more are carefully stowed away in their supply caches.

Either are better situated to handle a crisis than the family with an empty refrigerator and pantry who relies on a quick trip to the grocery store just to cook dinner every night. Or dumpster diving to feed their family after a crisis.

And they're not running around like Chicken Little. Instead, they're living the old Boy Scout motto:
Be Prepared.

I'm not exactly sure when that stopped being an acceptable practice in our country.

Still, there's a big difference between having a few days extra and stockpiling for a year or more of crisis living.

Which brings us to the crux of the question.

How Much Is Too Much?

I'm sure you see the wisdom in setting aside something for a rainy day. But where does it cross the line from preparedness to problematic hoarding?

The difference in level of preparation I see in most preppers usually boils down to three things:

  1. perceived threat level (what's the worst-case scenario you're preparing for?)
  2. available resources (a new solar panel isn't top priority when you're barely scraping by)
  3. social considerations (a skeptical spouse may rank #2 for lack of preparedness after ignorance)

In my Chicken Little moment I became a problematic hoarder driven by fear.

While I may have been the only hoarder at Walmart that night, the clear light and rational thought of the next day showed me I acted no differently than the thousands of unprepared people who clear the shelves before a snowstorm or hurricane. Not the prepared and steady individual ready to help my family, friends and community during and after a crisis that I want to be.

I discovered it's not how much one has that causes hoarding to be a problem. It's the motive behind it.

That night became the turning point for me to finally stop thinking about potential threats to be handled at the last minute with fear and instead start taking responsible action to prepare for them in advance.

And that night taught me a most valuable lesson about hoarding and prepping.

True prepping isn't fear. It isn't greed.

It's peace of mind.