Excessive buying influences hoarding

Column by Rachael Wylie. E-mail [email protected].

On my last visit to the Kroger on Richmond Road, I began to notice something interesting about some of the products that reside in this upscale, football-field-seized grocery store.

While picking up a carton of strawberries, I saw the “magic strawberry slicer and scooper” perched upon the edge of a cooler of berries that were just waiting to be severed and plucked by this “stain-resistant,” god-like kitchen appliance. This device was “guaranteed” to slice your strawberry up into “optimal sized” portions after scooping out the unwanted stem with what looked to be the equivalent of a small silver spoon.

After reviewing all the promises that this gadget offered, I couldn’t help but think of all the shows dedicated to the compulsion of hoarding in the past few years. Everyone wants to understand the mentality of a hoarder.

What drives them to collect all this useless garbage that they’ll never need?

I would argue that purchasing items such as the “magic strawberry slicer and scooper” is the first step to this disease of the mind.

While searching through the aisles of Kroger for more gadgets, I came upon some interesting finds: an avocado pitter and slicer (for those of us who frequently eat avocados), onion goggles (in case chemical warfare breaks out while you’re slicing a rather odorous onion), a spaghetti measure (for those of us who are fearful of overestimating our pasta portions) and an egg cuber (in case you’d prefer to eat a square shaped egg over an ovular one).

After finding these items, I began to wonder, what makes the affluent Americans who purchase these gadgets any more sane than the old woman on “Hoarders” who is covered up to her elbows in used Band-Aids? After all, we’re ultimately the ones that have to deal with bounced checks, overdue bills and mortgages that we can’t afford. Sure, the old woman may be buried alive in flesh-eating germs, but she’s not senselessly trying to shovel up a strawberry stem with a small sugar-spoon while paying $19.99 to do so.

You begin to wonder, what causes these two different kinds of people to participate in the same type of self-destructive behavior? Both parties would explain that they have their different reasons for keeping these seemingly useless items around; however, their underlying reason often remains the same: The fear of being without something when you may need it.

What would happen if your new boyfriend who happens to love watching avocado preparations comes over and you’re without your avocado slicer?

This may seem like an improbable occurrence, but it is this type of fear that legitimizes the purchase of a $27.00 stainless-steel avocado slicer from Williams-Sonoma.

The joke of, “well, you’ll never know until you need it” has caused Americans across the country to cram unnecessary gadgets into their kitchen cabinets in fear of not being prepared when Wolfgang Puck bursts through their door and demands them to make a perfectly-presented crawfish bisque or Peruvian ceviche.

The importance placed on these useless kitchen supplies in the American household is a small-scale (yet meaningful) representation of the priority that Americans often place on the acquisition of “gadgets” that we simply just don’t need.

The mentality is this: I need to have it all, in case the unthinkable happens. I need to be in control—prepared for the worst.

The reality is this: Trying to gain control through think-less spending makes you no more sane than those hoarders who have fallen prey to believing that “things” are what’s going to save them from the unexpected.

The mindset of a hoarder is far too easy to acquire when the portrait of a luxurious American life is reinforcing the irresponsible financial behavior that goes into compulsively buying into these useless gimmicks.

Next time you’re strolling through the aisles of your favorite one-stop mega, “super-store,” I urge you to ask yourself, do I really have to have cubed eggs on my salad? If the answer is yes, then think about sitting in a house filled with broken appliances, used bandages and rotting food. I’m sure you’ll change your mind.