Can Extreme Frugal Living Create a Hoarder?
Frugal living requires people to live within their means. In fact, it requires them to live slightly beneath their means in order to have a financial cushion. Living frugally is an admirable way to live and a recommended goal in life.
However, there are a few tenets of frugality that can get some people in trouble.
- Buy only what you need.
- Stock up when things are on sale.
Some people take these rules of frugality to the extreme. As a result, sometimes there is a stigma that is associated with living frugally.
Frugality, like most things in life, is a continuum. There is a range of frugality, with some people simply living more frugally than others. There are extremes in either direction. Some people will be spendthrifts and others will become misers. It is not always clear when a person is heading to an extreme. Sometimes the judgment is very subjective.
Let's take, for example, the fabric stash shown in the photo. If a quilter is looking at the photo or the shelf, she would likely consider it to be a normal working supply of fabric. She may wish that she had such a large stash. Quilters are encouraged by the industry to support the economy and their local quilt shop. The availability of fabric keeps changing, so a quilter may feel compelled to purchase the fabric while it is still available. Designers are continuously bringing out new collections.
In addition, other quilters tend to encourage each other to make fabric purchases. They consider fabric to be a working inventory, a palette of fabric like a supply of paints with which to make a quilt. Even though the fabric is not bought to make a particular quilt, there is joy in owning the fabric, similar to the joy of owning other collectibles, such as Hummel figurines. Many quilters also consider fabric to be an investment. They save up fabric for their retirement years, so they will have an inventory even if they no longer have the cash to purchase any fabric. As you can see in the photo, this quilter is able to control and manage the stash and keep it neat and organized.
On the other hand, someone who is not a quilter may be appalled at seeing a large collection of fabric being purchased for no reason other than ownership. This fabric is not being purchased to make a particular quilt, and there is a possibility that the person who bought this much fabric will never be able to use all of it.
The Connection Between Hoarding and Frugal Living
There is a strong connection between hoarding and frugal living. Saving money is very important, but it can be taken to an extreme. A hoarder can use frugal living as an excuse to amass great quantities of all sorts of things. When a hoarder finds that something is on sale for a very good price, instead of simply buying the amount they need, they may buy an extreme quantity so they can stock up.
When they receive a gift for something they consider expensive, they may have trouble using it. They opt instead to store the expensive item and buy a cheaper replacement. The expensive towel collection sits unused in storage, while they continue to use their threadbare towels as they browse yard sales to find the cheapest replacements.
They may find it very difficult to get rid of anything. Even if an item is broken and cannot be used as intended, they continue to hold on to the item. They may think they can repair it, use it for the parts, or find some other creative way to use it.
Zen of Hoarding
- Zen of Hoarding
This book offers 108 meditations to help clear the clutter of the mind. When the mind has clarity, the clutter in the house will be easy to clear away.
As they stock up more and more of their purchases and keep many things that other people discard, they may find that they are unable to keep up with the organized storage of these items. As a result, they may find they are unable to find the things that they need. This causes them to buy even more than one of everything, to help them in case one item gets lost. At this extreme, people will start hoarding things they cannot use, on the off chance that they might need it someday.
Those reasons for having a large fabric stash—supporting the economy, investing for the future, buying things because they are on sale—become excuses to accumulate and amass an excessive amount of things. The language of frugality, such as investing, saving, retirement, and sale, becomes a crutch and a support for hoarding.
The Connection Between Minimalism and Frugal Living
At the other extreme, some people will use the rules of frugal living to avoid buying anything except what is absolutely necessary. Some people even take that to a point where they will deny themselves any comfort or buy anything that will provide them any joy.
They take the benefits of a minimalist lifestyle—less clutter, less stress, easier to clean—to an extreme. Even when they can afford to buy things, they will analyze whether they truly need the item and whether they can obtain it less expensive, or better yet free, elsewhere. They have a very minimalist lifestyle.
This lifestyle extends beyond the furnishings in the house. These people will avoid taking vacations or choosing entertainment that is expensive. They will also keep their food budget as low as possible. There are people who are successful at a minimalist lifestyle by shopping for sales and finding what they need frugally, but people at this extreme will deprive themselves of the comforts of life, and sometimes even things other people consider necessities, simply in order to save money.
Does Frugal Living Create Hoarder or a Minimalist?
Since both hoarders and extreme minimalists cite frugal living as one of their reasons for their lifestyle, there is definitely a connection between these subjects. However, it is unlikely that frugal living is the cause of hoarding or extreme minimalism. There are many people who live frugally without going to an extreme. There are also hoarders and extreme minimalists who do not cite money as the reason for their lifestyle.
There are also other factors that come into play, such as mental illness and family background. A person who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or tendencies of the disorder, can take frugal living to either extreme. Children of hoarders may become hoarder themselves, simply because they haven't learned how to live any other way. Alternatively, they may go to the other extreme to avoid being a hoarder. Social factors come into play. People who live in a community which rewards an accumulation of things will amass socially sanctioned quantities of things without considering the possibility that it would be considered hoarding in a different community.
People who move frequently will be rewarded repeatedly for keeping their possessions at a minimum. They may have friends who admire the clean look of an almost empty home. They may enjoy seeing their savings build up as they refuse to purchase most things.
Extreme Frugal Living
Frugal living is usually a healthy, admirable trait. Some people can take it to an extreme. The extremes can affect their homes and their lifestyles.
The extremes can also cause issues with their family and friends. A miser who refuses to split the restaurant bill, or takes a large amount of time to calculate every detail of the bill help out when their loved ones are in need, is going to lose friends quickly. A hoarder who is overwhelmed with the amount of things may not be willing to invite friends over for a visit.
It is these extreme situations that cause frugal living to get a bad reputation that it has.
© 2012 Shasta Matova