Many in the prepping community may be used to having friends or family who know about their activities joke about them as hoarders. Certainly the amount of food, water, and other supplies the well-stocked prepper has stored away at any given time can be far in excess of the amount of stuff that most “normal” people have on hand. But it can be very easy to cross the line from prepping to hoarding if you don’t have a method for your prepping and an idea of how you’re going to use those supplies.
If your strategy is just to accumulate as much stuff as possible without an idea of what you’re going to do with it, it’s easy to spend too much time and money and waste too much space on useless preparations. How fine, then, is the distinction between prepping and hoarding? In order to figure that out, you have to ask yourself a few key questions.
1. Can I Afford to Buy This Stuff?
This is the number one question you need to ask yourself before you even start to prep. If you’re up to your eyeballs in student loan debt, credit card debt, car payments, and a mortgage, focus on getting onto sound financial footing before you start spending thousands of dollars on survival equipment, food, and supplies.
2. Can I Afford to Maintain This Stuff?
Once you start to accumulate anything, you realize that it takes effort to maintain it in sound operating condition. Whether that’s doing routine maintenance on a car or truck, laundering and dry cleaning clothing, cleaning and oiling firearms, or rotating food stocks, the more possessions you have the more maintenance you’ll need to do.
If you can’t afford to spend the time and money to maintain the things you already have, you have too much stuff and need to cut back to more manageable levels. Otherwise you’re going to defer or forgo keeping things in good condition, meaning that they’ll deteriorate before you’re able to use them and may be worthless and broken down when you really need them.
3. Do I Have the Space to Store This Stuff?
If your survival supplies are packed floor to ceiling in every room of your house, you’re a hoarder, not a prepper. If you’re really prepping, you need to figure out how much every person in your house will actually need to eat, drink, or use or, if you plan to bug out, how much every person can carry or how much will fit in your vehicle. Make lists of everything that you need and only acquire what’s on the list, not other extraneous things.
4. Do I Have the Time to Practice Using This Stuff?
Accumulating prepping supplies can be fun and can give you the illusion that you’re actually doing something to prepare for the future. But if you don’t practice how to use the things you’re buying, you’re going to be up a creek without a paddle come SHTF. If you haven’t figured out how to use your survival stove, how to start a fire, or whether your firearm will remain jam-free for hundreds of rounds, you may find out the hard way when you can least afford to do so that all your preparations were for naught.
5. Do I Have Too Much Stuff?
This goes back to the third question, in which you should have a list of the stuff that you will definitely need. That doesn’t mean things that you might possibly find some use for in the future. That’s a recipe for ending up with a whole bunch of stuff that you will end up using once every few years. Only those things that are absolute necessities should be in your bug out bag or your survival retreat. Focus on big-ticket items that are irreplaceable and tools that can be used for a variety of different generalized tasks.
Having too much stuff means that you’re going to spend most of your time and energy caring for it rather than attending to more important things. It will keep you from being mobile and agile, it could make you a target for thieves, and it will just clutter up your life in many ways. The cost in terms of time, money, and stress just isn’t worth it. So if you think that your prepping may be crossing the line into hoarding, step back and take a look at your stash to see if everything you have stored up is really stuff that you need.