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Why We Overbuy

Is it really overbuying?

According to the Internet ( the average household in the US has 3.14 people, which is also the numerical pi which is weird and I don't know how much toilet paper a .14 person will use but I digress...

If a family of 4 has 3 bathrooms and is now home 24/7. That's a lot of toilet paper usage, folks. Think about, if a family of 4 were "doing regular life" outside of their homes. There are multiple potty breaks on the go at the coffee shop, at work, at school, at the gym, at the mall, at the movies...all now happening at home. All.Day.Long.

When we consider everyone in the region and most of the world is now home using their toilets all day long some are legitimately getting enough for their families' needs. But you know there are some who are getting WAAAAAY more than they will ever need. That leads us to...

Knowing what you have and how long it takes you to use what you have.

Recently I put a question out on Instagram Stories asking viewers if they knew how long it takes for their family to get through a roll of TP. Some knew but many didn't. It's imperative now more than ever when resources are limited not to get too much (because the vulnerable will not be able to find enough), and not too little (or you and your family will be vulnerable).

If you haven't heard about it already there is a nifty toilet paper calculator for free (or donation)

In my household, we use Amazon Subscribe & Save if you aren't familiar it's a feature of Amazon to save 15% or more if you subscribe on a regular basis (I believe they start at monthly) to certain household products like laundry detergent, pet food, and yes, toilet paper.

It's been a life-saver as a busy couple, adding shopping for everyday items to our lives was time-consuming and costly. How many times have you step-foot into a store for one thing and left with things you didn't know you wanted and probably didn't need (looking at you Target).

Using Amazon Subscribe and Save was certainly a time-saver and it allowed us to "set it and forget it".

HOWEVER, (comma) it became apparent when my ignorance of how often we used something meant we had way too much or not enough. It forced me to become more aware of how quickly things were being used. Amazon sends you a notice about 7-10 days before your shipment so you can make adjustments. It's been great!

Note that with the coronavirus pandemic and with the shortage of paper products some items aren't available as they once were.

Through my experience of helping clients declutter, I realized that a lot of people buy:

  • out of habit and not based on what they needed and it got them to a place I call "Duplicate City". A city where you walk around asking: "Why do we have 14 bottles of Dawn dish detergent?"

  • the "10 for $10" deal or "buy one get two free" was too good to pass up even if they really didn't need it and once they do the product is too old to use so it was a waste of space and money. (suggestion: you can give the free one away, since hey... it was "free"... just sayin')

  • Too many cooks in the kitchen. If multiple people are purchasing in the household and there is no collaboration of who buys what and when. Then the fateful day that everyone goes out and gets dish detergent and now you have 2+ bottles and heaven-forbid you both shopped the 10 for $10 deal... *facepalm* and no one can find the receipts.

I hope you got a chuckle out of these scenarios but seriously over time these habits can cause frustration and overwhelm and shame. It happens. We don't judge, it's our job to help you to place all the dish detergent in one place, label it and perhaps give some to a charity or organization that can use it. Through coaching, we can also help you bring awareness to the habit so that you don't end up in the same place again.

Which leads us to...

Living in an abundance mindset (those who experienced loss/deprivation)

After working with people for so many years when it relates to organization and especially decluttering, I don't need a textbook to tell me that the people who have A LOT of things in their space(s) have often come from a background where they at some point in their lives didn't have a lot.

Life experience has "taught" them what going without feels like and they never want to go without again and so even if it means they can't find the things they are looking for or will ever use up all the things they have, they "need" to have them to feel "safe". However, this comes from a place of fear versus a place of power.

It's a whole thing, you can Google "abundance mindset" or "scarcity mindset" and you'll be able to read to your heart's content.

It's something you obviously can't fix overnight and probably not alone, but here is a great graphic I found to help you identify the two different mindsets and perhaps start working on changing them if you so desire. I'm not a master of abundance mindset but let me tell you, it feels a whole lot better than a scarcity mindset.

credit: Padraig Coaching & Consulting

There are a plethora of reasons why before, during, and after the coronavirus pandemic people have been overbuying and overstocking. Some reasons are valid and others could be worked out in therapy or with an organizer coach (like myself or my team).

Whatever the case, I hope a few of these reasons have brought awareness, with awareness comes positive change.

We don't know what the future holds for the supermarket shelves and our abilities to provide for our families' basic needs. But I do know that through our community, more abundance mindset than scarcity mindset, and tweaking a few wasteful habits that may have developed while we were swimming in the land of plenty, we can dig deep and figure out a way to get by for the time being.


Andrea Hancock is a Professional Organizer and Owner of Dexterous Organizing, a professional organizing and lifestyle company serving the Washington, DC Metro area. Andrea has been organizing professionally since 2010 and has completed the foundation courses in the Coach Approach for Organizers Training. She believes mostly anyone can create the organizational system that works for their lives through training, awareness, and consistent efforts.

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