We have witnessed our fair share of hoarding during quarantine. It started with toilet paper and hand sanitizer, but it did not take long for canned goods and meat to be added to the list of “hard to find” items. The nation responded with a mix of irritation and justification. If you had the sacred items, you were either well-planned, lucky, or a hoarder, but I suspect people were functioning by way of survival instincts.
Fear and scarcity drive us to grab and stash more than what we need.
The mix of the two can drive us to gather items just in case. On an NPR broadcast entitled “How the Scarcity Mindset can Make Problems Worse,” the following quote was shared by the host. “People need to recognize how not having enough of something can make us so maniacally focused on short-term solutions that we lose sight of our priorities.”
Being hyper-focused on short-term solutions is cousins with putting out small fires. We become distracted with what is right in front of us that we miss the big picture details. This is what happened to the toilet paper. Fear drove scarcity that impacted our focus, and we experienced hoarding.
I am no stranger to hoarding. In fact, Chick-fil-a sauce is my Achilles heel. To be dignified, I order fries when I am there, but I am not above using my finger to finish the contents of the packet when the fries are gone. Some of you cannot understand this madness, but others of you know EXACTLY what I am talking about. If, by some strange miracle, there is an extra sauce left after a meal, I gladly shove that baby in my purse. In no uncertain terms, I have a hoarding tendency.
While standing at a checkout register last week, I was reminded of the other side of hoarding. I reached into my purse, grabbed my wallet, and paid my bill. As I was putting my wallet back in my purse, my hand skidded through something that appeared to be a mix of oil and wax. It was gooey, sticky, and gross.
My kids were equally humored and disgusted by the large glob on my small wallet. My head space flooded with all the questions. What was the mystery substance? Where did it come from? Was there more yet to be discovered? Should I just throw my purse away and start over?
Back at the car, I began a deep dive into the contents of my purse. First, I pulled out my teacher badge. A mound of the same oil/wax/mayo concoction was present. Now leery, I carefully removed my coin purse. It was covered. In a flash, I knew EXACTLY what was going on.
Chick-fil-a sauce. It had to be a packet of sauce that had opened, spilled, and spewed over the contents of my purse. I dug through all the unmentionables and rogue receipts, and then I saw it. That extra packet I couldn’t wait to save had seen too many miles, and I had long forgotten it was even along for the ride.
I wish my tendency to hoard was limited to restaurant sauce. It’s not.
I have been known to hold onto encouragement a loved one desperately needed. I have hidden truth from a friend who wanted an honest response. I have been stingy with love because I was afraid to be vulnerable. I shrink back when I need to step up. I rehearse affirming lines for my family that never find their way from my head to my mouth.
Most of the time, my hoarding is a well-rooted trauma response. I lose sight of the priority to be connected, encouraging, and kind because I am focused on the smoke screen fear projects. The worn path suggests duck and cover instead of step up and speak out. What rises from the things I unconsciously withhold from others might look like jealousy, but it isn’t.
The opposite of a scarcity mindset, according to Brene Brown, is enough. Instead of worrying about what you don’t have, you make mental notes of what you do have. Noticing and choosing to be thankful is a perspective shift.
When we are attuned to the reality that we have enough, we will be more inclined to share than hoard.
In an enough mindset–we will…
- give away encouragement instead of keeping it to ourselves.
- share our surplus resources with those in need.
- celebrate the victories of others without feeling threatened.
- leave room for ourselves and others to assume a new narrative.
I am surrendering my habit of putting extra sauce in my purse. I don’t need to worry about the next time, so I will stay in the moment and be grateful.
I will scatter encouragement and kindness.
I will forgive and seek forgiveness.
I will share without fear.
The tendency to hoard is a survival mechanism, but it doesn’t have to be mine.
Will you take this step with me?
Will you be gracious with encouragement today?
Will you share with someone in need?
Fear drives scarcity that impacts our focus and compels us toward hoarding.
Let’s get off that hamster wheel!
Did you miss last week’s Quarantine Chronicles? You can read that here.
Do you want to know more about the scarcity mindset? Read more here.