Time and time again, I’ve seen accusations from people who just don’t understand prepping that preppers are basically hoarders. Shows like Doomsday Preppers paint a picture of preppers that, quite frankly, makes it look like we’re all genuinely displaying crazy behaviour when we choose to prep that’s evident, not only by how we talk, but also by what we choose to keep in our house.
“Preppers are hoarders.” If you haven’t heard that before, you’ve been living under a rock.
For preppers, it’s a pretty infuriating accusation to hear. Preppers are already pretty misunderstood without being wrongfully attributed a genuine personality disorder (compulsive hoarding is a sub-type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – which a prepper may yet have, but that doesn’t mean every prepper has OCD just for having a stockpile). Giving prepping even more of an unnecessary negative stigma is ridiculous in my mind, especially when prepping is such a practical thing that more people should be encouraged to do. Prepping and hoarding, in my eyes, are so very different that it’s hard for me to understand why anyone could think they’d possibly be one in the same.
Yes, preppers and hoarders both acquire and keep large amounts of stuff. Yes, our behaviours seem strange to regular people. Yes, we each place value on our accumulated goods. But does that really mean prepping/stockpiling is just another form of hoarding?
The Initial Breakdown: Are You Sure Preppers Are Like Hoarders?
To get down to the truth of the matter, we’ll need to look at the definitions. And to compare these two types of acquisition of stuff head on.
The definition of “stockpile”? (From the Oxford English Dictionary):
A large accumulated stock of goods or materials, especially one held in reserve for use at a time of shortage or other emergency.
The definition of “hoard”? (Again from the OED):
A stock or store of money or valued objects, typically one that is secret or carefully guarded.
At face level, these definitions seem very similar. But if you pay close attention, there’s a huge difference. The difference is not in the items themselves, not the fact that they’re being kept in large quantities, that they’re being stocked or stored, but in the value that’s being attributed to them.
A stockpile is an accumulation of goods that’s specifically, in a prepper’s case, held in reserve in case an emergency situation comes around and makes those goods useful to have acquired.
A hoard? It’s made up of valuable stuff – it’s not there for a specific purpose. Items in a hoard are kept just because they are valuable to either the person hoarding them or are valuable to society at large.
Need to understand this concept better? Think about both Smaug the dragon, and all the dwarves in Lord of the Rings. Now they had a hoard – the same hoard, actually – and they all really wanted possession over it. All that gold, all those gems – it had value in the real world. Did they do anything with it when they had it? Not really, no. They just liked possessing it (especially Smaug). For the dwarves, it even went so far as to have sentimental value. I’m sure they wouldn’t have been happy with any old hoard of gold – they wanted the one that was once theirs, that had belonged to their people, to their ancestors. It just wouldn’t have been the same if they were given possession of any other hoard. Thus, there was even more value (personal value) in the hoard for the dwarves.
I’d argue that when it comes to stockpiling – the items you’d keep are not even close to being valuable – not on a societal level and not personally either. Sure you could stockpile gold – and that would be a valuable item, but unless that’s the only thing you’re stockpiling, chances are the vast majority of your prepper stockpile will be things that most people feel are not really very valuable at all. Your toilet paper “collection”? No one is going to turn green with jealousy over that. Your stock of canned foods and rice? Yeah, again, not valuable to society at all. To a prepper it can be seen as valuable: but that’s only because of the purpose it can and may serve. If it no longer was able to serve that purpose – say someone invented and you got a hold of an unbreakable, everlasting food-making machine that just ran on water and solar power – the value you placed on the items you had would be reduced to the value everyone else places on them: not much.
Nothing you stockpile as a prepper is really rare; it’s not like you’re collecting art or precious metals or stones in high volume. If you are at all, those things come secondary to you, because you can’t eat valuable items if a crisis comes along, and those items will be incredibly devalued, too, if ever an emergency situation rolls around (which is what preppers are prepping for).
This is completely different from hoarding as well in so far as hoarders are usually very attached to their hoard. Are preppers attached to their stockpile?
If you thought, “Yeah, kinda.” Let me ask you again this way: if a prepper’s entire stockpile was burned down tomorrow, and yet was magically replaced with a completely different stockpile that had items similar enough to their last and thus could do the job of taking a prepper through an emergency just as well as that burned down stockpile they used to have – would that prepper be upset? Probably not. They probably wouldn’t even bat an eye.
Because preppers are not attached to their stockpiles. They’re attached to the practical use it affords them. It’s a tool – and not the kind of special tool your grandfather passed down to you after his grandfather passed it down to him; no. It’s a tool like a miscellaneous screw driver you happened to pick up at the Home Depot the other day is a tool: great for what you use it for, but quite honestly nothing even close to irreplaceable or particularly valuable inherently or subjectively.
How Preppers Keep Stockpiles VS How Hoarders Keep Hoards
I’d also argue that these differences are reflected in how people keep stockpiles versus how they keep hoards.
When it comes to hoards, I’ve noticed a couple things:
- People who hoard items are often constantly surrounded by these items.
They live with them, they work with them around, whatever. They are everywhere, an all-surrounding presence. Usually.
- People who hoard items do not often organize them.
They just have them there. Present. Again, as an all-surrounding presence.
This would not fly for a prepper’s stockpile. Especially if the prepper had any kind of choice:
- People who stockpile would rather not even see that stockpile except when they’re checking up on it, making sure everything is still in tact (not rat infested or water damaged), adding to it, or figuring out what’s left.
Yes, most of us wouldn’t mind seeing our stockpile day-to-day and keeping it in places that are visible ’round the house, but that’s often a last resort, and if you gave us the option to have a stockpile that’s out of sight, but still protected and still very easy to get to (say, you gave us a massive basement or a completely separate addition to our house to prep in), I dare say every prepper would be much happier with that arrangement than stuffing preps under beds and on bookshelves. We do those things because we don’t have enough space, not because we really love seeing our preps constantly.
- If you’re serious about prepping, and I mean really serious – your preps are going to be organized. Like really organized.
Why? You need to know exactly what you’ve got to know exactly what you still need – you need to know when everything is expiring; lists, lists, lists. They never end. If you’re a fantastic prepper, you’re going to have an organization system for your stockpile and you’re not going to settle for a mess where you can’t find anything – because in an emergency, that’s a recipe for disaster (think about it; prepper gets injured and needs first aid supplies, but nothing is organized and so can’t find them: first aid items = useless). There’s not much point to prepping if you can’t find what you need when you need it.
Ultimately, No, Preppers Are Not Like Hoarders
So I’d say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that in my mind, prepper stockpiles are not like hoards, beyond the surface detail that both stockpiles and hoards contain a lot of stuff.
As further proof that preppers are not like hoarders: if you take away all the potential threats and make sure a prepper never has to worry about anything ever again (and mean it, mind you, because we are all skeptical of the government’s promises), he or she will lose the need to stockpile and thus, in my opinion, never would bother to acquire any stuff again. There are no conditions that would magically make a person who hoards feel like they no longer need to hoarding – because hoarding is an addictive behaviour and not done as a meas to an end – for a specific purpose.
Do You Think Prepping and Hoarding Are the Same?
If you’re a prepper, did I miss anything that might be insightful to know for those who think preppers look a lot like hoarders?
If you’re not a prepper – were my arguments convincing at all or was this just futile because both preppers and hoarders still have a lot of stuff and thus still look pretty similar in your eyes?
Let me know in the comments – would love to get some insight.
I’m a bit late to the party but wanted to add my take: Stockpiling is a rational and practical activity performed well in advance, when supplies are plentiful for everyone. It is simply another way of managing the flow of expendable items over the longer term. The aim is to absorb and dampen the peaks and troughs of availability. It is about foresight and sensible planning, and is a structured, ongoing task which can also have altruistic motives. It tends to emphasise quantity rather than range, so that adequate provision is always maintained. In contrast, hoarding is typically acquiring excessive volumes of diverse items or items with no anticipated practical life purpose, and primarily for psychological motives. It may be chaotic and impulsive or may be carried out selfishly at a time when doing so might deprive others of a fair distribution. It may have an adverse personal or social impact. Great site!
Thomas Xavier says
I love that comparison Marty. I may even steal it (with full attribution of course) for a future article. Cheers!
Gary Gough says
It’s a debate I have with myself some days too.
Food for a few months– that gets rotated and saves money over the long term as I buy bulk ( one of our politicians even suggested the unemployed would do fine if they did that, kind of missing the point of them not having any “hoard” of cash to use. ).
Medical supplies, enough for several months, same idea. I also live in a place that can lose power for several days at random, and often for several hours, can get snowed in any day half the year and often for several days. It’s not like visiting a friend in China who lives within a few minutes walk of stores stocking fresh veggies, fruit, live fish, fresh meat.. she sees anything past a meal as hording food as fresh is always better, and I can’t disagree in her situation. Then again, while I’m sure she understands the words “-40 blizzard conditions” she also has no idea what that means when the closest store is 100 km away.
Information, books, electronically stored and backed up, I’m probably hoarding. Tools and parts, well I do keep a large collection, but can’t say I feel any distress using or giving away when the need arises, that’s what they are for. Can I point at the drawers of chips, circuit boards etc. and say ” I have an immediate use for that” well no, but neither can I say “I will not need that for a paying job, or to help someone out, or repair something so I don’t need a replacement” so is it a hoard or is it inventory?
I do have a friend who has a large stockpile of tools and supplies turning into rust due to poor storage, full buckets of lubricants, hydraulic fluid etc. breaking down and shattering from UV exposure. And while he admits he has far more then he can ever use, and often multiples of expensive test gear, he also can’t bring himself to part with any. That would fit my definition of a hoard.
Tamala Rovaris says
Having known a true hoarder…she had ten storage units and one of her grandchildren went to court and got emancipated rather than live in the hoard any further versus a person with a stockpile. The stockpile will eventually get rotated and used and has a purpose. A hoard doesn’.t. It just accumulates with no rhyme nor reason, it can get nasty and infested with roaches. My hoarder friend would have to shake the microwave repeatedly before using it to get the roaches so they wouldn’t fall on the food. Child Protective Services were involved. She had goat paths to walk thru her home. No path was more than sixteen inches across. There was no space and nothing she kept had any foreseeable use in the future.
When you stockpile you have a foreseeable usage for what you have whether it’s something as short term as a blackout where you will need to be able to use the flashlight you’ve held back. A hoarder wouldn’t be able to find the flashlight and batteries to use it in an emergency.
Hoarding is a recognized psychological illness related to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Stockpiling is preparation for uncertainties in the future.and there is no fear involved in using what you have whereas a hoarder won’t use the stuff they have on had and it couldn’t be used in an emergency anyhow.
Elise Xavier says
This was so sad to read. I really hope people like this get the help they need.
Agree with you completely on this all, of course.
Jacob Yeo says
Hi Elise, it’s about time somebody put a good name back to prepping. Nice discerning. I think you nailed it. Good wisdom, reminds me of biblical character King Solomon of ancient Israel. You know I hate it when people started going berserk and ended up giving bad rap to knives in people’s minds these days, where in fact it was one of those classic tools designed to help humankind to thrived in their lives. They certainly deserved some good credits. Anyway, keep up with the good job right here at MTJS, I love hearing from you guys. Best regard to Thomas . God of Heaven will give many wonderful blessings to all of you. Kudos.
Elise Xavier says
Don’t even get me started on knives getting a bad rap. Headache inducing. We’re in the UK – it’s not the most lenient place to be for knife carrying ;).
Anyway – thanks for stopping by and for the compliments :). Glad to have you ’round!
As much as I hate to admit it by definition they are related. The key word is “value”. In the scenarios we prep for, the common items that we currently would stock most would be of little, some or face value. However, the moment an emergency happens then what is our stocks worth? All increase exponentially with ever day of emergency that passes. Even the things of little value like TP. How much would 1 roll be worth to someone who didn’t have any and needed some? So even the things that carry little value can become invaluable in an emergency. Conversely, the most things that have value now will be worth nothing in an emergency because they serve no purpose or use. So we are hoarders of sorts but organized with a plan.
Elise Xavier says
I can definitely see someone take this view, but then our actions are still very different from a typical hoarder, if you see what I mean. It’s not just the organized plan, it’s the attachment to the “hoard.” If a prepper loses his hoard tomorrow and it’s replaced by one that’s completely different but equally as good, I don’t think he’d care. A hoarder: I think he’d really care, out of attachment to the original.
Interesting comparison. I also consider an alternative idea about ‘hoarding’ applying to items in short supply. If apples are plentiful and I dry and pack some to save for later, I have preserved them, not hoarded them. If there is a famine and I dry my apples and steal my neighbor’s apples at night to dry and keep, I may be hoarding food. If during a food shortage, my spouse and I claim to live in different homes to get extra food to save for later, I’d consider that hoarding, too. If we have an on-hand supply from before the shortage, and we choose to also get the gov ration (a la Venezuela) are we hoarding food or getting what we are authorized?
Elise Xavier says
Again – it all depends on how you think the word hoarding should be defined. Great questions, though!
Linda S says
Other people shouldn’t know enough about your stockpiles to form an opinion. No one coming into my home would have any idea how much & what is stored there.
Elise Xavier says
Which is great from a greyman perspective. Good to blend in. That being said, if something happens, I’m happy to take in a relative or two. Have enough for that. So I do tell those close to me who are not preppers about my prepping.
hillbilly girl says
We have a hoarder in our immediate family. And I know a few more. A lot of what they keep (hoard) is trash. Pure trash. They cannot throw away ANYTHING. Not even junk mail with clean and visible dates. I have not seen a single prepper saving advertisements from car dealerships, gum wrappers, Little Debbie wrapers, etc. Our hoarder has kitchen windows full of broken (not cracked) drinking glasses. There are just 6 – 8 inch pathways thru the entire house. You cannot sit on any furniture. A lot of the furniture is completely buried.
They are not preppers. There isn’t enough food in the house for a single meal.
Elise Xavier says
Thanks for sharing your experience with hoarders. Though I haven’t had firsthand experience with anyone suffering from a hoarding problem, I definitely did get the jist that this is essentially the behaviour of a hoarder with my research and what I’ve seen presented in the media about them. It’s very different from prepping, in my opinion. I can’t see how the two can be related past the surface details, really.