Shop Like There's No Tomorrow

My parents are remarkable people.  For a whole host of reasons, I love and admire them.  Dad is disciplined, hilarious and incredibly giving. He has spent at least a quarter of his time in the last five or so years doing things for C and I, or for my sister and her husband.  Or for almost anyone, for that matter.  Mom is more or less what I hope to grow into someday.  She acts as familial to the cashier at Wal-Mart as she does to me when we go out to breakfast.   She’s unmatched in her compassion, and the tiniest bit crazy.  So while I reference them today, I do so with a deep sense of joy and admiration.

On to the show.

My parents are prepared for disaster.  I don’t mean that they had a Y2K shelter built in the ‘90s (though I do know someone who did), but I am convinced that they could and would survive if every commercial source of food were to suddenly drop into the earth into a selective sinkhole.  I’ve spent the last three years unlearning how to store food.  I have tried to restrict myself to using the canned goods in my cupboard before I go stacking them with more yams and baked beans.


Mom and dad have a basement pantry and a standing chest freezer, along with the normal fridge and cupboards in the kitchen.  These are all generally pretty full.  The upside to all of this is that when my sister and I drop everything and decide to show up at their house for dinner, they have no problem (and no complaints, bless them) feeding us a dazzling spread.  It's wonderful.

During the last month and a half, C and I have found ourselves faced with the classic food challenge of the north.  Most people up here have chest freezers and pantries like my parents.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with this on it’s own.  Some people only grocery shop one day a month, which to me means that they are vastly more intelligent and organized than I.  Think of how together you have to be to shop once a month.  That is not me. 

So, like I said, I’ve spent the last three years learning how not to shop like food stores are going to suddenly beam up into outer space.  And now, living where mass-shopping is the norm, I easily become exasperated with the idea of buying pasta and frozen peas like a squirrel gathering nuts.  I have made grocery trips about once every two weeks, which has led to a pretty successful food to meal ratio.  It’s working for us, and I think I’ll stick with it.

This issue is a bit like the snowmobile: it drives me to disproportionate panic and despair. Have you ever seen the television show Hoarders?  I know that this to is like comparing apples and oranges, but my fears stem from this kind of stockpiling.  If you haven’t seen the show, let me give you a snapshot.  Picture your house or flat.  We’ll start with the closets.  Picture each space filled with your normal hanging apparel or folded linens, but then imagine every other square inch crammed with plastic Target bags and shoeboxes, reaching to the ceiling.  Now, picture your worst nightmare of a college dorm room.  See yourself in this bedroom, kicking towels and socks and soda cans out of the way to get to the set of drawers against the wall.  In reality, these are probably empty.  Or stuffed with tortilla chips.

The hallways hardly have enough room to pass between the stacks of boxes, books and magazines.  The bathrooms look like the bedroom did, only it’s hand towels and used perfume bottles on the floor.  Enter the kitchen, where all turns sinister.  Picture the junk in the other rooms.  Here, the floor is covered in bags and opened boxes of food, as well as used paper towels.  There is rotting cabbage on the table and moldy onions in the cupboard.  You may have accidentally made kimchi.  There is a moist, sweet funk in the air.  And inside the fridge?  No way.  We’re not even going there. 


Now, on top of all that, add 85 cats.  Fifteen more are dead and decomposing on the jungle floor. 

This is my fear.

In my mind, there is a direct connection between hoarding and keeping a pantry.  I know that this is ridiculous, but I can’t seem to get past it.  All of you organized folk out there, give me your stories of success.  I need to feed the fires of reason before they go out.

Mom, dad, I’m sorry.  You have a very organized pantry.  Something went wrong when I went to visit your other daughter at college.  I haven’t been able to escape the image since.

Oh, and I’ll be over for dinner tomorrow night.


  1. Ok, look, here is how it went in college. Clean clothes were in the drawers and closet, mostly clean clothes were piled in all available floor space (I promise there was carpet there somewhere), and dirty clothes grew into a sock eating monster covering the floor (maybe to ceiling) of our closet. We were not hoarders. I resent the inference. We did make an awful lot of people feel warm and fuzzy inside about the state of their dorm rooms. We're just nice people like that. Little did you know that was our intention all along.

    Mom and Dad, She's not kidding about dinner. I might show up too.

  2. I actually think I might have a toy hoarding issue. You can check with Anne and Gordon to confirm this fact. People would say well you have toddlers so it's okay, when in fact I might enjoy the toys more then them. No piles are to the ceiling but I imagine it could happen. No dead cats in the mix either.


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