Living Like The Long Winter ~ Setting Limits

Last week we learned all about how to stockpile and what to stockpile and when to stockpile in the Homestead Hints article. While reading through the first couple chilly chapters in The Long Winter, I came across this paragraph.

“Oh, look! Jackrabbits!” Carrie exclaimed. All around the stable, dozens of jackrabbits were hopping. “The rascals have been living on our hay, all through the storm,” Pa said. “I ought to take my gun and get us a rabbit stew.” But he had been standing at the window looking at them without making a move towards his gun. “Please let them go, Pa, this one time,” Laura pleaded. “When they came because they had to, they had to find shelter.” Pa looked at Ma, and Ma smiled. “We aren’t hungry, Charles, and I’m thankful we all got through that storm.” ~The Long Winter p.53

Ma knew they had enough to eat. I love how she used the words, “We aren’t hungry.” Maybe they didn’t have alot, maybe they didn’t have any on hand, but they weren’t hungry. And that’s what mattered to Ma. Her family was fed and full.

Last week I talked about how much of an item to stockpile. I still fully support having a stockpile as long as you have the room. However there is a fine line between stockpile, and just plain hoarding.

I’m sure by now most of you have seen extreme couponing. Maybe you’ve watched some videos on You Tube with other people’s stockpiles. To be quite frank, many of them are ridiculous. For the most part, we follow the guidelines that I talked about in Homestead Hints last week, we stock up what we will need until the item is on sale again. Although I also tend to stock up a little more since I also buy for my parents and my siblings. So a stockpile for 7 or more people tends to grow a little larger than that of the average person.

It’s so easy to see how hoarding happens. It’s a high to get all kinds of things for free or very very cheap. And as many of the people on the Extreme Couponing show have said something about how they just love looking at their stockpiles and how it makes them feel so good.

I’m guessing they are forgetting that all that stuff in the stockpile is material stuff. If you have what you need, shelter, food, ect, then you are set to go. That’s what Ma was saying in the above paragraph. Yes, having all that stuff is nice, being prepared and well stocked is nice, but knowing that your family is fed and taken care of, that’s what’s important.

I’ve seen many people over the last several months, new couponers, get so excited about being able to get things for free that they were paying for before. There’s nothing wrong with excitement! But there is something wrong when that excitement over a few tubes of free toothpaste turns into a closet full of the stuff.

And yes, I’ve heard every excuse in the book about why people stockpile so much. “Well, it was such a good deal I couldn’t resist!” “But it was free so it doesn’t matter!” “Well I’ve got the room for it anyways, somebody will use it!”

However the fact is that when you’ve got enough deodorant for 150 years and there’s only 2 people in your house, you’ve gone past the point of getting what you need and you are definitely in the hoarding category. And don’t think that I’m just pointing the fingers of blame because when there is 1 finger pointing out, there is 4 pointing back at you. It’s true that I have more toothpaste than average, my stockpile of body wash might be on the large size…but I know how to say no, and I can’t tell you the last time I bought either of those things. I know my limits, I know where the line is and not cross it.

If you are starting to cross that line, a good thing to do might be to start donating if you aren’t already. I really think it’s awesome when we can get things for free but there comes a point where we just can’t use it any more, but someone can. And if it’s hard to stop shopping at least head to the store knowing that the products aren’t going to be coming back to your house, but they will go to someone that really needs it.

What do you think about stockpiles? I know some people are against them entirely. Do you like to donate or have you donated before?

Make sure you check out the entire Living Like Little House series!

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  1. I have a stockpile because it saves us money. If an item won’t expire and I’m getting it for free, I’ll stockpile a few years’ worth if it doesn’t take up too much space. But, if it’s something that will expire before we get around to using it up, I don’t stockpile more than we’ll use. I don’t want my life to be run over by my stockpile!

    1. This is a great example of setting those limits. You have the space, and you know what you will use in a certain timeframe. In my opinion, this isn’t hoarding, it’s being wise. You are wise not to allow your life to be overrun by your stockpile.

  2. I agree that if you don’t need it and get it free or cheap, then donate it. I don’t have the room to stockpile much but then there’s just three of us. But I have learned to shop and watch sales so that I’m only going into town once a month for shopping. My hubby picks up things like milk on his way home from work. I get a nice feeling when I see the pantry stocked for another month. We waste very little. I love the bread outlets and the things I’ve gotten have lasted all month without getting moldy. Should we run low I make my own bread. By the way, Merrisa, I made your hamburger buns and loved them!

  3. Merissa, this might be a very good time for me to mention Operation Christmas Child. It’s a good solution for those who might be bordering on hoarding. Needy children receive shoeboxes full of small toys, personal care items and school supplies as a Christmas gift. These children are excited to receive bar soap, toothpaste, deoderant, and almost any of the super cheap school supplies you can score in the next 2 months. My family just starting making shoebox gifts last year, and they definately are addicting to make. Anyone interested can learn more at

    1. Thanks for bringing that up! I love filling boxes for OCC! I didn’t mention specific organizations in this article this time, but I have a BIG announcement coming soon that I can’t wait to share with you guys!

  4. Very good points! I think moderation is the key to most situations. We are a family of four (soon to be five) living in a rather small house. I just started stockpiling about 2 months ago and it makes me feel good knowing I have food/supplies on hand for when we need them and that I saved money doing so. My goal is to provide for my family, not just grab because its free. I was happy that I had my good deals so I could donate several items when our community was gathering supplies for those towns hurt by tornadoes a couple of months ago. I think the stockpiles seen on Extreme Couponing are unnecessary. If you are so addicted to getting stuff free than give you deals to your friends and other families that need it. Also, Salvation Army and other food pantries always appreciate donations.

  5. I love stockpiles—wish I had one. We seem to plow right through anything that we bring into the house. I would donate if I had extra of something that we don’t use, but to be quite honest, we are probably at that stage where people look at our situation and want to donate to us! But yes, everyone has something that they can give, even if it is just time.

  6. I totally agree thatwe shouldn’t stockpile more than we need. And today it is very unlikely that we won’t have the opportunity to eat meat for months at a time. However, that scene in Long Winter was the last time they had a chance to hunt meat for months! I think they should have killed a few jackrabbits while they had the chance 🙂

  7. I like your point about hoarding, and I love to donate. I have a different perspective on this part of the book. Reading the book for the second time & knowing what happens later on, I found myself almost in tears at this point, wishing they had killed the jackrabbits when they were available so they wouldn’t have come quite so close to starving to death. They weren’t hungry at the moment, but they definitely had nowhere near a whole winter’s supply of food, which would have been wise to have. If every person in town had a whole winter’s worth of food, then the two men wouldn’t have had to risk their lives to find food, only to have people close to starving AGAIN before the trains were finally able to get through. I read this book last winter & asked myself what I would want to have in the house if I weren’t able to buy anything for several months. The answers to that question are part of my plan for this year. 🙂

  8. It’s kind of difficult for me to get my mind around stockpiling. Our house isn’t that big. I keep some extras in our kitchen pantry. It is part of the cabinetry. I also keep approximately 20 to 30 cans/jars of other products in another storage area. I do buy in bulk some grains and frozen goods from Costco. We are not gardening yet. I have invested in a large chest freezer that I use, although it is not fully stocked. Is this stockpiling?
    I guess it is.

    1. Anything extra that you can’t eat in a week I would consider stockpiling. It takes quite a while to get things going and is hard, especially when you don’t have much room. For me, stockpiling food might be as little as buying an extra package or as big as getting a 50 pound bag and placing it in sealed buckets until I’m ready to use it.

  9. While your original post is from TEN years ago, it is quite timely and relevant for today. My husband and I are American missionaries, living and working in Gdansk, Poland. Although there is no threat of food shortages nor winters so harsh, we may lose power or function, it is always wise to be prepared. Thank you for sharing your ideas on stockpiling. Because we live in a small apartment, as are most apartments in Europe, we have little room for any kind of stocking up. So, we stock what we can, for the time we can. Our dream is to buy land and build a small cabin on it, so that we can “live like Little House”, eventually.