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Are you buying or hoarding?

Teachers often say we’re buying when we’re not “buying” so much as “hoarding.”  Teacher spending is an affliction, but some of us sprint right over that line into hoarding. Here’s how to tell if you’re in danger of being on a Discovery Channel episode of “Hoarders.”  Answer this test question: If the Zombie Apocalypse happened right before number-two-pencil-test season, would you be able to administer tests to the entire school until all the students kids graduate? Is your snack cabinet easy to mistake for a 7-Eleven? Do you have a small rainforest full of “just in case” notebooks and lined paper from several years of Back-to-School sales in your teacher cabinets? Are they locked?

I thought as much.

If you have more than you reasonably need until the next Back-to-School sale, you are hoarding. Sales cycles are predictable. Sales at grocery stores run on a six to eight week cycle with extra savings seasonally. For example, March is frozen food month. Amazon Prime Day is in the summer and every holiday has a sale season that starts way too early and it’s followed by a clearout sale that lets you eat that holiday’s candy for pennies until the next holiday.

We know this.

Back to school sales are… once a year.  So, theoretically, if you were shopping responsibly (ie: buying what you needed, even if you’re not yet on board with the no-spend on school lifestyle) you’d buy enough to hold you over until the sales return. But that’s not what most of us do. We buy enough, then we run around collecting several times more than that because we have a coupon, the sale’s still on, or “it’s only” five cents.

It’s hard to discipline yourself to skip shopping when you’re a teacher.

  1. We want to save the world
  2. We don’t believe the next sale cycle will be predictable, besides…
  3. What if we run out?
  4. This is a really really good price.
  5. We like sharing.

Those are some of the reasons we overdo it. Here are more. Look in your cabinets right now. If you have unused things from the last sale cycle, it’s time to ask yourself if you’re in danger of teacher hoarding.

If you have a few things left over from last Back-To-School Season

Congratulations! You planned well.  You have a few pencils, a pack of paper or two, a few glue sticks… you didn’t run out. Although our goal is absolutely no school shopping–no using your paycheck on your job, still… shopping for a year makes logical sense. (In the upcoming book: A Broke Teacher’s Guide to Success there is one situation where I justify some back to school shopping. The first is if your finances are under control–you’ve paid off all your debt, you have a surplus, your retirement and investments are properly handled, and you’re meeting your financial goals. In that case, the amount of money you’d give to charity or a good cause can go to your classroom. YOU are your cause).

You might be in danger of hoarding if…

However, if you look in your classroom, home office, linen closet, or anywhere else you might hide teacher piles, and you find more than one sale cycle’s worth of supplies, you’ve crossed into the slippery slope of teacher hoarding. Imagine a Discovery Channel crew coming into your world in the future and picking you out of the one space you can sit in because you’re buried in piles of paper, notebooks, “I might need this!” teacher stuff.

Reclaim your space, money, and peace of mind!

Here are five ways to help you stop yourself in your tracks before you end up on Hoarders: The Teacher Edition.

Try the No-Spend Challenge permanently.

It’s easier for some people to make an absolute rule. Absolute rules set clear lines in the sand and help you structure new habits. You may try the No-Spend Challenge for the summer knowing it “doesn’t really count” after that. Then, you’ll be hurting your wallet and getting back into the teacher hoarder thing again.

Look at the reasons for your actions

For me, it was fear, inconvenience, and need to create a top-quality experience for kids. Once you know the reasons you can start to solve them.

Limit your space

When I cleaned out my stockpiles and gave away the last boxes, I had three out of four cabinets filled, stashes in my two desks, and a filing cabinet filled at school. At home, I had two bins. This was all brand new school and office supplies. I regained a ton of space. These days, I have one Rubbermaid bin, and that’s the limit. Truth be told, it’s still leftover from the shopping days, and I use it for my own home and for my middle schooler if he needs things. He’s probably set through graduation.

Give yourself a space limit and stick to it. Then, once your shelf, box, or cabinet drawer is full–that’s that. Don’t give yourself a big space either–it should be no more than a box, drawer, or single bin.

Log it all–and look daily

If you use the No-Spend Summer Logsheet to log what you buy instead of what you didn’t buy (linked below) you’ll quickly see how it adds up. You’ll see how much you can save by doing the challenge. And, the more you’re saving, the more you’re not hoarding.

In case you missed it: here’s the link to the No-Spend Summer Challenge Logsheet and Tips.

Make an accountability group with similar goals.

Tell someone you’re close to at work what you’re up to. Even better–get them to join you. Hold each other accountable for your progress and be completely honest. Touch base often, and ask each other for ideas for better lessons and workarounds that accomplish the same goal without hoarding supplies.

You got this!

Once you start to feel how much space and cash you’ve recovered, you’ll never want to hoard pencils again!