When that show "Hoarders" first came out, I couldn't help but watch it.
Until I started getting heart palpitations.
It was as if those piles of newspapers, cardboard boxes and other stuff would somehow, in some mysterious way, push their way through the TV screen right into my living room.
I had to turn the channel. I just couldn't watch.
I have never liked clutter. I can't function in untidy. Before I cook in a kitchen, every dish (or at least most of them) need to be cleaned and put away, the counters cleared. If I have work to do, everything in my work area must be tidy and neat before I can really sit down and accomplish anything.
This isn't a bad trait to have as a missionary/ex-patriate. Our lives require us to travel a lot and move multiple times- it's never good to have a ton of crap to move along with you. When we first moved to Tanzania we pared down our 2-story, 3 bedroom house into 10 Rubbermaid Totes that each weighed 50 pounds. It wasn't easy, and we kept about 30 totes in storage by the time we left. (You try doing that with only 5 months to mentally prepare for an international move!)
When we returned a year later on furlough, we went through those 30 totes and started chuckin' stuff left and right. It was easy to get rid of so. much. excess. After all, we'd lived without it for a year, may as well sell it/donate it and keep the extra money to help fund our ministry!
There's this thing that also happens when you're a missionary/ex-pat.
You become a hoarder.
Mostly a food hoarder.
You know, those things that you just can't get in your new home country.
Things that, when they come in a care package, or in the suitcase of a visitor, you hide them.
Sometimes you hide them in multiple places. You shove them in the back of your freezer vowing not to eat them.
Even though that's what they were sent/brought for: to eat.
But there's this horrible catch-22 that happens, kind of like this, in our heads (or in my case, in a conversation with my husband).
"Yessssss!! Chocolate chips! Wahooo!!" But let's not use them for pancakes, that's a waste. "Maybe I'll just eat one or two." No! I can't eat them plain, I must save them and use them for something special! "Oooo, maybe I can use them for XYZ!" No, no, they wouldn't appreciate them like we do, I'll just make peanut butter cookies instead.
... 6 months later...
"Okay, let's use some. Let's just make a half batch of cookies. Twelve for you, twelve for me."
The sad thing is: I'm not really joking. We just finished a bag of chocolate chips that have been sitting in the back of our freezer for six months. I snapped this pic just before putting the last bit into the cookie dough tonight. See the horrible frozen/thawed/ refrozen evidence of discoloration on that perfectly formed little piece of goodness? Proof that he's seen better days, and been in a place with more constant power. What's worse than that? There is about 1/3 of a bag of butterscotch chips sitting in the back of our freezer that has been there for over a year.
In early April, an angel of a couple brought us a piece of luggage, in which they snuck some Easter candy. I still have 1/3 bag of pastel colored M&M's in a ziplock baggie in the back of my closet. And I'm pretty sure there's a 1/2 bag of pastel-wrapped Kisses and a handful of Cadburry mini eggs in there too. The Reece's didn't last long - only two months.
Last month I saw a bottle of Wishbone Ranch dressing at our local supermarket. And for only $2.50! I snagged it up immediately, excited about the possibilities that little bottle held. When I got home it went on my pantry shelf, and I remembered I never even bought ranch dressing in the states... what on Earth am I going to use it for here?! It was just too hard to pass it by though! Once in a while we will get those coveted items on a shelf here, usually for a much-too-high price. Sometimes we cave and buy it, and most of the time we hoard it. Because when something is on a grocery store shelf here, it is never, I repeat never guaranteed to be there ever again. We once bought 20 personal-sized bags of tortilla chips from the supermarket. Twenty. I put some in the pantry, some under the cupboard in a plastic bag. They lasted us about three months. And you know what? I've never seen them on the shelf in any store since then.
So. If I've learned anything about being a hoarder, it's this: NO SHAME. There is NO shame you ex-pats, you missionaries! You buy those 5 last packages of granola bars even though it's three times the price you'd pay in America! You freeze those miss-shaped, mashed up candies that have somehow made it through the postal system and into your balmy hands. But above all, remember this: always, ALWAYS, always - eat them. Preferably before they expire. Aw, who am I kidding, I've definitely eaten expired candy, and I survived to blog about it!
So tell me ex-pats, missionaries: what do YOU hoard? C'mon - 'fess up! :)