Once, long ago, in a village far, far away, there lived a peasant woman. About 10 minutes away from her cottage, as the crow flies, stood the nearest market. It had nearly everything anyone could ever possibly want or need. Its inventory included assorted candies which were stored in glass jars (licorice, peppermints and hard candies) to fabrics (cotton, wool, linen and leather) to grains and seeds (which could be used to bake the finest bread or start a garden), and a great deal more! The menfolk often came to inquire about the latest firearms and/or munitions in stock or to determine whether there had been a recent shipment of tobacco or jerky. And the womenfolk loved to visit the market, not only to get all they needed to care for their households, but to also admire the exquisite displays of jewelry or hair products (hand mirrors, brushes and delicately hand painted combs). The peasant woman would often go to the market to see all of the amazing things that were to be had, although she often left empty handed as there wasn’t much that she could buy with but a few pence.
“Seriously?! Where the hell is she going with this?” I just heard you say aloud. Ok, ok, I’ll stop yanking your chain. The peasant woman is me. The village is where I lived for 20 years before I moved to where I am now. And the market is Target. And, yes, they have some really cool stuff! They have literally everything you could ever possibly want or need. There are clothes and furniture and jewelry and cleaning products and electronics and books and baby goods and phones and games and even food! I used to know that store like the back of my hand because I would literally spend hours there each week. What the heck was I doing at Target for all of those countless hours? Looking for bargains, my friends!!
It all started out rather innocently, like most addictions do. I needed a few things for the house so I figured Target would be perfect (and I prefer it to their competitor anyway so that made it easy). I first went to the back of the store to pick up some detergent and fabric softener and then I meandered over to the food section to grab a few snacks for the weekend. From there, I made a straight shot over to electronics to see if they had anything my kids might be interested in, but was a bit disappointed when (after checking both sides of the aisle top to bottom, left to right) I discovered that everything I thought they’d enjoy was a tad outside of my budget. That’s when I decided to round the corner and stepped directly in front of the holy grail of all bargain shoppers, the CLEARANCE ENDCAP. And this endcap was b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. At the top of the endcap was an enormous RED clearance sign and down below, on the shelves, were dozens and dozens of items with bright red tags that reflected a 75 – 90 percent markdown off the original price, and they were all competing for my attention. WOW! “How come I never noticed this before?” I thought to myself. “BUY ME, BUY ME!” they all shouted at once. My mouth hung open in awe as I gazed upon them. And that’s when I felt a ‘Zing!’ shoot through my body. That ‘Zing!’ I felt? I suspect it’s much like what a gambler feels when they hit their first Jackpot.
That day in Target was a turning point for me. I started seeing ‘RED’ all over the place! Pretty much every department within the store had its own designated endcap and you’d better believe I made a point to go to each and every one EVERY SINGLE TIME I went to the store. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but I had developed an addiction. Each time I walked through that automatic door with the giant bullseye, I went to my ‘happy place’. “Hmmm, what’s on sale today?” I’d wonder to myself as I’d grab ahold of the nearest shopping cart and make my way to the rear of the store, where I would start the slow, systematic process of ‘checking endcaps’. And I didn’t miss a SINGLE one. I went from clothes to baby goods to electronics to toys to bikes to camping gear to seasonal items and I continued until I had checked EVERY SINGLE ENDCAP in the entire store.
The thing about addiction(s) is that you don’t necessarily know you’ve developed one until it’s almost too late. I had begun walking a fine line that, had I stumbled, could have easily brought me to a place where few return, Hoarders Ville. “They only want 10 cents for an entire pack of napkins decorated with leprechauns for St. Patrick’s Day? That’s going in the cart! St. Patrick’s Day is already long gone but I can always use it next year. Forty-nine cents for a cd with the soundtrack of ‘The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps’? There are at least three songs I like on it. That’s definitely going in the cart!! A dollar for a developmental toy for kids ages 18 months – 3 years? Heck, yes!! I don’t know a single person with a kid that age but I’m sure at some point, I’ll get invited to a birthday party with a kid turning 2 or 3. And then I won’t have to go shopping, I can just pull it out of my closet and wrap it! Already in the cart! I put it in there while I was telling you about the birthday party.”
Where do things stand today? Well, after noticing that I had quite a few things with their original tags stored throughout my house and realized that all of this shopping for cheap bargains wasn’t very ‘fiscally responsible’, it kind of hit home. Maybe the items were a buck or less, but when you buy enough of something and then don’t end up using it after all, it’s not very wise. I never did get invited to a birthday party for a 2 or 3 year old and I also never had a party to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, so those items I so wisely purchased were never put to use, just like most of the stuff I had bought on clearance. And once I had the realization that I was ultimately wasting a lot of money and a whole lot of time, I stopped doing the ‘endcap shuffle’ and donated nearly everything I had purchased to a local thrift store. It’s a good thing it happened when it did, because I really was coming close to entering a place of no return. That’s the place where people gather and gather and gather and fill up their homes until they only have but a small place to eat and/or sleep, and that’s often in the bathroom beside a pile of soiled adult diapers. I am just so grateful that I had a moment of clarity that really made me open my eyes and recognize that what I was doing was not healthy. I’m pretty sure Target was appreciative that I was clearing their shelves of a lot of crap that nobody else wanted, but my husband didn’t take much of a shine to me dragging it home.
Anyway, for those of you that are curious, I have made huge strides since the day I had my ‘epiphany’. But I’m not perfect. I still get a little excitable when I see a clearance sticker (especially a red one) but now I’m a bit more discerning. If it’s something I will definitely use, like laundry detergent or candy, I do still have a tendency to buy in excess. “Fifty-percent off Tide powder?! How much you got?” What can I say, I’m a work in progress. Sometimes, the junk mail gets away from me along with the recyclables but eventually I get around to cleaning or clearing them out. Once the glass jars and plastic bottles and aluminum cans start to escape the top of the trashcan and climb the wall, that’s my signal to deposit them outside. At least, I haven’t reached the point where I’m living in a house with assorted tunnels to pass through to get from room to room, that I also happen to share with 25 cats and 10 dogs (and a few rats). There’s no fecal matter or assorted piles of garbage strewn throughout the house, and your eyes don’t burn when you enter (from the cat urine that has permeated nearly every surface).
Overall, I’d say I’m doing pretty good. Maybe I’ve got a few more boxes of Tide stored in my laundry room (than the average person) and could probably live with less, but I’d say that’s fairly harmless when considering where I could be today. Look, after watching enough shows about hoarders, I have devised a litmus test. If you’ve ever watched any of the shows about people that cannot throw crap away and keep accumulating (anything and everything) until it destroys all of their relationships, you will notice that there is one thing they all have in common. None of them can use their stoves (because they are covered in crap). And I am proud to announce that I used my stove today, thank you very much! It was only one burner but that’s neither here nor there. When I reach the point where I have to resort to using a filthy microwave to heat up a bunch of TV dinners, you have my permission to call the city and report me. Until then, I’d say no intervention is necessary. I’m doing good, folks. In fact, I’m doing better than good. I am doing GREAT!!
Now, if I could just convince Target to rescind their ban…