Dahleen Glanton: Pandemic hoarding isn't the same as regular hoarding, is it?

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Toilet paper is out of stock at a QFC grocery store at University Village on Sunday. - Michele Baruchman/Seattle Times/TNS

I have learned a lot about myself during the coronavirus pandemic, as many of you probably have as well.

While stuck at home for weeks, I played around in the kitchen and found that I could make a pretty decent chicken noodle soup using all fresh ingredients. It will be a staple in my home during this next phase of the pandemic.

I also realized that I’m a hoarder.

I don’t think I’m as bad as the people you see on TV clinging onto a coat hanger because they fear they might need it someday. I consider myself a situational hoarder. The pandemic made me do it.

Like most people, I was unprepared when COVID-19 took over our lives last March. Nobody warned us that it was coming, so we had no idea what we would be up against.

Who knew that it would be nearly impossible to find hand sanitizer, toilet tissue and disinfectant?

But this time, there was plenty of warning. Health experts began telling us even before the first round of the coronavirus was done that a second phase would follow in the fall. And, coupled with the flu season, it could be worse than the first.

When I heard about this dark winter approaching, I took heed. That’s when my dark side emerged. I set out on a mission to stock up on as much Lysol spray, Clorox wipes and Purell hand sanitizer I could get my hands on.

The mission began about four months ago when I received a flyer in the mail from Costco advertising 12-roll packs of Bounty paper towels and 30-count Charmin toilet paper. After months, the products finally were back in stock — and on sale.

I’ve always been particular about the brand of paper products I use. Softness and thickness are important to me. But by the time I got to the store, they had run out. They offered me a deal on their store brand paper towels, and I jumped at it.

I left with 24 rolls of paper towels — the store limit. I returned the next day and bought 24 more.

I don’t have enough room in my condo for 48 rolls of paper towels or the 60 rolls of toilet paper or the 72 bottles of water I had delivered. So I turned a spare bedroom into a storage closet.

It looks like a well-stocked mini mart, filled with everything you need during a pandemic.

But I’m not selfish. I’m going to pack goody bags to send to friends and family members for Christmas. (I hope they won’t read this and spoil the surprise.)

My brother and sister-in-law run a children’s day care in Georgia. They will get a couple of bottles of the 32-ounce Germ-X hand sanitizers I snagged off Amazon, but I’m keeping the four bottles of “hard-to-find” Purell I stumbled upon at Walgreens.

They’ll also get a box of disposable face masks, shoe covers and latex gloves. I have at least four boxes of each on hand.

Having gone through the previous surge of the pandemic, I am now well aware of the kinds of things that get off the shelves quickly. Dishwashing detergent is one of them. This time, I’ve got two 75-fluid-ounce jugs of Dawn under my kitchen sink.

A few weeks ago, I happened to stop by a little Walgreens store in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood and, to my surprise, they had just received a supply of Clorox disinfecting wipes. There was no limit, so I grabbed six of them. It felt as though I’d hit the lottery.

While I have plenty of disposable masks, I also ordered a few cloth ones for when I feel like dressing up. I love Johnny Was clothing, but the designer outfits are way too expensive for me. Their masks, however, fit my budget. I ordered a pack of five floral masks for $25, plus a three-pack of matching no-touch key chains for another $25.

They’ll make excellent Christmas gifts.

I’m sitting pretty right now. I have way more than I need to get me through the next three months or so. But I’m not all that happy about it. Little did I realize how thin the line is between hoarding and simply being prepared.

I have always had a small tendency to hoard. I’ve still got unopened boxes from the time I moved from Chicago to Atlanta in 1998 and back to Chicago in 2009 stacked in the storage locker in the basement of my building.

I thought I was making progress, though. Earlier this year, I called the Salvation Army to pick up loads of stuff. I got rid of the bread maker I’d never used as well as the rotisserie cooker and the accessories I’d never taken out of the box.

I gave away the skinny jeans I’ve not been able to fit into for more than 30 years and the Victor Costa satin evening gown that I wore one time to a fraternity dance in the 1980s.

Also, I recently agreed to let my nephew and his wife come to Chicago with a van once the pandemic is over and clean out my closets. They’re going to take everything I haven’t worn in decades, including those 5-inch heels, and sell them on Poshmark. (Believe it or not, they are still in style.)

The pandemic has brought out the worst of me — but there’s still hope.

My refrigerator gave out a couple of weeks ago, and my freezer was well stocked with groceries. Instead of throwing it all away, which would have been a lot easier, I packed everything up and gave it to a needy family.

It reminded me of how much we sometimes take our good fortune for granted. I’m lucky to be able to stock up with as much toilet tissue as I can find. But I must never forget that lots of people don’t have enough food, even in the best of times.

So I’ve come up with another idea. I’m not only going to give out goody bags to my family this year for Christmas, I’m going to pack up rolls of toilet tissues, paper towels and hand sanitizer, and donate them to needy families.

Hoarding isn’t really hoarding when it goes to a good cause.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

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