When Buying Inventory Is Actually a Hoarding Disorder

hoarding in home

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eBay sellers, especially pickers, love the thrill of the hunt. There's an excitement in never knowing what you'll find in a thrift store, garage sale, estate sale, or consignment store. There can be a nagging urge not to leave anything decent behind because you know how much money you can make on items you're familiar with selling. "I will never find that again," you might say to yourself. "Someone else might buy this, so I better get it now."

This hunter-gatherer instinct can backfire and lead to an accumulation of too much inventory in the home. When the shopping and inventory creep start to interfere with daily living, relationships, and the eBay selling process, it can be a hoarding disorder disguised as a business. 

What Exactly Is a Hoarding Disorder?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

"Hoarding is the persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. The behavior usually has deleterious effects—emotional, physical, social, financial, and even legal—for a hoarder and family members. For those who hoard, the quantity of their collected items sets them apart from other people. Commonly hoarded items may be newspapers, magazines, paper and plastic bags, cardboard boxes, photographs, household supplies, food, and clothing."

If someone is already susceptible to hoarding tendencies, an eBay business may be an excuse to shop more, buy more, and collect more things. By learning to recognize signs that you or someone you know might be developing a hoarding disorder, you can know when it's time to step in and address the issue.

No Dedicated Space for Inventory

To function well, an at-home business should have its own space so that it is physically and visually separated from the rest of the home. A dedicated eBay area is helpful because it allows the seller to walk away from the business to take breaks, engage in family life, and essentially have a life beyond the business. A separate space can include a separate storage building, a room with a door, an area that could be enclosed with a curtain or room partition, or even just plastic tubs where work can be put away and removed from sight when the seller isn't working. The point is to be able to say:

"This over here is my work area, and that over there is not."

When unlisted inventory starts to "creep" into other rooms or areas, this is a problem. Listing purchased items should stay in sync with the acquisition of new inventory. Boundaries need to be set to avoid excess inventory. For example, if the guest room is your eBay space, and it fills up, then you should stop gathering new items until you've sold a chunk of your existing inventory. If, instead, you start storing unlisted inventory in your bedroom, it is time to address hoarding tendencies. If you are feeling a loss of living space because inventory is taking over, it may be time to create new systems for shopping, listing, and storing your items. 

The only exception is if you live in an area where inventory is hard to find and you purchase a large amount of inventory seasonally, such as during summer yard sales. Some sellers must stockpile inventory to list later because of limitations, and that is different than a hoarding disorder. Is there a method to the madness of your stockpiles, or are you accumulating inventory unintentionally?

Compulsive Shopping

Some sellers cannot resist shopping for inventory, even though they have a backlog of items to list. Compulsive shopping, a potential component of hoarding, can be identified by scenarios and feelings like:

  • Visiting multiple thrift stores every day because you don't want to miss anything
  • Hitting garage sales even though you already have hundreds of unlisted items
  • Feeling a rush or a high when shopping, but a sense of shame or disappointment in yourself when you get home
  • Shopping as a coping mechanism when you feel emotional distress
  • Buying things you don't want or need just because they are on sale
  • Feeling like a big sale or discount will never happen again
  • Trouble organizing things when you get home

All of these can be signs of compulsive shopping or shopping addiction. Remember that you came to eBay to sell things and make money. Yes, eBay is an enjoyable home business that allows you to shop for inventory at your leisure, but it is important to set boundaries.

Failure to Keep Listing in Sync With Shopping

The purpose of buying inventory to resell on eBay is to produce income. Sure, some sellers are hobby sellers. They may sell on eBay for fun, to re-home collectibles, or because they like having a small home business. Most sellers, however, are in it for the money. If you find that your focus shifts from listing items to constantly sourcing, you may have hoarding tendencies. If the thrill of the hunt outweighs your discipline to list the items you have purchased, your business is out of balance. Take time to catch up on the backlog, or stop using eBay as an excuse for shopping. 

There is nothing wrong with enjoying shopping. However, hoarding inventory clogs up cash flow. Let's look at the math. Let's say Lind has 400 items she purchased from Goodwill at $3 each. That is $1,200 she has already invested in her business. If those items were listed, and she can realistically expect just a $10 profit for each of those 400 items within 12 months, she can expect to make $4,000. By not listing the items, she is sacrificing $4,000 in addition to the $1,200 it cost to acquire the inventory in the first place.

All the items sellers accumulate in their homes equate to lost dollars in inventory cost and lost future dollars in sales. Unlisted inventory is the most common way eBay sellers leave money on the table. 

The Attitude of Lack vs. Attitude of Abundance

While most (perhaps all) eBay sellers today did not live during the Great Depression, some still have an attitude of lack, rather than abundance. That means they instinctually act as if resources are scarce, even if they clearly aren't. They could feel like they won't be able to find inventory, so they're compelled to stockpile it. These tendencies can be shaped or enhanced by emotional or personal issues, like a rough childhood, depression, or substance use disorder.

The world we live in today is one of abundance. We live in a society where things are disposable and most things we own can be replaced quickly, easily, and fairly cheaply. Online shopping makes most items just a click away. There are thousands of thrift stores across America bursting at the seams, and the trend doesn't show signs of reversing anytime soon. Baby boomers are downsizing and people of all generations are shifting toward minimalist lifestyles. Finding inventory is never a problem. Getting inventory listed is the backlog for most sellers.

Find Help If You Need It

It takes discipline, organization, and patience to be a successful seller on eBay, but if you feel that your eBay business has become a justification for compulsive shopping or hoarding, get help. The same goes for anyone who may have a loved one dealing with these issues. Help is available, whether it's online, on the phone, or in person. Shopaholics Anonymous may be a great resource for some getting started on the road to recovery, and many other resources are available a likely just a mouse click away.