Hoarding Free Crap

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For the last few months at the gym there's been a little basket in the ladies' locker room filled with samples of travel-sized deodorant. The first time this deodorant was available, I took one, figuring it would be perfect for my next trip. The next time I saw the full basket of deodorant, I refrained from taking one, since I didn't want to be greedy. But since then I've seen that basket full of deodorant each time I go to the gym (which isn't that much, thanks to Exercise TV and running outside) I take one of those suckers, because I figure by hoarding several mini deodorants I am saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars on future full-price sticks of deodorant. I keep pawning them off on my husband who claims that a lady deodorant couldn't work on his man-sized pits but I tell him that's b.s. (is it? Who cares. It's free deodorant.)

In the interest of ethics I asked my personal trainer if she thought there was a problem with me taking a stick of mini deodorant once a week and she rolled her eyes and said no; there were boxes of the stuff in the storeroom. So I'm okay.

I also hoard paper napkins from restaurants: they go in the glove compartment in the car for messy emergencies (and these really get used) as well as crackers that come my way. I don't take more than my share but if, say, I get 2 packets of crackers with my soup I'll save one. Those also go in the glove compartment with the rationale that they'll come in handy either when our car goes off the cliff and we're stuck without help for three days or my husband goes into one of his legendary bitchy hunger fits.

I think everyone has something that they grab for free if they can get it. My father-in-law allegedly has a drawer full of red-and-white mint candies he's taken over the years from restaurants. My own father used to come home with all the hotel toiletries he could grab until my mom made him cut it out because it was driving her nuts; now he takes bottled water from his own gym locker room. I think my mom likes those little mini ketchup bottles you get with room service but I've only observed this; I'm not sure if it's a 'situation.'

I wanted to make sure that I wasn't the only person or in the only family that hoarded crap so I put the question out on Facebook: what do you hoard, and why?

Elizabeth: My mom's cousin picks up hundreds of gift cards, just the cards, with no money on them, wherever she can. What does she do with them? Well, good question. She makes them into flat Christmas trees to hang on the wall.

Arby's sauce packets -- those things are good on steaks

Marissa: napkins from the bar - for when there is no TP in the restroom

Dylan: My dad grabs shitloads of napkins at any restaurant where they have them out while he's still got some in his pockets from the last place. His explanation when I made fun of him for it was a very defensive, "BUT... I like napkins."

Also Dylan: I hoard old computers. My own and ones other people are getting rid of. I think I'll put linux on them or something and never bother. I have (at least) 7 functional, semi-functional, and completely broken computers in my studio apartment.

Just saying that feels so cathartic.

Jennifer (who is like my dad): hotel toiletries...from good skincare lines. Why buy travel size bath products, when you can get them for free? Also, when you have too many mini-bottles clogging your medicine cabinet, most homeless shelters are more than happy to receive sealed donations

Elizabeth: Chopsticks, b/c you can eat anything with chopsticks. Even yogurt - try it.

Rob: With great enthusiasm, I take cd-rs off of my friends throwing their collection out. Lots of funny (Ricky Martin/Paul Oakenfold) and nostalgic (The Jets/Another Bad Creation) secrets to be found.

Alissa: Snacks and medicine from work. Like when they put out the GOOD kind of apples or the GOOD kind of pretzels, I take a bunch and stash them away in my drawer like a depression-era grandma or greedy squirrel. And I refill my purse ibuprofen bottle with the little packets that are in our very well-stocked first aid cabinet. They have cough drops and Excedrin and tums in there, too! All very hoardable!

Anne: Mini Dove soap from the pediatrician's office. The fulfill the Martha Stewart need in me to make my houseguests feel like they are in a nice hotel with a fresh, cute little box.

Lisa: free lip gloss samples, which i get as a "beauty insider" at Sephora. I'm obsessed with lip gloss. The downside: I lose them. All the time. Because they are so small. Sometimes they show back up and it's like finding a $5 bill in your pocket. Currently i can't find any of them, and I'm a little freaked out. Also, honey samples. I don't care where they come from. I love honey. Bonus if they come in little fancy jars, like from the Peninsula tea. OK I guess those are not samples. maybe i did steal them. but if they were not meant to be confused as samples, they should not have made them so small and cute.

Katie: My gym has free tampons!!! I also chow down at Whole Foods- I figure they owe me since their food is so expensive.

Elizabeth: Matches at bars and restaurants. So many places don't have them anymore, so when they, do I walk write up to the bowl/jar and grab a huge handful.

Anne: free food at work, because I am an unpaid intern and it's better than nothing.

Kate: Splenda packets, napkins (which I store in my car), free pens (to use in my classroom), and moist towelettes (weird, but true). Hotel toiletries only if they are the good stuff.

Anne: There's this certain kind of orange-scented lotion that I LOVE but have encountered only as a travel-sized freebie in hotel rooms. In the last hotel I stayed in that had it, I made sure to take it every day and put it in my suitcase so that the maids would leave another bottle the next day.

Katie: I used to compulsively take business cards because I had a nice box that they fit into perfectly, and it wasn't full. Also I liked the fonts and colors. I had hundreds.

Potential crossover from "hoarding" into "collecting nice things" territory:

Jeff: wheatback pennies. to appreciate them.

Tracy: feathers and pebbles and pinecones and other pretty things from outside

Katie: plant cuttings or ailing plants that people give me, which is why it's hard to see out of my windows. But at least I have plenty of oxygen in my apartment, which has to be a good thing. I'm saving on those trips to the oxygen bar I don't have to make.