Opinion: How much is too much?


“Let’s not throw it away, it might come in handy later.” One can hardly argue the veracity of the truism. We are rarely effective predictors of the future. What might become valuable, exceedingly valuable, down the road a bit is impossible to know. Many of us imagined the few rolls of Charmin under the sink would last until our next run to the grocery. In a world of shortages, panic and supply chain interruptions, our stockpile of Taco Bell napkins was an unattractive, if effective, backup plan.

So, what is it that separates us from the hoarding masses, swimming in their stashes, certain to last long beyond their remaining years on this big, blue planet? Cleaning out the ubiquitous kitchen junk drawer during our recent sequestration, the effort produced a surprising, if not imposing, count of ink pens. They represented all sort and manner of life milestones – bank pens, hospital pens, the pens of various organizations, hotel pens and an abundance of those lost to the failing memory of history. Sure, they tell a story, but don’t they also point to our need to hang on to objects long after their effective purpose is extinguished? The cumulative collection of pens held more ink than an average human could use in one lifetime, or two.   

One could rightly suppose that the pens will pass to heirs, if such a thing as an ink pen is still useful to them. Even now, are the instruments much more than an amusing novelty, nostalgic for the way we used to communicate? Our lives are burdened with countless examples of our reservation of goods for a “rainy day” – not thinking that we’ve stored enough to outlast Noah’s flood. Having a spare or two gives comfort, but what is the point of holding three lifetime supplies?