Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Packrats

It’s springtime (well it's technically springtime, but it is snowing today) and it’s time to clean out those closets and purge!! I love throwing things out – it’s so cleansing and freeing. But alas, it’s not so easy when you live with PACKRATS!

I come from a long line of purgers. My mother is a purger. My grandmother was purger. My sister is the champion of all purgers. She moved from Richmond, VA to Salt Lake City, Utah and sold EVERYTHING including her CDs movies, furniture and a car. She is my idol on simple living! So good “clean” fun for my family has always been organizing that dreaded junk door or donating a garbage bag full of clothes to Goodwill. So what’s the problem – I married a packrat and gave birth to packrat children.

My husband has t-shirts from the 80’s that he will never wear again, but we have to keep them because they have sentimental value. Some of the shirts you can’t even read what is on them anymore, but they remind him a great time in his life, so every few years we pull out the t-shirt box and reminisce. He has a baseball cap for everyday of the month (he doesn’t wear baseball caps), but I can’t throw them away either – he might need a baseball cap.

My daughter inherited the same illness. She brings home mounds of busy work from school that she insists on keeping because they represent her work. It’s hard to explain to a 7 year old that it’s the PROCESS not the PRODUCT involved in school work. In my organized fashion I have bought a set of boxes in which “special” papers or “examples” of her school work can be stored, but she still insists that a general note from the school regarding the book fair needs to go in there as well.

There are theories regarding extreme hoarding that states that the hoarder has a hard time making decisions so they don’t throw things away because they feel it will be the wrong decision. I don’t think that applies to my family. Maybe my husband and daughter are more tender-hearted and sentimental about objects, while I tend to be more sentimental about, well, ... nothing. So I will put on my understanding wife and mommy hat and respect their apparent need to keep every little scrap or nothing. I’ll sneak stuff out of the house when they aren’t looking.


  1. LOL. Sorry your having a hard time purging. My mom is a HUGE packrat! Did I say she was a huge packrat? HUGE! I try to help her every once in a while, but those boxes of clothes from the 80's that she doesnt remember whats even in it...she just MIGHT look at them ONE DAY (her famous phrase).

  2. Aww. I'm your idol of simple living? That's so nice! I'm with you. All my memories are stored in my head and my heart rather than in the closet. And although my NYC pad is only stocked with the basics, I did acquire a live in boyfriend who can't survive without his 200 paperbacks and 4,000 lbs of tools. But I did convince him that dumping duplicates of things we owned was smart. So I got rid of my old vacuum and coffee maker for his newer models, and he was able to throw out about 3 garbage bags of clothes, knick knacks, and random chipped glassware.

    As for Jon's tshirts, I saw this great thing this woman did for her husband who couldn't part with his either. She cut the fronts off in equal 12" x 12" squares right over top the logos and had them made into a throw quilt. So the memories were still there, but transformed into something useful and took up much less space. So every time her hubby snuggled up on the couch for TV night, he had his warm new throw of memories draped over top. Check this site out for some examples: http://www.tshirtquilt.com/t-shirt-quilt.htm -Becky

  3. This is awesome Jane! In my years with Mike, I've had to learn that when its time to move, its time to purge, purge, purge! That is a great thing about being in the military. There isn't time to accumulate too much junk. Although, he comes from a family of packrats and we seem to have the exact same t-shirt and baseball cap problem. Mike does wear hats everyday, and often changes them mid-day, but he has hundreds!!! Truly not necessary! I do love your sister's quilt idea. I think I may be doing some digging into the t-shirt pile with my scissors!!