Friday, July 22, 2016

Thoughts on Packratting

My main priority this week is getting some family and house projects done. One is trying to finish unpacking boxes in my garage. They were packed five years ago and have sat in those spots for four years while I was doing other things. I want to actually park cars in our garage. While doing this I am all alone, and have time to think. Mostly I am thinking about what I wish I was doing instead. This gets me to thinking about stuff and clutter and how I spend my time and why.

I was raised by two packrats and one grandmother was a hoarder the other was also a packrat. The grandparents all lived through The Depression so they blame that as the cause. I have been battling my packrat tendencies for almost twenty years. By that I mean I had decided the status quo was not how I wanted to live so began taking steps to let myself let go of the stuff.

My thoughts are kind of a jumble and all these issues and ideas swirl together to intertwine so just bear with me here.

I basically realized that all people save things for a reason.

One type seems less emotional than the others, that type is the "it's usable and I might need it" type. That type has two issues going on: 1) they are thrifty or resourceful and see discarding it as wasteful and therefore irresponsible fiscally speaking, and 2) choosing to not set limits or expiration dates on things. By that I mean, to say to oneself that saving 25 screws  of that size is enough and all beyond that must go, instead of collecting up 350. The expiration date idea is something like, "I will restring those windchimes someday so I can use them" but it's been six years so maybe it's time to say that the project is not a priority and should be abandoned and the broken windchimes should be gotten rid of.

Another less serious type is the lazy or busy person. They are just too busy doing other things to think about making priorities or projects so they just let the stuff sit and they keep gathering and keeping and it builds up. They are not in a struggle of the mind with their stuff.

The more serious type has an anxiety as the source. A person who fears they may run out of food may always overbuy food. A person who fears not having enough stuff may start couponing and wind up a hoarder of five year's worth of shaving cream and in the case of my grandmother, thirty year's worth of aluminum foil. The problem is it is not usually one single item, they save up many things or overbuy lots of stuff.

A related emotional saving is the person who is sentimental about things and wants to remember the good times. This is one of my big things. This person feels the only way to remember a good memory is to save a material possession because seeing it again will trigger the memory. Sometimes it can seem that the item has life, such as it would be painful to throw away a loved doll. I almost said the doll is alive and it would be like a death but I know that sounds exaggerated, but that's the gist of it.


The bottom line is we have one life to live and to ask ourselves how we want to spend our time. In my almost fifty years I have gone through times of plenty and times of unemployment with a very tight budget. Living through tight finances I believe makes packratting worse but I'm starting to digress.

Basically I've learned this: the most joy comes from living and doing what you want. We do have base life responsibilities to do such as grocery shopping and cooking meals to survive. But the way we live can be frantic with looking for something misplaced due to clutter and chaos in the home or we can have less material possessions around and just have what we need and keep it organized so we can put our hands on what we need whe we need it. If it is so valuable to keep it should be out and accessible. My eighteen year old asked to see a favorite childhood book, I said it was in a box deep in a closet mixed with hundreds of others. So what good did that do to save it?

And this week I am spending time sorting yet again through saved things instead of doing other things I wanted. I wanted to take a stab at painting and I wanted to keep drawing daily and read a certain book on my nightstand. But instead I am touching and moving and sweating in the 100+ degree hot and humd garage going through saved papers and things from my hoarder grandmother. She was filled wth anxiety and a was a textbook case of OCD And I keep asking myself if that is what I want to be.

My goal is to get the cars in the garage before hurricane season really hits us. The next project will be to cull the educational books in the game room on the shelves then go through boxes of books in the closets and put the ones out that I want and to get rid of even more.


The other type of packrat is the collector of project stuff. For the creative that means things like watercolor painting supplies, rubber stamps, and all kinds of art and craft supplies. We buy up the stuff to prepare to do a thing then when we choose to not do it, we still keep the stuff. I am trapped in this right now. I say some day I will do this and that.

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