Monday, November 12

Day 316 — Packrat

packrat — nov 12

See all this stuff? This stuff follows me around wherever I go. I have tried time and time again to exorcise my clutter demons, and I have given bag after bag after bag of stuff to friends and Goodwill. But still, at all times, no less than ten substantial boxes of ... stuff ... trails behind me, stashed in a closet, in a bureau, under the bed, in some spare cabinets.

I'm talking broken Furbies, miniature sticker books from when I was 12, every diary I've ever owned, broken desk lamps, loose-leaf notebook paper containing serialized and incomplete stories, sketchbooks from high school art class, billfolds given to me for Christmas when I was in third grade, creative-writing journals from my senior year, three Ziploc bags full of lead pencils and highlighters, CDs I haven't listened to in years, dusty paintbrushes given to me by my grandmother, a lamp with broken colored glass glued to it that I've never once been able to hang up, erotic poster-board paintings of featureless women, the business card of an Indian restaurant I ate at the first time I ever visited New York City, a stuffed Aflac duck, keys that go to who knows what, four spools of unmarked CDs, three boxes of photographs, my (incomplete) Sidelines clip file, bills from 2004, tiny beaded change purses stained by melted candy, wallets I've never once used, scrapbooks that have gone untouched, Christmas and birthday cards I've accumulated over the past decade, a broken ceramic angel my sister gave me when I was confirmed in our church, my old Dell desktop and its accessories, bags and purses I never use, letters from my dead grandmother and great-grandmother ... the list goes on and on.

I have this ritual once or twice a year where I pull everything out of its polite hiding place and go through it in order to "clean up" and hopefully get rid of some stuff. It almost always ends up being an exercise in pointlessness from a purely pragmatic standpoint. I throw out maybe one garbage bag of paperwork. But it gives me a chance to get reacquainted with all the stuff I've stashed and forgotten about. I get to read through my horrible adolescent poetry and cringe at the creative-writing journal I actually let a teacher read and grade my senior year. I get to tear up at the recordings of our band concerts (we were good for a bunch of little twerps). I get to remember all the bands I absolutely loved and then completely forgot about. I get to reconnect with the people in my family who have moved on, but who left me little pieces of themselves in letters and photographs.

I am a sentimental fool, see. Having little bits of my past kept stacked up in my closet helps keep every passing year within reach. If I threw these things out, how would I remember the circumstances in which they were created? My memory's not so good. I need all the help I can get.

A lot of people don't understand this attachment to things, this tendency to hoard. I think we packrats don't understand the capacity to so easily throw most things away.

Project 365

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Blogger Shannon said...

i don't even know you; but i am coming over to throw away the aflac duck.

Mon Nov 12, 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger nashgirl said...

I am also a secret stasher. I have a suitcase full of notes sent back and forth between my friends and I in high school. I have notebooks from college classes that I will never use, but I think I might. I hold onto T-shirts that don't fit because I have sentimental attachment. My big fear is that my "significant other" will go through this stuff and then decide that he can't live with my baggage.

Mon Nov 12, 11:25:00 PM  
Anonymous fieldguidetomemphis said...

someday when the archivist is combing through your things for a very important special collection in a renowned library, you'll be very glad you left such a clear and elaborate trail of the evolution of your life and thoughts... at least that's what i tell myself :)

Mon Nov 12, 11:34:00 PM  
Blogger TVonthefritz said...

Now that I regularly have to clean out the cobwebs of my mind for story ideas for possible monologues, I'm kicking myself for not secretly stashing away mementos.

Tue Nov 13, 02:47:00 AM  
Blogger Lesley said...

Nooooo....I want the Aflac duck! I'll put it right next to my Serta sheep, Pillsbury Doughboy and Snuggle!

You need a storage unit. I have one (it's called my mom's house).

Tue Nov 13, 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger La C. said...

I used to be sentimental. I used to hold on to old diaries and notes and pictures. Then I realized that when I mused over them, it didn't make me feel good. And at 25, it was starting to make me feel sick. I realized that there wasn't too much that I missed about that time, and what I did miss, I remembered without all the crap. So I pulled out the pictures, the journals, the notes, the whiskey and the fire pit and and had myself a little burning party. It felt really good.

Tue Nov 13, 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger sarah saint said...

Clutter like that makes me wanna take mah clothes off.

No, really, I get soooo excited about stuff like this. I'm an organization freak; I love putting things in cute boxes and labeling stuff. I'd separate the creative writing, poetry, and sketches by elementary/middle/high/college
and put everything from each group in a big corresponding binder (I'd use the stickers to decorate the binders). I'd include the CD jackets, other items from those time periods, put all the songs I like on the computer and toss the CDs. A photo album for Christmas and birthday cards is better than a binder 'cause you can keep them neat but still pull them out to look inside. The broken stuff, I'd throw away unless it had sentimental value, in which case, I'd take pictures of it and put the pictures in the corresponding binder... or if I really had to keep it, I'd find another use for it or store it in a pretty box with like items of sentimental value (excluding paper products, which of course would go in a binder). For stuff that's still good but I wouldn't use, like the wallets and purses, I'd bag it up and drop it off at a thrift store or shelter (also a great opportunity to clear out clothes and shoes that haven't seen daylight in years). That one was hard for me. I kept thinking, "I'll use it, I will" but I never did and finally I just thought, "Someone else would probably really use this stuff" and out it went to the Rhema shelter. I'd hang the paintings and put an ad in the paper for the computer (take a picture of it first).

Hell, you just need a hole-puncher, a lot of binders, a few attractive boxes, and some imagination and you can keep all the stuff that's special to you without it taking up a lot of space. Plus, it'll be readily available and easy to access when you want to pour a glass of wine and get all nostalgic.

Tue Nov 13, 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger fearlessvk said...

my own packrat-ish tendencies have less to do with being sentimental and more to do with being LAZY.

Tue Nov 13, 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Carrie Ann said...

I so used to be like this. I'm not now. I too would go through my stuff every time I moved (which used to be every year) and try to throw things away. I never succeeded. One year my Mom suggested that I put some things in a box, put the date on the box, and write "If not opened in 6 months throw away . . . DO NOT OPEN JUST THROW AWAY!!" I did this and in six months I opened my closet and threw away three boxes (ok so I cheated on one box and ended up keeping the stuff another six months). However, after doing this twice, I realized I didn't need all this stuff, and I then did another move and threw EVERYTHING away (but pictures I always keep pictures).
I don't miss any of the stuff I threw away; in fact, I don't even remember most of what I got rid of.

Tue Nov 13, 03:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SS, you are a woman after my own heart.

LT, I also have a couple of boxes of sentimental stuff. I used to have an ENTIRE BEDROOM full of it at my parents' house. Then my Dad unexpectedly turned my bedroom into a garage, and all that stuff disappeared. Turns out that the only stuff I really couldn't let go (high school notes, pictures, old story excerpts) I already had with me. Everything else was just sentimental junk.

Just an addition to Sarah's idea, the stuff that you secretly suspect you could throw out (but still have a story that corresponds to it), you could use as a creative writing tool and write a story about each item before letting it go. Because really, isn't it just the gateway to the memory that you're saving, not the item itself? If you preserve the gateway, perhaps you'll end up with more closet space.

Wed Nov 14, 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger MickyM said...

I am such an organization freak!
But i do keep sentemiental things, and put them i ncute boxes and decorate labels...Mainly because i grew up with a cleaning freak and i watched her all these years in normal!

Fri Jul 30, 08:41:00 AM  

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