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I'M MORE OF A CUSTODIAN, REALLY
I fight my inner packrat constantly. I can't remember if it was before or after my father died that my mom told us that he, a notorious and shameless packrat of the First Order, had refused to throw away, among other equally horrifying things, boxes of moldy college textbooks from the 60s that had been caught in a basement-flooding years ago and 10-year old road maps and box after box of computer cables and ports and parts. Boxes of pens. Boxes of paper. Boxes of old magazines. I don't think my father ever threw anything away that he thought might come in handy again and he thought EVERYTHING would come in handy again.

Obviously, since he died well before his time, he was wrong. We pitched it all, or at least most of it. My mom is STILL, 9 years after his death, going through and throwing away things that my father thought were necessary to save. I'm sure he is still spinning with wrath and horror.

I have always had the same need to squirrel things away, to save them for myself, not just for coming in handy, but for returning to, and for gazing upon...things that make up my own private collections, my personal galleries and chronicles. I don't save the sorts of things my father did; for whatever reason I have NO problem pitching that kind of crap and I don't really consider myself sentimental about 'things' in general, although I removed a couple of stuffed animals from the bag of discards that my children had decided they'd outgrown, because stuffed animals are worse than CRACK where I'm concerned and I have a heavy habit which I hide by pretending all those damn plush critters belong to them and not me, but I'm so lying and they know it. Mamas, don't let your babies get started on the stuffed animal habit! It leads nowhere but to devastation and despair!

Where was I?

Oh yes, squirreling things away. In my time I've saved things like miscellaneous playing cards (for the designs on the backs) and stickers, and notes a flirty but unknown boy wrote to me when we shared a desk during high school; him in 4th period and me in 6th period, and there was nothing like the exhilaration of putting my hand in the desk and finding an intricately folded, blue-ballpoint-penned missive written to ME because he thought I was cute and I didn't even know WHO HE WAS, O! the mystery and the delicious thrill!

I do go on wild cleaning, purging binges in which I ferociously attack the closets and the pantry and the drawers and the shelves and ruthlessly clear out everything that is old, unused, out of style, never-to-be-read-again or just plain tiresome. My family lives in fear of these cleaning-tsunamis, but I love the way they flow in, pushing aside everything in their path, and then ebb, leaving things empty and open and spacious and READY TO BE FILLED AGAIN.

I save poems and quotations that move me, writing them down in the close embrace of carefully chosen blank journals with lovely covers. I rip funny stories and pretty pictures and interesting essays out of magazines and stuff them into notebooks. I set aside drawings and art that my children create, and my friends, and my own. I've filled numerous shadowboxes with the ephemera and memories of travels and places and people. I fill photo albums. I save books I love. I have 4 boxes of beautiful clothing that I can't fit into and can't bear to part with because I have been unable to be ruthless ENOUGH. Things that I have moved countless times from closet to closet to closet, through a successive series of moves, up to and including the one across the ocean.

Thank god for those moves, I sigh, because I can't imagine where I would have put the accumulation of years otherwise. And yet, if you've seen my house, I don't think you would call it cluttered or full of STUFF.* Well, maybe you would. I'm certainly no minimalist. :)

Nowadays a lot of my packrat energy is diverted into VIRTUAL saving, which helps. I save art from online galleries and poetry and quotations, and emails and journal entries; once in awhile burning them onto a CD and then carefully labeling it and putting it into a scrapbook on my shelf. The cleaning/purging binges happen here, too, though. My overly organizing, tidy Virgo self can't go too long without putting her foot down and bringing things back to a manageable level.

I'm not just saving things for the sake of saving them. I don't necessarily think they will come in handy someday. I'm KEEPING them. I'm ARCHIVING them. I'm PRESERVING them. It's more than a matter of "one man's trash is another man's treasure," I think. Still, I fight it constantly. Some days I win, some days I lose. But often I wonder...when I'm getting rid of things, am I really winning? Does it just depend on what it is I'm getting rid of? What do you think? And do you think there's a cure for the stuffed-animal-sickness or am I doomed forever?

A Day Full of Good Food, Good Company and Good Wishes to the Birthday Boy, my Baby Brother: johann_metzger!

Wishes for a Wonderful, Warm and Bonny Birthday to emmabovary!

*full of books, yes, there's no denying that.
 contemplative
mood: contemplative
music: Fine Young Cannibals—Don't Ask Me To Choose


Comments

my own thoughts on hoarding comes from having to clean up the mess in my dad's apartment after he had died. all on my own. i do not want anyone related to me to have to go through and get rid of stack after stack of crappy detective story paperbacks, old phone books, advertisements, pieces of paper and cardboard boxes saved for taking notes on, empty pill bottles, schnapps bottles, clothes and bed linen that saw their best days probably before i was born, groceries with a similarly depressing best before date, and lots of other dusty, useless things. dad, i wish you had been one of those hoarders that saved meaningful things! or meaningful thoughts. meaningful ways for me to connect to you after you left this world. or if you couldn't find anything meaningful to hoard, couldn't you at least have hoarded VALUABLE things?

All on your own? Ugh. :( I did a lot of the cleaning out of my grandmother's house after she died, and it was not fun, although again, my mom bore the brunt of it. But I so hear you on the "things meaningful to hoard, or at least valuable."

(Anonymous)

No there is no cure for the stuffed animal hoarder......I also claim they are the kids! Did we get the pack-rat thing from Dad or is it truly an astrology thing??

However on the "hoard meaning full or at least valuable" at least you won't have to toss it all when Mom goes as she is trying hard to make sure there is nothing left to pitch! : ) ( not that we want her to go any time soon.... preferably not for another 50 years!)However have fun helping at my house when I go as I do collect!!!! Hee Hee
Love the beeg leetle Seester

(Anonymous)
Hoard Clearing

Well, don't know about the actual doing,,,,,,but the talk about doing is sure happening. I expect to leave a house full of valuable beauties and words of wisdom. But, of course, I am well aware that my preferences on those are far different than my children's. But, there are still lots of junk to clear here- just need someone to come and motivate me more than I do! I just want to clear out whatever I don't want to move!
And, yes the packrat thing is something I refuse to claim! Love, Lizardmom

Re: Hoard Clearing

Well, John certainly doesn't have the packrat gene, so it must only have come from one of you :)

My crack is art supplies and Crayola products- my kid has 5x the crayons and Cryola stuff that she will ever use in a lifetime.

My FIL has said some wonderful things and this is one of them: "people should move every 5 years so they are forced to clean out their house and not accumulate stuff!"

I agree with your FIL!

You're so cute. I throw away bags of stuff every time we move house. My husband never seems to find much to toss, though, so his need for closet space continues to grow as mine shrinks. *sigh*

I read a statement from a German scientist on IBM last week. He claims many CD-R will detoriate after two years, maybe five years if it is a good brand. The paper spoke with sales people who said little is known how long a such disk will last, but accelerated tests suggest the data should be safe about 100-200 years on a good CD-R, stored in the right conditions.

Just a precursor that you may want to check the virtual saving after some time and maybe make another copy of what you still want to keep. The German scientist may have exaggerated the risks, but it would be sad to one day find the files unreadable.

Nothing lasts forever.

(Anonymous)

I throw everything out. Every. Thing. And I regret having thrown away much of it.

~Sprigs

See, that's why I can't! I can remember plenty of things that I regret getting rid of. It's a curse.

I used to hoard as well and I got sentimentally attached to things that I simply couldn't part with. I love photographs, bits of family history, things that mark the progression through life - artwork, poetry, children's gifts and artwork, cards from friends, trinkets from oma. I kept it all and revisited it often basking in the joy of remembering. But I sadly lost the lot in a fire and now I am almost afraid to hold on to anything. I don't want to get attached again and have these things wrenched out of my life as it hurts deeply and I think permanently. These days, I travel really light and there is very little in my home that is "me". I wonder if I'll ever find the right balance.

Maybe you've gone overboard in the other direction because of the pain that fire caused you? I hope you do find the right balance again. I think there is something to be said for mementos and keepsakes :)

I used to save everything...I mean every little memento from different places and events I had been to. I felt like I was holding onto those cherished memories through my little items I collected. It got way out of hand and took me forever to clear them out and while I may not have the little memento anymore, I have the pictures and I have the memory encrusted in my mind of the time, and if I dwell long enough on it, I can almost even remember the smells and the feelings I had at the time fo the memory.

I'm also a cull-er, so imagine my surprise when I packed 30 boxes for the movers! I kept thinking, that's a lot of stuff? Who's stuff is that?

I'm not remotely sentimental about things for the most part and every time I move I get rid of gobs of stuff. Except for photos...THOSE turn me into a mushball. So thank god for the digital camera, because now I don't care about having prints, as long as I know I have the images saved on the computer. (There's a HUGE box of prints still in my father's attic where I left it 6 years ago when we moved to the islands.) And bless the 'computer doctor' who rescued 2-1/2 years worth of images from our crashed laptop in January...I would have been heartsick. :)

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