Friday, January 03, 2014

Why is it so hard to dig out of the packrat den?

"You're a packrat," one of my sons told me recently, and I looked at him in disbelief. When we relocated, a few years ago, from a huge house in the country, in Kentucky, to an apartment, in Baltimore, I'm the one who - after the initial yard sale - used Craigslist and Freecycle to whittle our stuff down, again and again. I'm the one who has sold and given away dozens (perhaps hundreds?) of books.

But I looked around our apartment, and I thought about what he said, and I realized he's right. My husband and I are both packrats, just in different areas of life and perhaps for both some different reasons, as well as some intersecting reasons.

I'm slowly working toward minimalism - toward reducing "stuff" - without giving up the second two parts of "reduce, reuse, recycle". But in the meantime, I've been exploring 'how we got this way'. So, this morning I made a list (of course). It's a list of what we learned, mostly from our parents, who - just for the record - grew up during the Depression. Not all of these items apply to us...although many of them apply to one or the other of us...but I've gotten them all from observing ourselves, our parents, and our siblings.

Please do not take these and run with them, so to speak. Many of them are better "re-thought" entirely, and others at least modified. Most of them bog us down in life. But until we see where we're coming from, I figure it might be harder to figure out where we're going.

Old Philosophies about “Stuff”:
1.       If you spent good money for it, or it was a gift, so someone else spent good money for it, you should keep it.
2.       If it is broken, you should keep it until you can find a way to fix it.
3.       If it is worn out, you should give it to Goodwill.
4.       But if you can remake it, or you might be able to re-use it in another way some day, you should keep it for when you have time to do that.
5.       You should keep old things, like holey socks, because you might need them in an emergency or in an economic downturn.
6.       You should save your college textbooks, other books, your childhood toys & games, and clothing that no longer fits you, for your children and your grandchildren to use some day.
7.       If you have items that are no longer in general use, for example, vinyl records, you should keep them until you can have them converted or until you can buy the equipment to convert them yourself, or better yet, buy the re-manufactured retro equipment to play them on.
8.       If an item – large or small – has sentimental value, you should keep it.
9.       If you have items or equipment from a former hobby, or from a former lifestyle (for example, you now live in an apartment but have yard tools from a house with a yard), you should keep them, in case you, once again, pursue that hobby or, once again, live in a house with a yard.
10.   If you have family or friends visiting you, and they need something, you should have it at hand for them, be it a notebook, jacket, or an extra car to drive. 

I kid you not (as we used to say). My Dad always had two cars, even though he was single in later years. And when we were at my Dad's house after his stroke, my brother-in-law and I were able to find everything we needed - some parts in the garage, some parts in the basement - to put together a coffee maker, even though my Dad had made nothing but instant coffee for decades. At that point he didn't understand that we were at his house making coffee, but I'm sure he would have been pleased.

I'm open to your comments and ideas...but please remember that, although I don't recommend wasting resources, neither do I recommend the above philosophies.

And now, back to my de-cluttering. 

P.S. I intend to write a follow-up (or two or ten) about some of these philosophies in particular.
Here is the first one: De-cluttering: What about the old philosophies? -  #1

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