Recently I have been seeing a lot of articles about organizing and “decluttering”, mostly directed to senior-type people who are considering downsizing and moving to “senior communities”. Well, OK, not that I consider myself a senior-type person and not that I am in any hurry to become a member of a senior community; BUT, I have a godawful load of stuff and in spite of my sister’s efforts to help me downsize my closets, my junk load just seems to increase. I know why this is happening. It is my mother’s and father’s fault. They were packrats, and I clearly got the full family supply of packratism genes, as my sister hasn’t got a packrat bone in her body.
Mom and Dad were garage-sailors. Mom was right out front about it, and while Dad tried to pretend he was just along for the ride, I noted that his domains–his office and his shop–were pretty crammed full of whatever. Mom also loved shopping sales and would bring home all sorts of things she got on sale that she did not need and would probably not use, but you know, they were on sale! Mom at least would throw the occasional yard sale to offload some of the stuff she bought. I don’t think Dad ever contributed anything to those sales. He did take the money, though, and he was a darned good salesman, so he was responsible for much of the success of Mom’s sales, although I have to say that Mom had a good eye for bargains when she sailed and always seemed to be able to sell at a higher price.
However. When Mom and Dad downsized from house to condo, it was an eye-opener for everyone except them. The stuff! Bob and I had not been together very long when that move happened, and he brought the RBT (recreational bread truck, for those whose memory is poor) over to help move things to the new condo. He brought out load after load after load of Mom’s shoes–just could not believe that anyone other than Imelda Marcos could have so many shoes. And that was just the tip of the stuff-berg! The condo was not a particularly small space, and they had a nice-sized garage, so they managed to take most of their goods with them. The problem was the condo rules: no garage sales. Oh my. Mom and Dad did not, of course, discontinue their sailing and buying. But they could no longer sell the excess and things kept piling on and on and on.
Then, they needed to downsize again, in a move from condo to assisted living apartment with no garage and just a very small storage unit. Oh boy. That move almost killed everyone involved. I remember the condo when everything from the cupboards and drawers and under-bed storage and bookcases was laid out on the floor, covering every square inch of space and piled high. My poor sister took the brunt of Mom and Dad’s dismay over having to leave so much behind. Packrats are invested in their stuff emotionally (I know) and do not let go easily, even when it is perfectly clear to most rational people that a good portion of the stuff is old and frayed, or a duplicate (or maybe triplicate), never used, or simply not worth keeping (example being clothes purchased on sale or received as gifts and never worn over a twenty year span). And no garage sale! They had to just give it away. Huge plastic bags filled with I hate to say it, but, junk. My sister and I cried together, and I know Mom and Dad did the same. It was very traumatic.
Now, you would think that I would have learned something from that experience, would you not? Hah. Bob gave me a cartoon that I posted on my bulletin board that said “We love the sparse look, we just haven’t got the room to do it”. We both had the disease, in different ways. He could never toss anything out, and I could never pass by a garage sale. Good thing we had a large house. Also our downfall, because we seemed able to find just one more shelf for a little more stuff. He did stop building bookcases for me though, and I was forced to sell or donate my books as I brought more in, or give up buying books and begin borrowing them from the library. That was harsh, I thought–what is life without a really huge library in-house? But he was right, naturally, as we simply had no more wall space left. Time for a bigger house, I said. But no.
So, when Bob departed the world, I watched his children load up trucks to the very brim and more as they transported his stuff to new homes. The local dump was the new home to much of his shop–he loved keeping little pieces of things, scrap wood and things he was sure he would find a use for, and his children just had to laugh. Those trucks could not have held one more pin as they drove away.
So again, you would have thought I would have learned something. Hah. I have nephews! No problem. Just keep it and let them deal with it. But that would just be cruel. However, I keep going to garage sales. I keep buying old furniture to spruce up (but where am I going to put it?). I still buy books. This house is filling up again. Packrat. I am. My sister tries, and she has made the rule that if one thing comes in, one thing must go out. But she isn’t always here! So I read these articles, and learn the new language (de-acquire [Suzanne Gerber]; de-accessioning [Akiko Busch]) about living clutter free and only keeping things that bring me joy. And I really agree, too.
Sorry, nephews. It’s my genes.