Mr. Pack rat Supreme


Materials in a compost bin.

Question: What do pack rat middens and compost piles have in common?

Looking through one of my closets upstairs, I discovered I have clothing I forgot I owned.  Now, it’s not like I haven’t had a couple of clear-outs, because I have, and two of them recently. We have filled bags with clothes and books and other stuff for Goodwill, the Salvation Army, the Purple Heart or some church, foundation, or other entity. Imagine how stuffed those closets would be if I had kept all the junk I accumulated over the years.  David has kept most of his junk, including suits he hasn’t worn in 40 years.

David and I are signed up for a session on down-sizing to be held at one of our local retirement homes later in May.  I always feel out-of-place if we visit these places because everyone is “so old” and everything they own is stuffed in one room or a small apartment.  I don’t feel old, however that feels. Also, David says he is going to die in this house. That doesn’t mean I am going to follow him.  I tell him he cannot die until we get rid of all the accumulated junk. By accumulation, I mean everything from the cardboard cores in the center of toilet paper rolls to the plastic containers that were once full of some cleaning product or other.  He saves everything.  I cleaned his bed room and shop both times he was hospitalized with joint replacements, and tossed many things out, but he missed nothing.

Our “downsizing” date is with Goodwin House, which is going to have shredders on site, which means we can haul stuff there and have them shred it.  We have constantly jammed our own shredders (his and hers) trying to eliminate the paper we have stored in desks, drawers, filing cabinets, closets, and everywhere else: medical bills, invoices, statements, tax returns, articles copied from journals, papers written for long ago classes, etc. 

For a long time, I buried the shredded material in the compost bins or gave it to my granddaughter for her worm farm, or put it in the bottom of bird cages.  One day, I got tired of jamming the shredder and stopped shredding.  

As for clothing I didn’t know I had, some of the items are new, either never worn or worn once and washed  and put away for the season.  I tend to switch out my summer and winter clothing, and it’s just possible I forgot something relatively new. I found several shirts, two of them exactly like two shirts I just ordered from Land’s End. 

Crature of habit that I am, I tend to wear the same clothes over and over.  I wash them of course, but put my favorite things back in my working closet and wear them again the following week.  Ditto sheets.  I wash them, put them back on the bed and use them again.  I have several sheet sets in my linen closet, but I have almost never used them.

I don’t know.  Maybe this is the infamous comfort zone some experts warn us about.  But, I like my comfort zone.  Downsizing isn’t going to be fun, but it may save one of us grief later on.  I can’t think of anything more depressing than cleaning our someone else’s junk, clothes, mementos, etc., after they are gone.  My mother and my aunts began clearing out stuff years before they died. Even so, I went through my Mom’s things after she died, and she had much junk. 

I don’t know if other men ever clear out anything, but David is Mr. Pack rat Supreme.   

11 thoughts on “Mr. Pack rat Supreme

  1. I’ve long said one of the kindest gifts people can give their children is to dispose of as much as possible so kids don’t have to have to sort through it all. Easier said than done. You hit a nerve here, as I really need to make this the year I practice what I preach.


  2. Arkansas Pattie has it exactly right. I’ve read blogs/websites that give children of old people an opportunity to talk about how they DO NOT WANT THE STUFF!

    We’ve made enough moves since aging to have reduced. But still too many beads, books (righteously dispose of some, then buy more), and paper, always paper.


  3. We have been in an apartment for the last four years. We downsized considerably when we sold our house and moved here. Now we are going back into a house next month. Let the accumulating begin! Actually, we’re both pretty good at getting rid of extraneous stuff….it’s just getting around to it that’s the problem.


  4. Unless you really don’t like your next of kin and want to punish them, purging is a great idea. Your have inspired me to become more ruthless with my junk. I really like my next of kin.


  5. David and I are not pack rats. We have a filing cabinet in which we store our tax returns and other important papers. We have an accordion folder in which we store this year’s donation receipts, bank interest statements, business expenses, etc., for our income tax returns. Finally, we keep a large shopping bag in which go our recent correspondence and bills; we throw these out the following year. As for clothes, it all fits in our closet, which never overflows. So, yeah, we are organized and neat people. Lol.


  6. This is very interesting! My husband is also the supreme pack rat. It was a good thing we moved to Hawaii because he was forced to get rid of stuff. Granted my poor daughter had to keep some things for him in the attic, but not much. Good luck with your clean up. I think I’ll go look at my closet right now.


  7. Oh, my you sound worse off than we are. No toiletpaper rolls here…they go in the recycle and actually get recycled. Right now we are in the best shape we have ever been in, and we still have way, way too much stuff. If you don’t use something in a year, you will never use it. Out it goes. I’m so sorry about David.


  8. Stay strong! I still have boxes and boxes in our house from when my mother downsized for a move from her home to a studio apartment in 2009. My efforts to deal stalled several months later when I became more involved in doctors’ visits with her and with my mother-in-law.

    In Dec. 2011, I added more boxes when we emptied her apartment after her Dec. 6 death. Then there is the lowering recognition that Walter and I are both pack rats. I am going to invoke your clearing-out spirit and get to work. The alternative is to be one of those couples living in a prison of papers and junk stacked to the ceiling. No, no, no!


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