Grown Children of Packrats - Mothering Forums
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Organize & Declutter > Grown Children of Packrats
eilonwy's Avatar eilonwy 01:59 PM 02-08-2006
My mother was a packrat and, quite frankly, a terrible housekeeper. Her mother was a packrat too, but neat as a pin (still have no idea how she managed that... ). I look around today and I can't stand the mess, the clutter, it drives me insane... but I have no idea how to deal with it. I've looked at FlyLady, but it doesn't sit well with me, as someone who can't stand doing dishes (that's Mike's job), can't reach her sink anyway (it's kind of high and I'm kind of short) and can only fit into a pair of shoes with velcro (pregnancy-swollen feet).

So I'm trying... every day I feel like I'm getting things organized and cleaning up, but it's like I'm digging and digging and not going anywhere. I don't know how to change, and I have no idea how to keep house because I've honestly never seen it done before. Mike says he notices when I do things, but eh doesn't seem to care too much if I *don't* do anything; we've lived together for more than five years now and I've never been able keep house, so it's been pretty much messy the whole time.

I don't want my kids to grow up the way that I did! I want them to know how to keep a place neat and tidy, if they want to do it. I don't want them to wake up one day and feel overwhelmed by the messiness and clutter that has taken over the world. I can't be the only person who grew up in a messy house who's trying to make things neat as an adult... Please help me! I don't have the faintest clue as to what I'm doing, and I don't feel like I'm making any progress at all.

pilesoflaundry's Avatar pilesoflaundry 02:58 PM 02-08-2006
My mom is a bad packrat, really bad. I'm a packrat on a much smaller scale, I can't stand the huge amounts of paper and clutter she let build up (weeks and months of newspapers, bills, etc.) but I am not a 100% opposite either, I do save some things and there is some clutter on the counters.
amyamanda's Avatar amyamanda 11:26 AM 02-09-2006
Not sure I am much help. I am the daughter of a packrat and a packrat's son. And a New England Yankee - (they never throw away any scrap of anything that might be useful, you know). DH and I have been living together for 13 years and I am *just now* getting a grip.

In the past I was able to "organize" all my clutter, but never could really release it and get rid of it. We are contemplating moving to a home that has half the square footage of our current one, and boy did that get me off my butt! What a motivator!

Also it has helped me to have some time-distance from some things. I just now got rid of a huge container of old letters that meant something to me once but not as much now. And it helps that my confirmed youngest is almost two so I'm out of that godawful crazy baby stage (okay, I do love it, but it makes me nutty and it's really hard for me). So I can work on a project for more than a minute and a half without interruption.

It helps me to think about keeping only what I love and use. And remembering that it's the MEMORIES I want to hang onto, not the STUFF. I think of my home as a garden that needs tending, and my stuff as the things in my garden. It's so nice to weed your garden so beautiful things can grow! That space that increases as you get rid of things one by one (or category by category, or room by room, or box by box, or however it works for you) gives you more room for beauty and love and joy in your home.

I think it helps not to try to think of the whole thing all at once. Just focus on one thing - one table, keep it clean for a week, see if you can do it. Then try to keep that one cleared off PLUS another spot - maybe the chair where you always dump your coat. Little by little by little. It won't happen overnight, but I think the more improvement you see, the more free you'll feel to continue.

Also I think it help to trust that the things we need DO come to us when we need them. You don't have to hang onto stuff you don't use or don't really love (unless you are absolutely sure you'll need them within a specific timeframe). I think of my clutter as shackles that I drag around. That sure makes me want to toss it!

Good luck.
Penelope's Avatar Penelope 04:34 PM 02-09-2006
I sometimes have good luck by focusing on a problem (my drawers won't close because I have too many outdated clothes in them) and thinking of a good solution (I will toss worn/stained/yucky things and donate the rest.) Just one problem at a time. Then every time I open the drawers, I think, yay, it's nice in here because I gave things away.

One problem at a time, though - otherwise I get overwhelmed. Problem solving should take maybe a week, as a pp said - one thing at a time.
teacup's Avatar teacup 11:38 PM 02-09-2006
My Mom is a major, hard-core packrat, but her house is immaculate. It always was. (She freaks at my house. ETA: Pack-rat evidence: When we moved out of my childhood home, we were trying to pack. I found 4 Ace bandages in the linen closet and begged her to get rid of them. She refused. Keep one and toss the rest. Nope. I tried to reason with her that there's little chance all four of us would need to wear a bandage at the same time. Now imagine that on a broad scale and include cookware, clothing, linens, tchochkes, paperwork...)

Random thoughts:

*Read Confessions of an Organized Homemaker. It has so many great tips on organizing, cleaning, and meal planning. I have read it a couple times and it always gets me juiced up to declutter and reorganize things. (It looks like she's written one specifically for family, too. Can't attest to its usefulness, though. I did check out this site, though, which a reviewer suggested:

*It's hard, if not impossible, to have a clean house that's cluttered. My Mom is a closet and drawer stuffer. Most people who live with clutter have it strewn everywhere. It's hard to clean around clutter and even if you do, I think a place still looks messy if it's got a lot of things everywhere. The fewer things you have, the less you have to clean (or put away before cleaning).

*When I get the urge, and it's not often, I take advantage of it. I don't care what time it is or what deadline looms. I'm organizing, throwing away, scouring.

*Be brutal. When it comes to decluttering, I tend to think I'll regret getting rid of something, or will use it later, yadda yadda. But then that urge strikes and I'm ready to toss whatever it is sucking up space (usually in my closets). I don't recall tossing anything and then later regretting it.

*Put everything you clean with (rags, cleaners, towels, brushes) in a big bucket and lug it out. That way you don't have to piddle around looking for things while you're cleaning.

*Pick a day of the week to do all the hard-core cleaning (bathrooms, vacuuming, mopping, dusting). Everyone has a chore and everyone helps. Just get it over with.

*Do a load of laundry every day. Submit to the fact that you'll have to run the dishwasher every day. Don't let recycling build up in piles or let clean laundry sit aorund long.

*ETA: Keep your cleaning approach simple. Mindful Home Management has tons of good ideas for cleaning and being ecologically sound. I am slowly reducing my cleaning products to baking soda, vinegar, and Dr. Bronner's, which apparently you can use to clean everything. That should help make it easier to approach cleaning.

These are things that help me. Good luck! Let us know how it goes.
ShannonCC's Avatar ShannonCC 01:21 AM 02-11-2006
I never really thought of my parents as packrats. Just slobs Maybe both I guess. Though somehow my mom managed to save pretty much nothing from my childhood. What *is* all that junk cluttering up her house then? Whatever.

I like Flylady but even if you don't, you can use some tips from her (and from the Sidetracked Home Executives she started from).

First of all, her shoe obsession is about feeling good and ready to go. She wants people to get dressed in comfortable shoes which is why she says laced up (as opposed to 3" heels). She also wants people showered and looking good so you feel good about yourself. That's an anti-depression thing of hers. I have to admit it works for me. I had a really bad winter and days when I actually got showered and put on fresh clothing and brushed my hair (I don't wear makeup) I did feel a little better.

For the clutter. The idea is to only keep things that you use or that "make you smile". Don't keep things that you "might use someday". Don't keep things out of obligation. Just keep stuff you use or that makes you happy (ditto for others in the house of course).

Her big thing is that you can't organize clutter, you can only move it around. Get rid of it! Then things are so much easier.

For the decluttering, try to do 15 minutes a day if you can. More if you like, but tell yourself you'll just do that 15 minutes of getting rid of stuff. You make a put away, give away and throw away pile (Flylady says to use boxes) and just go to it. Set a timer and throw away garbage, give away things that don't make you smile or aren't useful, and put away things that aren't where they should be. When the timer goes off you stop. Toss the garbage in the garbage, put the give away box in your car to take to goodwill (or however you give away stuff in your area) and you put away the put away stuff. Then you're done. Unless you're up for more

For general keeping house, here's a tip from S.H.E. (Flylady might say this too, I don't know). Walk through each room of your house with a notebook and a pen. Write down what you think needs to be done to maintain each room. Like the bathroom. You'd write, clean toilet, scrub tub, scrub shower walls, pick up floor, sweep floor, mop floor, wipe down counter, etc. Now decide how often each of those need to be done. Once a day, once a week, what? Write it all down. Do that for every room. Don't count decluttering in this. This is housework. Decluttering is seperate.

Then you make a schedule. Flylady has people doing it in a notebook, mine is on computer, S.H.E. has you doing it on index cards. Just write out a list. Then, on Tuesday, you take a look and it says "Sweep bathroom floor" so you do it. Wednesday it says "scrub tub" so you do it. The point is, it's written down. You don't have to search your brain wondering what to do today, you just look and do it.

My schedule has a mini job for every day. Every day of the week I have one room or area that I do about 15 minutes of work on (or more if I'm ambitious). The house is also divided into four zones (a Flylady thing) and every week has a zone assigned to it. The zone work is more in depth cleaning and takes longer. Like the mini bathroom job might be sweeping and scrubbing the toilet but the zone job would be mopping, washing the towels and shower curtain, scrubbing the tub, etc. It's maybe an hour or two, but I have all week to do it.

Also if you don't do it, then don't freak out. Don't carry it over to the next day. Just forget it. It will come up on the schedule next week (or month or tomorrow or whatever you decided).

Oh, and a big tip, as a mom, is to get the kids involved in fun ways. Use non-toxic cleaners so they can help (I do pretty much everything with water and baking soda - sometimes I use vinegar or Dr. Bronner's).

And then there's days like today when we have a big homeschool outing and then we get home and play games with dh and I don't do any of my housework or zone work. I just did the basics which, for me, is making beds, unloading and loading the dishwasher and picking up the floors before going to bed.

Anyway, my house is still too cluttered and needs work but I'm getting there 15 minutes at a time
Yooper's Avatar Yooper 11:06 PM 02-14-2006
I am the child of a packrat. No, actually I think my mom would be classified as a hoarder. She has nothing from her childhood. Nor her children's. There is not one item of mine in her 2000 square foot, 4 bedroom, full basement, house. She has 4 bedrooms, the entire basement, the dining room, and most of the garage filled to the top with junk. It is mostly cheap plastic stuff she finds at Walfart or Target. She also finds "great deals" at garage sales. A huge box of knock-off tupperware for $14.99? Gotta have it, even though she already has 10 more boxes somewhere in the clutter. She has every single bill stub, cancelled check, and tax return paperwork for the last 40 years. She has hats and dresses that she wore in the 1950s. All of her (and my late father's) college textbooks. Thousands of empty mason and baby food jars even though she does not can. Six baby name books from the 1970's which she would not let go of when we were trying to choose a name for dd (she would not even let us have one!!!!). She got visibly shaken when we picked one up just to look at. Bags and bags and BAGS of pipecleaners and glue sticks? Power tools even though she will not ever use them. Threadbare bath towels from the 1970's that she is saving in case she ever gets a "vacation home" despite the fact that her only income is SS. At least ten almost-complete sets of cheap silverware in different patterns. Several fondue sets. Very large boxes of half burned candles although she is now terrified of lighting one for fear of fire. Very little of it is sentimental. She actually has no problem tossing typically sentimental things which is her excuse to say she is not a "packrat". In addition she is about the worst housekeeper I have ever met. Her house is so bad that dh actually has an asthma attack as we pull up in the drive. Luckily, since there is simply no floor space (none of the bedrooms are usable, she sleeps on the couch) we are not expected to stay overnight. Last time we were there, two of the three bathrooms were so overrun with surplus junk that the doors cannot be opened. It is downright frightening. My sister and I have vowed that if anything were to happen to her, we would be forced to call in one of those companies that does everything....gets the junk out, fixes the house (many undetected roof leaking issues), and sells it for like half of the gross. Fine. I just cannot even fathom dealing with it.

Three years after I got married, we moved cross country. It took the largest Uhaul they make to move our stuff....and that was for apartment dwellers with no kids. That was a serious wake-up call. I saw much of the same tendencies in myself. While I am a very maticulous housekeeper, I was acquiring "stuff" at an alarming rate. Much of it was your typical household stuff, but I noticed myself keeping way too much stuff for "just in case". I also noticed I was finding stuff "on sale" and buying it for "later". We are not talking about an extra tube of toothpaste or bottle of shampoo....we are talking many shades of make-up (that I very rarely wear), multiple items of clothing in the same style and color, multiple coffee makers, crockpots, etc...... I had enough fake tupperware and dishes to store armies worth of food. We had 6 sets of sheets for our one and only bed. I was clearly going down the same road and it scared the crap out of me.

It was very emotionally difficult to let go of anything. I started small and kept going. The first rule was that I absolutely refused to let myself go into a discount, dollar, or warehouse store. I still refuse (but for different reasons). That helped tremendously. When I stopped going into places, I was not tempted to find "great deals" and was able to at least stop the stream into the house. We have found that there is no reason at all to go into Target or Walfart. They have nothing I cannot find somewhere else (hardware store, grocery store, appliance store, etc....) and usually of much better quality anyway. Dh and I ask ourselves these questions before we choose to purchase a non-consumable:

Do we really need it?
Can something we already have be modified for this use?
Can we borrow or rent it?

If the item is something we only need for a small amount of time, we might try and find it at Goodwill with the understanding that it goes back right afterwards.

We keep a large box in the garage at all times. It is the Goodwill box. The minute I find something that we have no short term use for, it goes in. It is also "against the rules" to look in the box. Once something is in, it stays. With sentimental things, I take a photo then pitch it in the box.

And speaking of photos....those were getting out of control too. Dh is a self-taught photographer so our family was his "subject" for a long time. The shear amount of duplicates alone was taking up a great deal of space. We no longer print anything that will not be used for the scrapbooks. Everything else stays in electronic form. We scanned old photos so we could pitch the originals. It was sad to do, but there were so many that organization or viewing was what was the point in even having them? Organizing electronically was much easier.

Don't even get me started on what I had to do about my scrapbook, knitting, and sewing supplies.....

We toss all bill paying stuff imediately. I used to keep everything filed neatly, but realized it was completely pointless. I do keep what i will need for taxes, but pitch everything else including bank statements after I am done using it. I can get a record any time I want by going on the websites of my bank and bill collectors. I made a rule that all of the "paperwork" for our family must be confined to one small plastic file box. When I run out of room, the rule is that I MUST go through the box and prune it tossing paperwork for cars or insurance carriers we no longer have. I have adopted these same rules for the closets, dressers, and kitchen cabinets/drawers. If I cannot close something, I stop right then and there and prune. No excuses.

I could go on and on....

I just wanted to share my journey from the brink of packrat to being able to manage and organize all of my 3 member family's stuff in a 1200 square foot house with no usable basement with zero clutter. I probably gave away, sold, used up, or trashed about half of the volume of stuff we had 4 years ago. I see clutter and am now trained to get on it imediately in order to keep myself healthy in this respect. It is still a battle though. I know I will never be at the point where I can go into a Target again. In an emergency, I need to have a chaperone
eilonwy's Avatar eilonwy 12:18 AM 02-15-2006
Yooper, I have to say that your story is inspirational...Brava!
Penelope's Avatar Penelope 01:49 PM 02-15-2006
Yoopervegan, my mom isn't nearly that bad. But she did recently produce a fencing helmet that my brother used for a couple of years 20 years ago.... and the receipt. She had to make the point to him that it was expensive when it was purchased and she wasn't just "giving it away."

Twenty years old this thing was! He said he almost offered to write her a check. She really wanted him to take it and somehow recoup her initial investment... by what? Selling it on eBay? It was unclear. He refused to take it and told her to send it to goodwill. She called me to complain!
Karry's Avatar Karry 03:07 PM 02-15-2006
I come from a family of packrats as well. The worst were my grandparents. They had piles and piles of newspapers and other things in their living room. There was only a little path to walk through. After my grandfather died my grandmother finally had someone come in and help declutter and clean. I definately wouldn't have wanted that job.

My parents are also packrats with my dad being worse than my mom. My mom never saved important things like stuff from my childhood, but there would be lots of junk in the house. My dad makes piles of his mail in their family room. Their house is always dusty because they never declutter enough to be able to dust.

My dh's parents save a lot of stuff too. They have every room in their house full of stuff. They have tons of bookcases and lots of books. For the most part their house looks neat except when you look in the bedrooms.

I have tried hard to not be a packrat and I'm working hard at decluttering right now. Dh is more of a saver than I am and it is hard to get him to get rid of his stuff. He has tons of baseball cards from when he was in highschool and college. He has lots of DVDs that seem to be taking over right now. He has the X-Files series on VHS and DVD. I have been asking him to get rid of the VHS series and he won't. I really don't see the point of him keeping it, but he says he doesn't know what to do with it. I think if it weren't for my dh I would have a lot less clutter to deal with and this bothers me. I'm working on getting him to get rid of stuff and I'm hoping by this summer I'll have most of the clutter gone.
eilonwy's Avatar eilonwy 11:39 AM 02-16-2006
It's really hard for me to say "let's just get rid of this" when we have things that could potentially be worth money... I just have no idea how to sell them. Like, Mike's comic book collection. He's totally willing to let it go, and so am I, but we need every freaking nickel we can get these days so if there's any money to be had from it, we really need to find a way to get it. We've got CDs and Mike's got a whole bunch of Magic cards and such, and I'm just no good at selling things like that on eBay so they're taking up space... It's totally frustrating.
ShannonCC's Avatar ShannonCC 02:13 PM 02-16-2006
Eilonwy, I know what you mean about the money. Here's the thing though - it's only worth money if you SELL it. You have to decide if you will actually ever do that. If the answer is no, then you are just storing it.

We have some slide projectors that I kept here for YEARS telling myself I'd sell them. I finally realized I wouldn't. They're big and bulky so wouldn't do well for eBay (the shipping!!). I kept saying I'd list them in the paper or have a garage sale. After having them taking up space in the basement for about 5 years I finally accepted I just wasn't going to do it. So I started giving them away (we had about 8). We're keeping one for our slides, but giving away the rest to friends and family. Yes, the money would have been wonderful (my dh works two jobs as it is so I can stay home with the kids) but I finally had to accept that having them clutter up our basement wasn't exactly making us money. So I made some people happy

Comic books and magic cards would be great for eBay though. They're not too big so would be easy to ship from home. Or do you have a comic book store in the area that you can sell them to? Or can you list them in a paper? Lastly, you can have a garage sale which would probably bring in the least amount of money but would get it over with in one shot. But be honest with yourself. If you are not going to do any of these things, then it's not worth storing them.

On the other hand, I have a children's consignment store nearby so I end up bringing a lot of their clothing and old toys to that. It works out great. I get a little money back and I am able to buy new (to them) clothing with what I get. I rarely have to buy them anything new (just underpants, socks and shoes).

Oh, and one more tip. Try looking on eBay and seeing if the things you have are actually worth any money. My dh was getting rid of some old computer books. I checked eBay to see if they were worth selling. Most of them were going for $1 or $2. Not really worth the hassle of listing and shipping the things with two kids in tow so we just freecycled them. Ah, I love freecycle
Penelope's Avatar Penelope 12:31 PM 02-19-2006
So while the boards were down, I cleaned house. Successfully, I might add!

And it occurred to me that I never really thought of my mom's bad housekeeping/clutter/hanging on to old, useless stuff as a conscious choice.

My parents have had two huge storage units for more than 25 years. For most of my childhood, one bedroom of their 4br house was crammed, floor-to-ceiling, with stuff. The hallway to that bedroom was lined with boxes on either side. My mom complains that she has "no closet space" but they have much more than most people.

And my mom spent a *lot* of my childhood blaming me for the messy house. I can see that on one level - I'm not neat, and cleaning up after kids is lots of work. But she did not WOH. She occasionally volunteered; she thinks of herself as an artist but she buys art supplies, reads art books, and doesn't do much artwork. She spends a lot of time shopping. Since I'm now an adult, she blames my dad for all the mess.

So there was actually no reason for her to have all this massive amount of crap taking up space. She could have sorted, gotten rid of things, chosen to keep a tidy house...

Just for a tiny example, her kitchen has maybe five big pottery or tupperware containers of pens. Half of them work. She can never find a pen when she needs one, because she has to try a bunch before she finds a good one. She won't throw them away, and if she does go through and toss the old ones, it's this huge triumph. But there's just no reason to do that.

Now, my house is never perfectly clean. I could sort and toss a bunch of stuff. But I do work at it, and I am busy, and I don't blame my kids. And I don't have whole rooms dedicated to storing stuff I don't use. I don't mean to slam any mama who is cleaning-challenged (except my own, I guess ). But writing down that whole stream of thoughts has made me feel much better! I can be a *recovering* daughter of a packrat.
ShannonCC's Avatar ShannonCC 01:36 PM 02-19-2006
Originally Posted by Penelope
And my mom spent a *lot* of my childhood blaming me for the messy house.
Me too. So it's sadly ironic that now my mom lives with 2 other adults and no kids, no pets (the last one died over a year ago) and it's still a mess over there. Walking in the living room is stifling. You can walk but there are boxes of stuff and random junk piled up against the wall and all over the room. It feels claustrophobic to me.

We used to have a "junk room". One of the bedrooms was filled top to bottom with stuff. It happened after I married my dh and we combined the households of two adults (he was in his early 30's, me in my late 20's when we married). That room stayed a junk room for years. It finally got cleaned out by my dh : It was just too overwhelming for me.

We do tag team now If anything gets out of control dh handles it because I just can't. Maybe it's the same problem my mom has, but if there's a huge mess, I get panicky looking at it. I don't know where to start and just can't do anything. So he handles those but I do daily maintenence just fine. He just cleaned out a closet for me last weekend

There's some interesting stuff out there on the psychology of packrats and how holding on to things is a symptom of deeper issues. For me, it's the inability to make decisions. Sure, I have too many X, but which one do I get rid of? What if I pick the wrong one? What if I want it back later! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Pressure! For me it's the nitpicky perfectionist inside me who wants to do everything "just right" and is paralyzed by the idea that she might not so she doesn't even try. I'm getting over that
teacup's Avatar teacup 04:20 PM 02-19-2006
Originally Posted by eilonwy
Like, Mike's comic book collection. He's totally willing to let it go, and so am I, but we need every freaking nickel we can get these days so if there's any money to be had from it, we really need to find a way to get it. We've got CDs and Mike's got a whole bunch of Magic cards and such, and I'm just no good at selling things like that on eBay so they're taking up space... It's totally frustrating., man. Free to list. My husband is a comic booker too and those he's willing to sell are slowly going away. (I won't mention the fact that his credit is going toward more comics.) I wonder if some local stores would do trades? What about Half-Price Books?

Another good way to sell things is your local paper. If you have a good collection of something, or something specific (like the mahgic paraphernalia), try a classified. Our paper has a Bargain Basement, where if what you're selling os for under $100, you can list it for free.

Then, you could do a garage sale and list the main items when you advertise.

Then, you just have to get yourself to price to sell. (That's my problem. "But look at this! It's so NICE!) Now if I could just get him going with the Star Wars toys and baseball cards on eBay...
abandbunk's Avatar abandbunk 07:02 AM 03-14-2006
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ShannonCC's Avatar ShannonCC 02:02 PM 03-14-2006
I am getting ruthless

Two baskets full of stuff went to Goodwill this weekend and now I have more bagged up! I went through our linen closet which was a pit. I packed up an entire bag full of towels to go. I kept two towels for each kid (one regular towel, one cartoon character towel) one towel for each grownup and one extra. There are also some towels in the beach bag downstairs. Why would we need any more than that? For example, I had a set of 4 towels that used to be my grandma's that I never use. Good quality, good condition, dislike the color. So why did I keep them all this time? I guess because they reminded me of her. She's been gone for awhile and I'm now ready to let go of the towels I never cared for anyway (I have plenty of stuff I *like* to remind me of her, you know?).

I also got rid of a lot of sheets. An entire garbage bag full. I kept 2 or 3 sets for each bed. Of course I can do this because my kids are getting older and no one wets the bed anymore and we're not having anymore babies I even got rid of a really high quality set we got for our wedding. I was looking at it and realized I never really liked the color : We'll be married nine years this May and all that time I had to convince myself it wasn't a sickly yellow

I send as much kid stuff to the consignment store as I can and I use it to buy them "new" clothes, but other than that I have pretty much given up the idea of selling things. I know there are people who make a living selling on eBay but I have an idea they are a tad more organized than I am I can barely even remember to put things out for freecycle (three times now I've forgotten to put the stuff out ) If there was a regular consignment store around here that would be cool, but the only one I know of is for kid's stuff so oh well.

My dh cleaned out his room this weekend. It was the last really nasty room. I still have clutter to deal with but now it's just "lived in cluttered" and nothing is really really awful anymore (well, cept the basement I guess but I can live with that for now). The place feels so much nicer than it did a year ago. Or heck, even 3 months ago when I re-started Flylady
AngelBee's Avatar AngelBee 02:03 PM 03-14-2006
From a line of packrats.
ShannonCC's Avatar ShannonCC 01:24 PM 03-15-2006
This is funny so I thought I'd share After the birth of my son I started using cloth pads. He's going to be 4 in May, plus, add 9 months for pregnancy, and you have approx 4.5 years since I've used disposable pads. So what have I held on to all that time? Two opened bags of kotex. Like, what, I'm going to suddenly come up with some interesting use for them someday? A craft maybe? So yesterday I decided to see if I could freecycle them. Someone is coming to get them today

She's also picking up the snow shovel we don't like (one of those ergonomic ones that dh and I both found annoying - we use the regular ones), one unopened bar of soap that's at least a few years old and two bottles of saline spray my mom bought me (she meant well but if I feel the need I'll just get out my neti pot).

And another woman is coming to get the electric toothbrush handle that I haven't used in years (good idea - annoying in practice).

And I'm slowly adding to the bags for Goodwill

I think I was inspired by a thread in spirituality about treasure maps. Not sure if I'll be doing a treasure map, but Tracy mentioned that right now is a good time to get the old, unused stuff out of your house to make room for good to come in. Not necessarily good stuff, but good vibes maybe? I read that and next thing I know I'm clearing house I mean really, how can any good get into this house when there's no room because we have too much STUFF?
naturalmaman's Avatar naturalmaman 02:49 PM 03-15-2006
Wow--what amazing packrat stories--I really thought my family was bad My parents were/are horrendous packrats. My mom always saved EVERYTHING for just in case--the product of Depression Era parents is our theory. Anyways, when my brothers and I were all out of the house the packratting became horrible. Every closet in their 3500 sq ft 5 bedroom home was packed to the rim with clothes, many with the tags still on never worn. To add to this, they had MASSIVE amounts of toxic mothballs everywhere to keep the moths out. My dad would keep every single financial newspaper and so had like 4 ft piles in his office and they expanded to all floor surfaces in the downstairs. Add to that, my dad could not even use his office upstairs anymore because of his horrible packratting of newspapers, files, books, shoes, ties, etc, etc that he literally took over the entire family room and 2 bedrooms of the downstairs with similar piles everywhere!! My mom had quit doing housework when she started working full time back in 1980, and had a housekeeper---but the housekeeper could barely vacuum any floors, so she just quit doing it! Add to this the stuffed full to bursting double fridge/freezer (only 2 people remember), the busting open pantry, the dining room table SO covered with mail and crap you could not sit at it and THEN the garage full to the brim with bottles, cans, papers and ALL the boxes from every purchase made in the last 10 years!!
Costco coming to town made their problem even worse!

Well, my dad had an aortic aneurysm 2 years ago and we really did not think he was going to make it, and if he did the house HAD to be addressed. So we forced my mom to recarpet the disgusting 25 year old stuff, and so in this process the ENTIRE house had to be packed up! YEAH!! I put the whole place back together--but with the stipulation that I could clean it too. We rented a HUGE dumpster and I filled that sucker twice to overflowing!! It was a very, very painful process for my mother, but it HAD to be done as the house was a dusty, moldy stinky, tripping hazard mess!! I invited the neighbor over to have a look and she just about blew a gasket----she said it looked like I did a Clean Sweep---which is exactly what I did! My dad is better now, but he had a bunch of strokes, so he can't work anymore and does not miss all his stuff that was everywhere and now has a nice safe house to live the rest of his days with my mom! Also, we had my mom re-roof the house and get new gutters, as this had not been done in 25 years and the gutters had completely rotted away and bits of the roof blew off every winter-----they never did it because they claimed they could not afford it---in the meantime they had been STOCKPILING lots of expensive clothes, books and jewely and everything else all over the house.

My brothers and I call this packrat Illness PILES---and so our solution is to attack our own piles as soon as we notice them! I have to say I like Flylady's suggestions------grab a certain number of objects every day, or better yet, pack up each room until empty adn then in the unpacking process you can decide what is necessary adn get rid of the excess! It works! I believe the extreme cases of packratting are a true illness----who knows how it starts but I plan to pay attention at all times so it does not creep up on me too!!
cking's Avatar cking 04:01 PM 03-15-2006
Naturalmaman, your family sounds pretty similar to mine. I grew up in a huge family in a not so big house, and the mess was always blamed on the # of kids, and my dad, who was a packrat specializing in newspapers, tools (he got a tool chest for Christmas once, and gave it a prominent spot right next to their bed!) and a garage full of stuff our neighbors thought they threw away. Well, now my mom is the only one left in the house and guess what? It’s still a mess! : The one major difference is that the garage is (mostly) clear and my mom actually parks in it. After dd passed (10 years ago), we all helped to clear it out. But the envelopes and papers on the dining room table, that’s the big thing. She has done a lot of renovation in the house, including a new kitchen, but it’s still a mess. (the fridge, forget about it, yuck.) She has had a cleaning woman off and on, but like a pp said, that doesn’t help if you can’t get to the floors, counters, etc to clean them. She refuses to ever sell the house, even though it is much too big and too much work for her to handle.

One thing that has made me realize is that it doesn’t matter how new or old your home or furnishings are, if you take care of them they will be in good shape and if you don’t, they’ll be a wreck quickly. Several of my siblings have a pretty bad packrat problem, one of them has a very serious one (hasn’t even let anyone into her apt in years and refuses to admit or deal with it. For me, it’s a struggle (especially at work…) but I try to keep on top of it. Throwing away junk mail as soon as it arrives is probably the biggest (and simplest) help…my ds still hasn’t mastered that. She seems to think that she’ll miss something big if she does it…Ed McMahon, or the best credit card offer ever…I don’t know. But I do tend to hold on to things also. DH went on a cleaning binge of the basement and I was so amazed at how many cardboard boxes I had kept (from moving, wedding gifts, etc). They were my security blanket….I had moved so many times in recent years, I guess I felt that I had to be prepared. I know that sounds pretty minor, but it seems like every time I’ve moved I have gotten rid of a ton of stuff, and yet it’s still all there.

One of my big goals is to scan and organize all the old photos that I have in boxes. I would love to get on top of that. I am so psyched about digital scrapbooking, it seems so much more my speed than the scissors and paper version.

I also really like the book Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson. I’ll admit, I haven’t read it cover to cover (like I planned when I bought it) but it is a great reference especially for those of us who can’t turn to mom for cleaning advice!!
Ellien C's Avatar Ellien C 06:17 PM 03-15-2006


I think of this as my New England heritage. It seems stronger on the East Coast (where old barns are rampant) than the West Coast where houses don't have basements.
ShannonCC's Avatar ShannonCC 03:34 PM 03-16-2006
Throwing away junk mail as soon as it arrives is probably the biggest (and simplest) help
The SHE sisters mentioned this too. They said don't bring in the mail unless you can deal with it right then. I do that now. Really, it only takes a few mintues to go through the stuff and find what is junk, put the bills in the bill place, hand out the personal letters, etc. Otherwise, it ends up in a pile on the dishwasher and then, weeks later, I'll find bills that haven't been paid among the unmanageable mountains of junk we don't need.

Here's another part of packratting. How many here keep things that make them feel bad? Because it's "family history" or "worth something" or whatever?

I threw away a home made creche last night and it felt liberating. I made it when I was 10. It was some sort of after school craft thing. They had pre- formed clay objects that you cleaned up, painted and glazed yourself. I chose a creche and made it for my Grandma. I put a lot of work into painting that thing. When I went to give it to her my mom told her I "made it". I corrected her and said I painted it. My mom got angry with me (she had issues with her MIL and often tried to show off in front of her - she felt like I was making her look bad I guess). I had put a lot of work into painting that thing and did a pretty good job but when my mom got angry it felt like it wasn't good enough for her so she had to dress up what I had done. Anyway, that was 26 years ago. 26 years, every time I look at this thing I remember the incident with my mom. Awhile back my Grandma gave it back to me and I gave it to my dd to play with. Some of the pieces are missing now and of what's left, most are broken. I still look at it and it takes me back to when I was 10 and my mom made me feel bad. So WHY do I keep this thing? Because I'm a packrat.

I threw it away last night. I didn't even freecycle it (like I said, most of the pieces were lost or broken). I considered freecycling the actual stable but turned it over and saw I had written my name and the year on the bottom and I couldn't give it away. I had to toss it.

My mom and I have a better relationship now (mostly ) and I feel lighter now that I've gotten that thing out of my house. I'll feel even better when the garbage is picked up tomorrow

Now I have to get rid of the sake set that makes me think of my ex-boyfriend, aka Loser Boy. I've spent a decade telling myself it's silly and I shouldn't think of him. It's a lovely set, and I bought it with my own money, but I think he was with me in the store or something. I've finally accepted it doesn't matter if I *shouldn't* think of him when I see it, the fact is, I *do*. And I don't want to. I'm going to freecycle that one.
cking's Avatar cking 04:37 PM 03-16-2006
Isn't it amazing how good it can feel to throw things away? That's especially true of clothes that make me feel bad.
I actually think my mom guilted me into keeping a lot of things. I remember trying to throw out a bunch of papers while growing up, and my mom picked out a 1st birthday card from my grandmother and told me I would want to keep it b/c how else am I going to remember her? And then of course: well, I'll keep it if you don't want it.

Recently I was trying to clean out my old room at her house and she wouldn't let me throw out this crappy old sculpture I made in high school....she said my sister wanted it (yes, the sister with the really bad packrat problem!) The thing had been glued together in five different places.

I actually made (painted) a similar creche when i was a kid. My mom still has it, and I think I am supposed to get it in her will! (we have a big family, i'm not expecting much). She says things like 'you worked so hard on it, I want you to have it' the guilt will follow me long after she's gone...
Ellien C's Avatar Ellien C 05:23 PM 03-16-2006
I started a Help for Hoarders thread awhile back. It didn't get a whole lot of activity, but you're not alone and not even the first one to ask about it.
Ellien C's Avatar Ellien C 05:48 PM 03-16-2006

That's really inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing. OK - my parents weren't as bad as some of the stories here, but I can see the beginnings of issues.

Also, the tales of how your parents blamed you are cutting me close. I think I'm starting to feel that way about DH and DD, but I can see now that the change starts WITHIN! Thanks again everyone for sharing. It's making a difference in my life.
lilyka's Avatar lilyka 05:51 PM 03-16-2006
honestly the first step is getting rid of everything you don't absolutely need. Just get rid of it. You can try to sell it but list it once, wait a week and if it doesn't go throw it away/donate it. either schedule the pick up or start loading it in your car right away. if you can't get it out the door throw it. we have been purging for the last 6 months to a year. I can not believe the number of things we have sent out the door. its insane. we weeded down dishes to 2 sets for each person. It means washing dishes during the day, sometimes twice, but the upside is that we have to. and it only takes 5 minutes to wash dry and put away. there is no waiting allowed or we won't have anything to eat on. Dishes are suprisingly easy to do when you only have 3 plates and three forks and one pan and do them before the morter hardens.

I also have very wisely chosen cookware. I have 2 pots (large and small) and three skillets (small, large and freaking huge). I few baking pans that i use regularly - at least once a week. I have a few things that I only use once or twice a year but need. they are stored in the basement. ( i should point out that we have 3 drawers and 6 small cupboards so simplifying in the kitchen is essential.)

clothes/laundry- we got rid of anythign that doesn't fit, has a stain or whatever. my children did not ned 30 outifts regardles sof how free or cute they were. and neither do my dh and I. We also only have one change of sheets for each bed and one spare matress pad for all the kids. of course this means washing more frequently but that is good enough. no laundry piling up. We can't leave it in the hamper and if I don't get around to folding and putting away it doesn't matter because it rotates so fast.

I have mercilessly been weeding out baby gear (obviously you can't do that yet ), I got rid of all my negatives and douplicate pictures as well as all those pictures that just weren't great (but for some reason it is hard for me to get rid of pictures, even bad ones. thank goodness fordigital photography.), got rid of any fans/humidifiers.lamos etc that don't work. lets face it. I will never get them fixed. they aren't worth it and they are not going top magically start working again. Got rid of a ton of books recently. that is what libraries are for. Also all those CDs youdon't listen too. money in the bank babe. take them to a second hand store and donate any that are left. I have been working through my fabric bin and sewing them into simple quilt tops. we got rid of probably 75% of our toys. they just build up so fast. stuffed animals especially. Go ahead and try to sell them but if they don't sell streight away go ahead and get rid of them.

and i have been throwing away anything paper. Careful once you break free of the packrat syndrome (Dr. Phill thinks pack ratting is rooted in control issues. I think he is right)you may have a tendency to go overboard. although, espcially if you are selling it might be worth to just start fresh with some things. sell all your kitchen stuff and replace with a few nice useful things that fit well in the space allotted.

My mom was a packrat but really got me was my MIL. She left SILs and BIL large bedrooms as they were, packed with stuff 6 years after they went to college. because she couldn't get rid of anythign or ask them to. in the mean time dh and his brother were crammed into a very small room but couldn't move up to the empty rooms because they were still full of crap. even thought thier siblings said they didn't care. to this day MIL still has 2 storage rooms full of toys and clothes. She won't pass the toys on to my kids, the clopthes are a mess. and the boys were twins and she kept everything in 2s. it doesn't even make sense to me that she had two of everything much less that she kept it. she still has the crib .. .doesn't understand why none of us use it. (death trap - not to mention that a 20 year old matress more or less exposed to the elements and tons of dust and toxins- it is stored in the garage rafters. . . is never a good thing). I do not want to turn into her. She keeps talking about moving and what not but we know she will never be able to part with all the stuff she has stored in that house. if they do move we would consider buying thier house but I know she would expect me to let them keep some stuff in storage there. i do not want to become that. and I have always driven her crazy she can't stand it that I am constantly getting rid of stuff and then having to buy it again. I tell you, we rarely loose out financially (we usually sell/trade it) but even if we did it would be worth it not to become too attatched to it.

good luck.
solstar's Avatar solstar 05:57 PM 03-16-2006
Boy do I belong here!
I come from a long line of packrats. My mother is a packrat, my grandma and greatgrandma too but they had maids. I wish I had one!

I kind of like to move because then I can throw out some things. Right now my desk is very cluttered with papers and things the kids brought in here.

Even pinecones and rocks! :/

I am just not very good at cleaning and never really learned how, my mom was certainly not a good example. It seems like I am always cleaning and never making a dent in the clutter.
MommyMine's Avatar MommyMine 01:26 AM 03-17-2006
we are packrats too.

For us it is frugality. You never know when you might need that. It has value. We can't just THROW IT OUT!

It criples me.
ShannonCC's Avatar ShannonCC 01:38 AM 03-17-2006
Sake set - gone Freecycle works fast sometimes
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