Confessions of a pack rat...

I am a pack rat. I've known this about myself for some time now. The tendency was not inherited. My grandmother had a saying, "If you haven't used it in a year, get rid of it." When my grandmother died, she left very little for her kids to go through. She had already divided up the things she had kept that mattered to her, which in the end were few. My mom learned a lot from her mom. Several years ago my parents downsized and let us kids go through their house and take what we wanted. Some things Mom kept, but a year or so ago she went through them again and divided them among her three children. She is not one to hang on to possessions overlong.

My sister moved several times over the years and learned to get rid of a lot in the process. Some of it she handed down to me and to our kids. My brother has also passed on a number of household items. (They tell me this clutter problem is ongoing. The clutter has ways of disguising itself as needed items and they end up having to de-clutter all over again.) Apparently, the cure is to move a lot...

So after collecting things from my grandma, my mom, my brother, and my sister, because they were needed or cool or well, you couldn't just throw it out...then there are the things we've collected from my in-laws, who were even bigger pack rats than I am...I must confess, we have accumulated much "stuff."

(I once knew someone who tossed perfectly good "stuff" into the trash when she was through with it - nice stuff like clothes and such - stuff I would leave in a bag waiting to donate it for six months while she was clutter free instantly. I would have been clutter free too, if I'd driven to the Salvation Army drop box right away...but a person has to be ready to part with these things. It's one thing to bag it up and a totally different thing to actually move it out of your house and release it into the "doesn't belong to me anymore" world.)

The fact is, pack rats tend toward the sentimental and sentimental people save things. We look at nick knacks and pictures and drawings and old shoes and antiquated clothes and ancient furniture or magazines or books and we want to hang onto them, sometimes for posterity, sometimes for later research (we tell ourselves we are going to do) and sometimes just because the thing belonged to someone we are related to.

The reasons aren't bad, but I've been thinking lately that we can't take these things with us when we die, and most of it wouldn't fit in a smaller home either. Seems like the bigger houses we live in the more stuff we get, whether it's bought, found, or given, to put in every available space. (Maybe we secretly like to feel surrounded by things, though in truth it just makes life more crowded.)

I've noticed this is true in the bedroom I've been de-cluttering this afternoon. The room is a nice size, but over the years I've managed to cram more furniture, more books, more "I'll take care of that later" clutter into so many places that my husband was complaining (good-naturedly) the other day that he could barely walk past one spot without stubbing his toes. Especially if he tried walking there in the dark. If I didn't have so many "papers to look at later" stacked on the floor along with a stack of clothes on the chair, several stuffed animals that had lost their way, a purse, some shoes...let's just say he had a point!

So I've begun to tackle my 2010 goal of de-cluttering and down-sizing all of the stuff in this house. By year's end, I would love to be able to say I've completed the task. Unlike my grandma, my measuring stick for keeping things is more than a year, but there is some wisdom in her words. Still, there is no need to be hasty - I might need that unworn sweater a year from now...

My measuring line is "If you wouldn't move it to a condo on the beach in California (my dream home), get rid of it." :)

I'll let you know how well it works as time passes...

Selah~

PersonalJill Eileen Smith