“Umm, when was the last time you moved?” he questioned.
“It’s been 13 years. Why?” I replied.
“You certainly have a lot of stuff.”
As I turned and walked away, I muttered, “So what.”
Everything in my home was neatly organized and arranged. Did the quantities matter?
His sentiments were echoes by his competition. Every realtor who visited our home focused on the possessions rather than the house. Huh?
Weeks later, a Broker Open House produced another unsettling remark.
“You’re storage areas and closets are still filled. Are you sure you want to move?”
“Of course we want to move. You should have seen how much stuff we had a month ago.”
The realtor chuckled and then responded, “You still have too much.” She pointed to a nearby bookshelf and said, “Look at all of those books.”
“What’s wrong with my books?”
“Can’t you give any away?” she countered
I faced her and said, “I’m a teacher and a writer. Why in the world would I toss out books?”
“Your bookshelves would look better if you they were only 2/3 filled.”
Once again, I walked away frustrated. I live in a large house. Did it matter if I used all of the closets and shelves to store extra stuff? I never thought it was possible to own too many books. Would my possessions deter people from buying my home? Did I really want to move to a smaller home with unnecessary things?
Yes, my husband and I are committed to downsizing. However, if you’ve lived decades as a pack rat, it’s a slow process. A change in attitude is the first step. Then it requires more effort to determine which items are destined for charity, the garbage, or have made the final cut. To date, I’ve spent untold hours downsizing. I’m getting closer to my intended goal, but not quite there yet. I confront my shortcoming as I tackle each closet and storage area.
While I confess to be a pack rat, I’m not pleased with the designated label. It just seems unseemly to be compared to any type of animal. I’m just not sure what other word I can use to define my behavior. I’m not a hoarder, a close cousin to a pack rat. I may save too many things, but each had some meaning when it was saved. Now years or decades later, I have to admit I wonder why I have too many things in my house. I cannot even recall the reason why I chose to keep some things.
I now realize that my sons have mirrored my behavior. Perhaps the pack rat trait is inherited or did they simply follow my example? All four sons had stacks to go through. Mounds and mounds of paper have filled our recycling cans.
I couldn’t help but reflect on my family’s behavior.
- Did any of us need to keep so many artifacts?
- Will my husband and I ever need our personal records dating to the 1970s?
- How many writing samples from elementary, high school, and college do we need to keep?
- Why had we stored so many items?
What words of advice can I offer? I suggest asking 3 questions.
3 Prime Questions
- How much space can you set aside to store your papers and mementoes?
- Is there a reason why you are saving a particular item?
- When, if ever, will you use or look at the item again or use it?
In addition to taking steps to prevent falling into a pack rat lifestyle, one must also periodically assess the amount collected. Had I not waited, my current task would have been more manageable.
I had 4 school-aged kids when I moved in 2000. Instead of sorting my possessions before the move, I convinced myself that I had no time and had to move with everything. Far too little was designated for charity or the garbage. Almost everything was packed and moved. Thirteen years later, I am opening boxes for the first time since 2000. What a nightmare.
Soon I will have gone through everything in my house. Will I have downsized enough? I doubt it. Boxes will inevitably be stored in the new basement. Will these boxes remain unopened for decades? I hope not.
Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons. In response to her decision to downsize, Sandra started to write articles about her real estate experiences.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.