On Being a Packrat

My grandfather was a character and a curmudgeon. He was an  inventor and a writer. He loved nothing better than to tinker around in the junkyard.  Why buy a tool when you could spend hours inventing one?  And he never threw anything away. We found 40 years of newspapers in  his attic and bags and bags of…plastic bags.

When  he ran out of room in his house to stash stuff, he built a 10×15′ storage shed in his backyard. Okay, he built three of them. Trying to pack his house that he and my grandmother lived in for 40 years was so daunting that we finally just left the storage units for the buyer to deal with (a little extra cash took care of that problem!).

Years later, it was time to downsize again, from a two-bedroom apartment in an assisted living building to a shared room in a nursing home. It fell once again to my mom and me to pack up his belongings. Imagine an apartment with boxes stacked floor-to-ceiling and little winding paths from the TV to the bathroom to the kitchen and bedrooms. It was like living in a cave.

We started in his walk-in closet. We shook pages of books, and  sure enough, dollar bills fell out. Sorted through his tax returns and canceled checks from the 1960s. Threw away hundreds of notices from Publisher’s Clearing House.

Then I found the wallet.

Inside the wallet was a small packet of receipts. Enclosed in plastic. Secured by a rubber band.

There was a typed note on top of the receipts.

Useless Store SomewhereFor years after, my mom kept that note over her desk as a reminder not to let her belongings take over her life. As a reminder, it had limited success.

Now it’s over my desk.

I’m  really trying hard. Overcoming three generations of “pack-rat-ism” ain’t easy. It might be genetic.  And I married a packrat, too.

So  I understand the feeling that many older sellers have that maybe it’s just easier to stay put rather than sell. I just didn’t think I’d get there so soon!

(c) 2011 Susan Pruden

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5 Responses to On Being a Packrat

  1. I’m married to one of those and, truth be told, I tend to hang on to stuff a tad too long. I try to “clean house” every so often. My rule of thumb is that if I haven’t touched it in a year, it goes.

    I figure the National Archives or the Library of Congress or somebody has examples of 8-track cartridges, cassette tapes and thermal paper fax machines.

    My biggest problem is actually filing things I’m supposed to keep around for 7 years. I got boxes of stuff that I know I should be able to put my hands on but, God help me if I ever need to.

    BTW, they have a “reality” TV show about this kind of thing called Hoarders 🙂

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  3. Boyd says:

    Be sure to go every book and every jacket pocket Susan. Many of our dear seniors did not believe in banks and stowed money in the most unlikely places. Well not so unlikely now 🙂

    • susanpruden says:

      This was back in the late 90s, Boyd…there was so much stuff that we’d still be standing in that closet, going through everything. We actually found that when we moved my grandparents from their house in Bridgewater, VA to assisted living in Gainesville, FL, we moved several boxes of full of trash. I will say that Granddaddy did believe in banks. For which we were very thankful.

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