Rub A Dub Dub, Is It Time To Scrub – Your Pack Rat Ways.

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf – Column published in the Albert Lea Tribune and Courier Sentinel week of September 24, 2014


It’s that time of year. Leaves are falling from the trees and we are preparing to hibernate in our houses for the winter.  For some, fall is a time when we clean, throw and purge all the stuff that we accumulate in our homes. We are always paring down and cleaning out the junk. The problem with getting rid of junk is that for some reason, we always accumulate more junk.

Right now I can imagine many men are blaming their wives for the accumulation of that which women call treasures and men call stuff.

I must admit I am married to a man that doesn’t accumulate a lot of manly treasures in his garage and in the basement. The carpenter tools he has, he uses. The clothes he has, he wears. His treasures are his golf clubs and a bowling ball that has been sitting in my basement for many, many years untouched, except by me when I move it to sort my stuff.

He doesn’t care what is on the wall in what he views as his room in the house, where he catches up on football, golf, basketball, racing and whatever sport he can find, along with all the “CSI” shows and John Wayne movies.

Recently we were out of town during a time when there were supposed to be some bad storms. Before I left, I wondered what I might want to hide in my basement in case the house blew away. I couldn’t think of a thing. My only worries were my cats, as they are my babies now that my human babies no longer live here. If my house blew away, would I miss my stuff that I think I wouldn’t miss?

If that is the case and nothing that I have materially in my house would bother me if it is gone, then why am I still holding on to it and keeping it? I am working on the theory that less is more, and am wading, again, through the stuff that I might use some day.

Helping with a recent relative’s move and the stress that I saw put upon their children at trying to sort out their lives of their parents makes me more determined to get going on letting go of stuff.

It felt like my birthday and surprises as I opened my stored boxes.  I forgot the treasures that were stuffed away in the boxes. When I say treasure, I don’t mean treasure that would mean anything to anyone but me, such as the plaster of Paris handprints from my children that they made in grade school. Or my mother’s rosary tucked away for safe keeping.

Our treasures are stuffed in boxes where we can’t see them or enjoy them in our daily lives. I remember packing my mom’s dishes — dishes I had never seen. If I had discovered one when I was young I would ask why they weren’t being used. She would always answer with the words “I’m going to use them for good.”

Good never came, and she never enjoyed the beautiful dishes she was given over the years, some as far back as her wedding. What good is stuff if it’s stuffed away?

Another of my bins in the basement held newspapers of the first few months that I wrote this column. Why did I keep them? I must have been going to make a scrapbook, but it never happened. I didn’t keep them because I thought my writing was so great. I kept them because I couldn’t believe someone actually let me write a column for a newspaper.

I emptied box and bin and the shelves became emptier. The closets are emptier as I tossed and, yes, boxed, but for charity. I have watched how hard it is for the older generation to move to assisted living, to nursing homes and elsewhere. I have listened and seen the tears that what is precious to them have to be left behind. It is hard to watch someone hurt because they are moving on, but the stuff that represents their lives cannot move on with them.

I have to admit that in my household it would be twice as challenging if we had double the stuff because the male member of my household was a pack rat, too. I know how hard it is to try and convince him to get rid of the bowling ball. I tried to convince him to let me make it into a lawn ornament and if he decided to take up bowling again, it could sparkle all the way down the alley. He didn’t have a vision for that. Judging by the stubbornness of the bowling ball keeper, the bowling ball making its home in my basement multiplied by more he-man stuff could have been problem for our children down the road.

I do know people who have the opposite problem that I do, the male member of the family is the pack rat and the garage is full, the basement is full and his man cave is full. At least I don’t have oil and tires and whatever it is that men collect hanging out at my house.

I have tried to get my husband to accumulate stuff over the years, going so far as to buy him some stuff that he never appreciated. I must admit that I only did it out of guilt. If he had as much stuff as I did he couldn’t give me a bad time about it. We could have been pack rats together, but, sigh …, it wasn’t meant to be.

I guess if I can’t convince him to be a pack rat, then I will have to join him. I will have to empty my shelves, my closets, especially my basement. My kids have been gifted and taken possession of anything meaningful to them from my household. I want it to be simple and easy for them, when I no longer can remember what it is I need, and think I need what I don’t need. Did you get that crazy sentence?

The stuff I keep and accumulate today might make someone’s life harder tomorrow. Do I want to do that to someone I love, or do I want the transition to be easier for all of us someday?  I don’t know. Ask me next year, there are a lot of garage sales coming up.

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