I am a recovering pack rat. The cynical among us might say that I’m a recovering pack rat in the same sense that Mel Gibson is a recovering alcoholic. Fortunately, when I fall off the wagon, I don’t blame some innocent minority group. I blame my parents.
Actually, I blame myself. I blame myself first, anyway. Then after I’ve heaped the damnation upon my own soul, I blame the modern consumer culture I live in. Then I blame my parents. Then I go back to blaming myself. It’s a vicious cycle.
You see, I’m just a tender-hearted soul. I attach far too much emotional significance to material objects. I’ve learned this about myself, okay? I admit I have a problem. I’m well aware of my internal struggle. It’s huge. That’s why I get extra-mad at people who tempt me with more material objects to horde. They should have more compassion for my disease.
Sugar Daddy and I have moved seven times in our marriage, so with each move I had the opportunity to do a major purge of my ample stuff. I was extremely proud of myself for giving away my collection of gift bags to a needy gift-giver. She asked me if I was sure I wanted to part with them, as they come in so handy when it’s time to give someone a present. “I’m absolutely sure I don’t want to cart them out of state,” I replied. “Anyway, I can always get more.” Actually, for the first year and a half after the great gift-bag giveaway, I was reduced to wrapping my gifts in manila envelopes, but everyone else thought that was so creative and hip that I didn’t mind. Anyway, it was better than storing those infernal gift bags. Whew. That’s my success story.
Now for the sad stories. I’ve gotten rid of tons of other stuff over the years, and I don’t miss or remember any of it. Unfortunately, I can’t feel good about those purges because they’ve made only the tiniest dent in my Huge Pile of Crap that I seem to add to daily. I pack stuff up for the Goodwill, but then I don’t take it to the Goodwill. It somehow becomes unpacked and strewn about the garage. Some of it ends up creeping back into my house, and I say, “AUUUUUGHHHHH! WHERE DID YOU COME FROM? GET OUT OF HERE!” and I pack it up for the Goodwill again, but I don’t take it to the Goodwill, and, yeah, that’s pretty much how that goes.
After we bought the house, my step-mother brought up about, I don’t know, twenty boxes with my name on them, stuff that had been sitting in her and my dad’s garage until I had room enough to store it myself. I told her many, many times over the years that I didn’t know what was in those boxes, but I did know that I didn’t want whatever it was. I had too much already. Whatever was in those boxes could not possibly improve my quality of life, and if I didn’t know what it was, I’d never miss it. I told her to throw it away, throw it all away, don’t even so much as peek inside, just throw it all away. She couldn’t do that, of course, so she held on to it for seven years and then packed it in the back of her Prius and hauled it a thousand miles so I could throw it away myself. I made the mistake of looking inside. I saw stuff I wanted to keep. I wouldn’t have missed it if I’d never seen it, but having seen it, I had to keep it. I only wanted to keep a small minority of the stuff, though. Most of the other stuff fell into one of three categories:
Category 1: Stuff I Don’t Want and Which No Person in Her Right Mind Would Want
This would include stuff like the envelope that my SAT scores came in (not the scores themselves, mind you, just the envelope), my fifth grade spelling book, and a fifteen-year-old tube of holiday M&M’s. Why? you might wonder. Why indeed. I have no idea. But at least I didn’t pack it in a Prius and drive it a thousand miles.
Category 2: Stuff I Don’t Want, Which Means Nothing to Me, But Which I Feel Ought To Have Sentimental Value Even Though It Doesn’t to Me Personally
This would include stuff like souvenirs I can’t remember the origins of and random gifts of which I forget the giver.
Category 3: Stuff I Don’t Want But Which I Feel Guilty Throwing Away Because It’s Still Useful, Only Technically It’s Not Useful Because I Don’t Want To Use It and I Don’t Know Anybody Else Who Wants It Either
This would include stuff like stationery and, I dunno, paper clips. I mean, all these things are useful, but one only uses so much of them.
You don’t have to tell me what needs to be done with all of this stuff. I know what needs to be done. Half of it is already gone. The other half is boxed up for Goodwill, only I haven’t taken it to Goodwill yet, and, oh, never mind.
Then there’s my record collection. But that’s another blog.
Anyway, my point is that I know I have a problem. I am working on my problem. Getting rid of the stuff I have is hard enough. At the same time I am also working on not acquiring additional stuff. I can’t tell which I’m worse at, but I can tell you that my loved ones are not helping by giving me stuff that I’m not even under the illusion of thinking I need. My mother-in-law–whom I love, dear as my own fine mother–collects things. I mean that she collects certain kinds of things, and also that she collects things in general. She also collects things that she sends to me. As in, “I thought this was a neat container, you could put craft things in it or something.” God bless her, I could indeed put craft things in it, but unfortunately the thing that’s keeping me from doing crafts is not the absence of a random plastic container with many compartments that once held cheesecake or hors d’oeurves or whatever. I enjoy having my mother-in-law visit, but I cannot throw anything away in her presence. I have to wait until she’s sleeping. On the plus side, my husband will suppress whatever pack-rat tendencies he’s inherited from her while she’s here, I think because he enjoys making her crazy.
But then there’s my father’s wife. I thought the Great Prius Dump of 2004 would end my obligation to my folks’ Midlife Simplification Project, but as it turned out, there was still a whole lot of other crap in there that she thinks we kids should divvy up among us. A few weeks ago she sent each of us an e-mail with twenty-nine attachments, which were photos of the stuffed animal colony that has lived in their garage for the last decade or so. This doesn’t mean there were 29 stuffed animals. There were 29 group photos of stuffed animals. When I talked to her on the phone a couple days later, I said that I hadn’t looked at any of the pictures yet but I knew that I didn’t want any more stuffed animals, because if I wanted them I would have wondered where they were by now. She said she wouldn’t get rid of them until I looked at the pictures because I might want them. Okay, I said, I will look at them before I tell you again that I don’t want them.
Well, I looked at the pictures, and I didn’t want any of those animals, not even the two that were technically mine. But I failed to respond immediately, so yesterday I received a package in the mail, which I didn’t open right away because I was cleaning my house, and the last thing I wanted to know was what was in that package. But then I checked my e-mail and I scared the baby because I screamed out loud when I read this:
“Too late! You never told me which ones you wanted, so I picked for you.”
Now, I’m sorry that I never got back to her about the animals I swore up and down that I never wanted and never would want even if I did look at them, but did she have to go and do that? Really. To add insult to injury, none of what she picked out for me included anything that once actually belonged to me. I was so angry that I felt like sending it right back to her. SD said he would enjoy setting the stuffed animals on fire and taking pictures of the burning animals to send to her in 29 separate attachments, but that isn’t really my style. I’m more the passive-aggressive type. I’m just never speaking to her again.
Just kidding. But I’m still mad.