I never even knew there was a National Pack Rat day until today, May 17th. I am not a Pack Rat. Most of the time, you’ll find me throwing out or giving away the contents of my home regularly. I don’t shop for knick•knacks or Bric-à-Brac, and I usually “make do, use it up, or do without,” so I don’t know why I constantly have so much stuff to give away. Piles of stuff and things seem to grow over time in my house. I remember when my girls were in elementary school. Their rooms would get so messy you couldn’t see the floor at times. I wanted to freak out at the sight of it. Looking at the clutter just confused the heck out of me. I would collect everything off the floor, filling up one or two black trash bags, THE BIG ONES! The girls could buy items out of the bags back by doing odd jobs around the house, or the contents would go to charity. Most of the time, it went to charity. They didn’t care about the stuff. The weird thing is that I would hardly take them shopping for anything, and in 3 months, the toys and clothes in their room would again rise like dough and overflow out the door. If I weren’t trying to throw stuff out, I would tidy and tuck things away over and over again. I can’t think straight if the house is cluttered. Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., psychologist and author of “High Octane Women says, “Messy homes and workspaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed.” it’s so true! I didn’t realize this was even a thing until eight years ago when I heard another mom talking about how confused she felt when her house was a mess. Have you experienced this? Your house is dirty, and at the same time, there is tension, and you can’t think straight? Do you find it easier to organize your thoughts, relax and get things done efficiently when everything is in its place? I do, that is me to a tee. Thank God getting rid of clutter stress is just a house clean away. Yes, I’m pretty sure I have OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), among other issues. My husband and kids know when I start losing my patients that they should either clear the area so I can go full white tornado on my living space and scrub like Mister Cleans evil stepmother or grab a vacuum, mop, and duster and start working with me. Either way, there will be no relaxing when mom has messy, crazy brain.
On top of wanting things clean, I’ve never really been a collector. Having less means there is less to dust, wash and put away. I’ve gotten used to a minimalist life. When I started moving countries, I learn not to hold onto material things. Whatever you have in one country, you can probably get in the other. There’s also the fact that it’s costly to ship items from one country to another, so it’s better to sell what you have where you are and buy something new later. I developed the habit of getting rid of clutter after moving from the US to Germany and then the US to NZ and back twice! After you do this a few times, you learn to buy only the essentials. In the back of my mind, I’m always wondering when I’m going to pick up and move again. Moving is not a plan; it’s just a learned behavior, ingrained in me over time. This house, which I hope is our final destination for a VERY LONG TIME, is my 26th house in 53 years. No, I am not a military brat; my constant moving was due to opportunities and circumstances in my life that either couldn’t be passed up or avoided. The first time I moved, I was seven years old. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to stay in one house for decades and collect things; that just hasn’t been my MO. No, what happens with my things every time we have moved is that boxes and rubber-made bins get left all over the world, hoping that someday someone will be able to retrieve them. It’s like I leave tiny Jeri time capsules everywhere I go.
Some things have been important for me to save, like my children’s baby crib and the matching sleigh bed and dresser. Those are in my shed waiting for my girls to have babies so I can put the furniture in the guestroom and the girls can snuggle up in that little bit of nostalgia from when they were young. I would also never lose track of my books! I have some of the most amazing books that I’ve been collecting since about 16 yrs old. I’d say I’m more of a bookworm than a pack rat. Besides the baby furniture and books, I must have my photos. I have pictures coming out of my ears, online, in albums and boxes, and on external hard drives and memory sticks. I have photos all over the place, and they have traveled all around the world with me. If our house were on fire, it would be fair to say that I would be lugging giant plastic bins of books and photos out of the flaming destruction while simultaneously grabbing my children, husband, and dogs, of course.
So National Pack Rat day is not a day I celebrate. But hey, let’s celebrate the collectors and hoarders out there. Someone has to hold on to all of that stuff so that some life form 2000 year’s from now can dig up our happy meal toys, Tervis tumblers, and plastic patio furniture to gain a clear understanding of our culture. I like to think that my house or one of my rubber-made bins will be found several layers under the earth’s surface by some great archaeologist. He’ll carefully open the bin and find my dusty old books and a photo or two and think, “Wow, that woman had very little clutter in her life; she must have been one of the more level-headed clear thinkers of her community.” No, that’s not really a deep-seated hope of mine. The reality is I just function better with less stuff.