What I Mean When I Say

“I’m A Pack Rat”

But I am not a hoarder. If you walked into my house, sat in my car, or worked at my desk, you would not think that I am a little bit of a pack rat and that I always have been. I keep things clean and tidy. And I don’t pile up trash.

Here’s the weird part: I hate having things. When there are tons of knick-knacks, memos/post-its, business cards, and scraps of paper lying around, I’m not happy.

Well if I’m not a hoarder, why do I say I’m a pack rat?

Photo by Olga on Pexels.com

I get attached to things very easily. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer or maybe this is just the kind of person I am, but every object has a story and feelings. I personify absolutely everything. Every single thing seems to call to me and tell me its story. More than that, I like to think that objects absorb the energy around them. So, more often than not, the objects I keep feel alive to me.

And that means I can’t get rid of it.

Awhile back, I used to struggle with getting rid of clothes, shoes, old pieces of paper I wrote poetry lines on, etc. There are boxes of report cards, testing results, math quizzes, etc from my entire schooling just in case.

And that’s the second part of it.

So, I kept things for a few reasons.

1.I feel bad for the object.

Normally, I’ve spent a lot of time with these objects. Everything to me has sentimental value. Everything. So I’ll keep something even if I don’t like it or want it. Especially because I worry that someone else won’t love it or use it and that it’ll end up on the top of a trash heap.

I feel like it’s my job to give it a home.

And this feeling is solely because I assign emotions to objects. A couch can’t feel sad. A weight can’t be lonely. A pen can’t feel left out. To a degree, assigning emotions to objects is fine but when it prevents you from throwing it out or giving it away…there’s a problem.

To combat this, I told objects “thank you” and instead of throwing them out, where I could I gave them away. For bigger objects that held a lot of sentimental value and needed to be thrown out, I would cut out a small piece of let’s say fabric from a couch, and put it in a scrapbook.

But that touches a little bit on the next part.

2.I feel guilty.

Whether it’s because I feel like I’m abandoning the spirit of an object or because I’m throwing away a gift, guilt always plays a part in it.

Over the last two years, I’ve realized that I genuinely don’t like to keep a ton of stuff around. I like to have cute little things and interesting objects to catch my attention but when it comes to actually decorating my house, I’m pretty picky.

I don’t want much in storage so all of my projects from my youth and test scores end up just taking up room. I need to keep around me only what I’m willing to keep in my head. If there are things I keep just because they’re gifts, I will eventually get rid of them. I like keeping things that I love. That I’m willing to keep in my head.

But I used to keep a lot of things, clothes included, because I felt guilty. What would the person think if they knew I got rid of it? What if they come by and don’t see it?

Guilt is not a good reason to hang onto something. You should genuinely love it. You should feel excited to see it. You own it and you should be proud of that. And it’s okay if the things that make you feel that way change over time.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

3.I am afraid to forget.

This is just with sentimental objects but I have this terrible fear of forgetting someone. It’s incredibly easy to do and for a long time I convinced myself that if I kept things they gave me around that I would remember them. But that isn’t really the case. I just ended up remembering where it was in a house or forgetting where it came from in the first place.

There are of course exceptions to this where I genuinely loved something and was so happy to get it. So my way around this is to still only keep the things that make me happy. There are quite a few things I’ve received from people that I have gotten rid of including jewelry.

And that’s okay.

I have them in my mind. To honor them, I weave characteristics of them into my story. I keep lots of pictures, both in scrapbook form and digital. I take lots of pictures, but that’s for a little later. I keep pictures and write memories for two reasons. One, I can go back and look through the book and smile and laugh at the memories it revives. And two, I can read about the memories and enjoy them in my mind.


Final tidbit: how do I prevent the feeling of forgetting?

I take a ton of pictures. I take pictures of every flower that strikes me, every sky that makes me smile, and any moment that tugs at my heart. I want to remember and I want to continue to live passionately. The way for me to do this, is to be sure to capture the small moments. Even if I do forget about the little ghost decoration in front of a house that inspired me on my half marathon, I’ll remember when I see it and if I don’t I can still enjoy the picture for what it is.

If you are a pack rat, or tend to struggle to let things go because of an emotional attachment (I kept a snowball in the freezer for awhile as a kid), learn to work with it. Learn what causes it. For me, I’m afraid to forget. I don’t trust myself. Combined, it means that I struggle to let things go.

But if you figure out the why behind not throwing things out, you’ll learn about yourself too. You have an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone here. Use it.

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