Pack Rat Blues
(Click the picture to see notes on all the junk)
Forest Hills, August 26-27, 2006 - I'm a packrat. I'm such a hopeless packrat that, even though I live with one wife and no kids in a four-bedroom townhouse, with garage, finished basement, and finished attic, I'm considering renting a storage unit. In my defense, the house, like all old houses, has tiny closets. It's not so much that there's no room for all my junk, it's that there's not enough room to put all my junk away. A storage unit would de-clutter the house and make Sue happy.
Oh, sure, I could just throw all my stuff away. That's what I attempted to do this past drizzly weekend. Two full days, from getting up in the morning until late in the evening, nothing but going through boxes and throwing lots of stuff out. And I only managed to put a small dent in the clutter in our basement. Never mind the guest room. Or the attic.
It's amazing what accumulates over time: Old magazines. Old toys. Papers from grad school that I don't even come close to understanding anymore. Travel brochures. Ticket stubs. 10-year-old phone bills and credit card statements. Wedding invitations. A couple of notes from Sue. Maps. Dominoes. Matches. Blank post cards. My father's Navy dog tags. Atari 800 cartridges. An original Yoda action figure, still in its original packaging (I remember saving that one on purpose). A lock of my first girlfriend's hair. Watches with dead batteries. Dead batteries. Photographs. Letters from eating clubs, asking for money. Sunglasses. Pool passes for the condo development we lived in when I was 4. Plastic Easter eggs from last year. Boy Scout merit badges. Pay stubs. Elementary-school report cards. College graduation programs. Invitations to my pool parties. Used airline tickets. Used Long Island Railroad tickets. Stamps. Broken frisbees. Broken trophies. Some of it I remembered I had, some of it I remembered when I found it, some of it I had no idea was there.
And that wasn't even going through all the boxes. I threw about eight or nine boxes and crates worth of stuff away. The shredder made that fun. Maybe I wouldn't have accumulated as much junk if I had a shredder years ago. Still, there are now about sixteen boxes left in the basement alone. I can't throw it all out. I'm destined to not look at most of the stuff for years, at which time try to throw a few more things out. Repeat every five years or so until my grandkids curse me as they empty out my house after I'm put into a nursing home.
Well, I'm sorry I'm making my grandkids unhappy by not just throwing everything away, but I keep it all precisely to go through it every few years like I just did. Think of it as a bulky and not-very-well-organized scrapbook.
My parents are and my grandparents were packrats, too. I'm proud to come from a long line of packrats. Sue's parents are packrats, too, but somehow she has no signs at all of the packrat gene. (aside from the one whole room of the house given over to her books). I have to nail things down in the house lest she chuck it away. I had her read a letter I found this weekend that she had sent to me before we were married, and after she (reluctantly) read it, she asked if I was going to throw it away. Believe it or not, the answer she was looking for was not "no, of course not". And she calls me unromantic. She's going to freak when she finds out about the lock of hair.