Chucking Stuff

I’ve been raised a bit of a pack rat. I hope my folks don’t get too offended for being sold out on the internet, but my mother has plastic boxes full of ten year old brochures. Heck, she has plastic boxes full of plastic boxes that she no longer uses. My Dad saves all the old screws and nails he pulls out, in addition to everyone’s favorite, the cutout underwear waistbands. I don’t think anyone knows what those are saved for (Dad, care to chime in and clarify?). Needless to say, I was destined to be a “saver”.

What I’ve never really understood is the whole psychology of it all. I’m always worried that something I throw away will be the exact thing I will need somewhere down the line. And therefore, I figure I can just file it away for when that time comes. It’s also the same reason I’ll buy something I don’t need when its a ridiculously good deal. I figure, it’ll be perfect someday, and then I’ll be so thankful I got it when I did. But most of the time, it never actually is useful. But I guess the rare occasions I do have exactly what I want reinforces the behavior enough.

So that’s why I think the most daunting part of this trip is probably what to do with all of the stuff we are leaving behind. In four years of living in this apartment, I’ve managed to accumulate a lot of things. A surprising amount. Especially for the small amount of closet space our apartment allows. Among all the things we are going to need to do this summer, packing up all of our things is going to be a big project.

I keep saying I because Theresa doesn’t have this issue that I do. I keep finding small bundles of clothes in the corner whose presence Theresa explains to me as “I don’t wear them anymore, so I’m gonna throw them out.” I’m pretty sure I have more clothes than Theresa, but I usually wear the same ten shirts, three jeans and four pairs of shorts.o fortunately, I have her to help me out with my “affliction.” She’s got a pretty good gauge of whats useful or not and she’s more than happy to share it with me. It doesn’t necessarily make throwing it away any easier though. Of course, I know to ignore her indignant stares about my video games and other electronics.

But needless to say, it’s the one thing about preparing for this trip that I’m dreading the most. Which I guess is good, because as far as issues go, its a pretty minor one. So are you a chucker or a saver? A Theresa or a Jeff? How are you able to fight your compulsions? I’d love some psychological help this summer.

10 Replies to “Chucking Stuff”

  1. I’m a Theresa. If I haven’t used it in a year, then it goes to a better home even if that home is the recycling bin. We had a neighborhood yard sale a few weeks ago and found new homes for $150 worth of stuff that we really didn’t need anymore.

  2. I try to be a Theresa, but I suppose I have a little Jeff in me. I usually feel so good about getting rid of old stuff and clearing out overstuffed closets and drawers, but our basement is just packed full of stuff and I don’t even know what most of it is.

  3. Well Jeff, Theresa might not be a saver now but when you all bring your stuff here I will be glad to show you all the “stuff” she has stored here. From Kindergarten through college it is all here. She has lots of notebooks from high school and college, photo albums and scrapbooks, along with T shirts from all her soccer teams, Girl Scout activities and so on. And guess what? When you all settle somewhere after your trip, you get to take it all with you!

  4. Maybe we’ll just never settle anywhere, Mom, so that I never have to deal with that stuff! More likely, I’ll probably just pitch most of it out. I’ve become a very unsentimental person in my old age. 🙂 Though not as unsentimental and unattached as Nomadic Matt. We’re not selling everything. As much as I like throwing stuff away, I don’t like throwing money away. I don’t want to get rid of good stuff at a very low price and then in one year have to rebuy it for much more. And the idea of shopping for all that stuff again makes me shudder. For some reason, Jeff thinks he does want to put that PhD to use one day, so we aren’t going to be permanent vagabonds and will need much of this again. Should plans change and I decide I don’t need it, I think my three brothers will find plenty of ways to put most of it to good use. In fact, I think they may be coming up with ways to do just that while we’re gone.

  5. “She’s got a pretty good gauge of whats useful or not and she’s more than happy to share it with me.” — I’ve never known my sister to happily offer unwanted opinions.

    My problem is two-fold, and does not directly connect to being a pack-rat in my current state: 1) I don’t organize well from the get-go(that’s both Theresa’s skill and neurotic detriment) and 2) I’m very attached to my academic work. For example, I not only save the original digital copy of a paper, but I also save material “drafts” that were part of the writing process and the graded copy. I also save all notes, research material, readings, etc. Mutiply that over 3 years of humanities grad school with 6 classes a year (with three more years to go), and you can figure out how many filing cabinents I am going to need. And don’t forget about the books that have accumulated.

    Problem 2, though, is complicated by problem 1. I rarely get the “crap” into the filing cabinents until 2-4 semesters after the work is finished. You think I could use XMas and Summer vacations to do this work, but instead, I just enjoy using the papers as carpet. Amanda loves it too. Alot.

    Seriously, my physchological disorder is not pack-rat-ism as much as it is fear of order. I like messes. They make the material(my papers) seem approachable. Once I get everything filed away, I am scared to mess the order up(the same reason for why I hate putting clean clothes away). Without order, though, I spend(waste) alot of time looking for whatever it is I am looking for. My current solution to all this is to look for a bigger apartment — which, I’m afraid, could turn me into a pack rat afterall.

  6. I’m with Lisa–if you haven’t touched it in a year you probably never will. Travel will probably show you how much “stuff” you really do have (even after your pre-travel purge).

    Dump it and feel the freedom. We went through a massive purge the year before we left and it was incredible the amount of things that hide in closets, under the bed and desk, and in the garage. The reason is always the same: “we might need it.” Truth is we really don’t, and if we’re wrong we’ll borrow it or buy it… but we haven’t had to.

    Google “discardia” or “simplify” and pick up some great tips. I realized if we are not using said item, someone else could, so I do my best to sell or donate–Hurray for eBay, Craigslist and freecycle.

    Oh, and when we get home I’m doing another purge.

  7. My husband and I just went through a similar thing- giving away every scrap of furniture that we could and selling most of the rest. Let me tell you, it was hard when a woman came by and bought 8 of my framed photographs, that I had collected from various artists over the last 8 years, for $90. I joked if i missed my stuff, I could just visit her house, because she also got my favorite vase, a decorative mirror and a hand carved bowl from Mexico. It was tough.

    There was also personal things we got rid of. The book, Letters to a Young Artist, that I had given to my husband when we first met in 2000. I had written a note in the front about his art career, encouraging him. $2 and it’s gone.

    So it is tough. There is no doubt you will struggle with this. But as someone on the other side of the process, I can tell you it feels great. It’s like a bandaid. Best if you just rip it off quickly. Once it’s gone, it is freeing to know that you can travel light. Big picture: You’ll get there. Just might sting a little. 🙂

  8. I like the few responses that have hinted at the idea that Theresa and Jeff are going to (or should) rid themselves of major personal possessions. They are going to rid themselves of the extra-crap that all of us need to rid ourselves of. But I don’t see them getting rid handcarved bowls, Jeff’s College WS wall of mementos, video game equipment, expensive kitchen appliances, artwork, etc. etc.

    I think they will do a good job of getting rid of questionable stuff they they prob do not need now and prob will never need in their life going forward. I think the important, useful, and expensive stuff will go in my/our parents’ crawlspace. I think the video game stuff will be split, temporarily, between my two brothers. I think I’ll raid the storage from time-to-time to borrow something I probably “need” but can’t readily afford(card table, ice cream maker, etc.).

    The bigger conversation here is a conversation regarding the definitions each of us use for words such as “useful,” “need,” “expensive,” “crap,” “possessions,” etc. I do see value in each and all of us cutting back on the amount that we own. I, though, don’t see that as what Jeff was hinting at would happen for T and him. All they own that is not “complete and utter shit” is going to the parents’ house. And man, is Mom excited about it.

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