Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The "Unpacking a Packrat" Blues

Prairiewolf and I have decided that this week is to be devoted to unpacking, organizing, stowing stuff, and generally trying to do the final "fit" into our new digs. We reached the functional stage of settling in about a week after the furniture arrived - dishes in the kitchen cupboards, clothes to wear hanging in the closets, towels to use in the bathrooms, furniture generally in place. Now it's time to unpack and organize the books and to find places for family history pieces, Christmas decorations, empty stereo boxes, extra linens and towels, gardening supplies, tools, my old shell collection from Panama, and all the other detritus of living for over 50 years and being married for more than 30 of them.

Learning to deal with "stuff" must be part of my life's work this time around. Despite the fact that we had horrible packers on this move, our things seem to have arrived relatively intact. Packers are supposed to put aside and not pack any flammables that they find. However, as I've unpacked, I've found dozens of items that could easily have ignited during moving or storage (boxes of matches, a butane lighter filled with butane, flammable spray cans, for example), yet that didn't happen. Obviously I'm not meant to get out of my "stuff" dilemmas that easily.

I soundly descend from a proud family of packrats, a condition that I've come to believe is wired - or not - into one's genetic structure.

After my grandmother died, I went down to help deal with the remnants of her life that my grandfather did not want to have around anymore. It was incredible. She had shelves around the ceiling in her rooms, full of books. There were shelves in her closet, two shelves deep, floor to ceiling on either side. Stuff was stored under the couch, behind the couch, under the bed, in the storage room. All of it was tidy and very neatly organized, so you never really realized how much stuff was stashed away while she was alive. There was every letter anyone had ever written to her or to my grandfather, books of all sorts, years of National & International Wildlife magazines, knick knacks and artwork from their years spent overseas, sewing supplies, and ... Stuff. My grandmother saved the waxed paper from inside cereal boxes, neatly folded and stored. She saved every styrofoam tray that came her way. Every rubber band. Every TV dinner tray. As a newly married minister's wife during the Depression and later as a missionary's wife, she felt that some day she might need all these things.

My grandmother's youngest sister was even more of a packrat. She lived with her mother, and later her other sister, in a 3 room apartment in New York City. When I last saw this apartment - my great aunt must have been in her early 60's - there was just a small path through towering piles of magazines and newspapers in the only bedroom. The kitchen was tiny and crowded, but still functional. The front room was beginning to fill up with stuff too. I understand that eventually only the kitchen and bathroom were navigable.

Then there's my father. Suffice it to say that the packrat gene is alive and well and running rampant through his life and his house.

So I come by my hoarding instincts honestly, but that doesn't make them any easier to deal with.

Now, as we settle into our new home, I'm ready to buck the trend of my genetics and downsize to fit the house and streamline our lives. There are several big boxes filling rapidly with things that I can't fit in and don't see the need to keep. It's a start, but I need to do even more.

Yesterday's unpacking included lamps, lamp shades, extension cords, books, more towels, Christmas decorations, empty picture frames, and office supplies, to summarize the main categories. What will today unveil?

So often we are our own worst enemies!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You need a blogroll.