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Confessions of a Pack Rat

It’s no secret – just ask my mom or my dad who put up living with me for 18+ years. Ask any of my college roommates, ask my beloved husband … my name is Michelle and I have a problem – I’m a pack rat.

First and foremost, there’s the college papers that I hated writing and probably would never read again. So why are they in a box in my closet? Then there’s the tiny pair of patent leather ballet shoes that I wore when I was five years old. Not sure what in the name of nostalgia is making me keep those bad boys. How about the years worth of magazine recipes that I’ve been clipping? At this point in my life, there is no way that I’m ever going to be able to make all of the recipes I’ve amassed, even if I cooked something new everyday for the rest of my life.

Ill-fitting clothes, shoes that are worn past their wear, books that have been stacked to give away to people. Somehow I have the greatest intentions to get rid of all of this crap, yet it stays in my house. Is there anyone else out there who has this problem?

Well – hubby and I had a talk the other day and we’ve made a pact that we’re going to go through our closets and get rid of the stuff that we no longer wear, that no longer fits, etc. Now the frugal thing to do is to have a garage sale or maybe try to sell some stuff on eBay, but I don’t know that I have the time or the patience to organize either activity. So I’m thinking about just shipping all this crap off to the Salvation Army, Goodwill or Savers to get rid of. Anyone have any advice?

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5 thoughts on “Confessions of a Pack Rat

  1. I don’t know that I would call myself the opposite of a pack rat but I am pretty good at purging my house of stuff we don’t use. Not perfect mind you but pretty good. I purge stuff on a regular basis and it always feels very freeing. I did a garage sale one time and honestly can’t see doing another one any time soon. They are a lot of work for the money you get.

    My suggestion is don’t purge all at once. Purge a little bit every week and make it a weekly stop to go to Goodwill or some other thrift store to drop stuff off. DON”T leave the stuff you want to purge in a pile somewhere in your house because it will tend to stay there until it finds itself back in the closet it came out of originally. Any individual item that has some value should be posted on craig’s list or e-bay immediately. You might also want to consider freecycle. We have gotten rid of a number of things that way and the people that want it usually come and pick it up (I leave it on my front porch for them).

    Good luck with the purging of stuff. It really is very freeing. And, as a side benefit, you get a better idea of what you actually have in your house and then tend not to buy duplicates anymore.

  2. I too am also the opposite of a pack rat – probably to the point of being obsessive. But…since you’re looking for advice in that arena…

    Unless you actually like doing garage sales (which it doesn’t sound like you do), I am a big fan of just donating things – Goodwill, Savers, Salvation Army – and the benefit of this is that you can fairly estimate the value of what you’re giving and write it off as a donation on your taxes. All in all, it’s probably a wash as far as what you get on a tax break vs. a garage sale, and you probably feel better about yourself too donating it.

    I also agree that if you do have a high-value item sell it individually on eBay or Craig’s list or something like that, but it didn’t sound like you were talking about that.

    Finally, I really do stick to the “5 year” rule – if I haven’t looked at or used something in 5 years, I get rid of it. There are certain exceptions – I do keep a single box of newspaper clippings, yearbooks, awards, etc. from my life, memories that are important to me, and of course I keep a couple of boxes of photographs. But all in all, I keep things pretty cleaned out. The digital age is helping this a lot – I am able to be a “digital” pack rat with digital pictures, music, online statements, etc. without really feeling guilty about it because that takes up no physical space.

  3. I agree with the donation to Value Village/Savers for tax deduction receipt. In some cities, you may also receive an in-store coupon in exchange for your donation, in addition to the tax deduction receipt… I know, I know, the coupon will encourage more pat-rack activity, but it may come in handy!

  4. So, I found your blog from Blogging Away Debt earlier this year, and I’ve probably been following it since January or so. It’s very interesting.

    I am a pack-rat myself, but I have made substantial progress on getting rid of stuff.

    I suggest not worrying about the “frugal” thing to do being have a garage sale or such, unless there’s a big neighborhood-wide “garage sale” coming up. The real frugal thing to do is get rid of that stuff as quickly as is reasonable.

    Why? Because you’re paying out the nose, monthy, for that stuff by paying via rent or mortgage payment for that space you can’t use. It also takes up “space” in your head (and your husband’s head) by stressing you out for having it when you see it or feel you should get rid of it.

    I wish you luck. Getting rid of things can be very hard in the moment, but it truly is freeing, as stated above. Once a lot of these things are gone, you’ll forget you ever had them, and thus you just won’t miss them.

  5. In Canada we don’t get tax receipts for donations – they are just straight up gifts from the closet. I recently wrote about this and I’ve got the same issue as you. I like to keep things. Trinkets from the past, clothes out of style that ‘may’ come back, items I’d like to keep for my future little ones… but the truth is – a lot of these things I probably won’t use.

    Once a month I pick a section of my house that I like to collect in. I decide to put together one box or bag of items I don’t need. Then I freecyle them or donate them to value village or goodwill.

    This is a good habit because it keeps you thinking about your clutter and how much you have accumulated.

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