My Story: Confessions of an Ex-Packrat

contributed by Sher

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Having grown up in a family that was addicted to both hoarding and moving, a large portion of my childhood memories involve lengthy and arduous bouts of relocating things, things, and more things. Fortunately, I finally realized how enslaved we were by all those possessions.

Recognizing a problem, however, is only the first step in solving it and it's taken several additional moves and some serious effort, but I've finally gotten the upper hand and conquered the mess.

Since the collection of furniture, appliances, hobby materials, books, tools, and other consumer goods was enormous when I began to whittle it down, I was often petrified about where to start so it seemed reasonable to set a small goal. I decided my first "rule" would be to throw out one item each and every day. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

Oh, but it wasn't. I did remember I needed to dispose of something each day, but when it came time to identify that particular something, I was again stymied. Every item triggered a miserable bout of indecision. Should I really part with this item or is it something I may need one day? How can I throw out cards, letters, and sentimental items? More often than not, I'd put the item back down while the internal debate raged on and on. Making a dent seemed as difficult as hurrying a glacier.

Frustration created my second (and last) rule. Now whenever I pick up a candidate item, I ask myself, "Does this add significantly to the quality of my life?" And I must give an instant yes or no response. No debate allowed as it either does or it doesn't.

The many things receiving a nay vote go promptly into the trash unless they're in good condition and still quite serviceable. Those items are placed on a table by the door while I try to find them a new home and, failing that, they go to the local Goodwill.

I'll be the first to admit it's not foolproof, as I've pitched half a dozen things that I desperately needed a day, a week, or a month later. C'est la vie! So I've had to replace a few items. For the most part, however, I'm much happier with my uncluttered home.

Cleaning is faster and simpler and I have more time and energy to take care of the things that do add to the quality of our lives. The items I choose to keep are much easier to organize, store, and find later. And, mostly, I just enjoy all the open space and a glorious sense of freedom. Time and the people we love are irreplaceable but things come and things go, and I'm happy to say that a huge number of my things have gone and are not missed.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by

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