Pack Rat Remedies: Techniques for Letting Go

We live in an age of plenty.

Each day we’re flooded with opportunities to acquire more information, goods, services, and experiences than we could possibly ever consume. The constant onslaught can make it difficult to determine what’s important to hold on to, and what’s not. It’s no wonder many of us take after the fuzzy-tailed pack rat (yes, it’s a real animal!), hording unneeded items and countless bright, shiny objects. The scary part is – it doesn’t take long to accumulate so much stuff that there’s no room left for living!

Sarah on the symptoms

How do you know if you have a pack rat problem? If you answer yes to any of the following questions, chances are you’re holding on to more than you need. And if you answer yes to all three, you’re a certified pack rat!

1) Do you have books and notebooks from grade school, high school and/or college somewhere in the back of a closet? What about old stuffed animals or toys you’ve long outgrown?

2) Are your closets bursting with old clothes that you haven’t worn in well over two years because they’re either no longer in style or they no longer fit?

3) Do you have stacks of old paperwork, newspapers or magazines lying around that go back more than a year and haven’t been looked in as long?

Alicia on the root causes

Understanding what causes you to over-collect, whether it’s clothes, magazines or documents, is the most important step in solving the problem. There are three major drivers of ‘pack rat fever’: fear of forgetting important moments or events, fear of being without something you may need someday, and fear of being wasteful. Most pack rats are likely to have one dominant worry, so addressing it head-on can lead to big changes.

Techniques for Letting Go

It may be hard to transform yourself from a pack rat to a streamlined operator overnight, but these pointers should help you get in the habit of letting go.

#1: Put It In A Memory Bank
If you’re worried you might forget things such as an historic event or how your little one’s artistic endeavors and affinity for toy trucks touched your heart — capture it with a photograph. That way you’ll keep the memory, but lose the clutter. For starters, put the photos in a photo box, store them on your computer or online. Once a month, give yourself 30 minutes to put them in a scrapbook — add notes and quotes to help you remember special details in the future.

#2: Create a Formal YUNK (You Never Know’) Box

Limiting those just-in-case items to one box will give you a safety net of sorts but save you from being overrun with clutter. Decorate a simple 12 x 12 x 14 moving box or go out and buy a similarly sized container. Go room by room and put any item in the box that you’re hanging onto because you may need it ‘someday.’ When it’s full — you must take something out in order to put another item in (hint: lose those items you’re likely to be able to borrow from friends and neighbors in a pinch).

#3: Turn It Into Cash
What could be less wasteful than turning your unused items into cash? It’s never been easier — sell them directly on eBay, through an eBay broker, hold your own yard sale, or get a tax break by giving them to a charity. So you won’t be overwhelmed with work — sell stuff from one room a month and put the money you earn directly into a savings account. See how much you can earn in a year!