Overwhelmed by it all?

A Little Pack Rat In Us All

Being attached to material things is normal for most everyone. Aside from society saying that the more stuff you have the more successful you are, It is hard not to look at the figurine that your mom gave you for graduating and it not bring back memories of that day, or remember the day you met your husband by saving the old jeans you no longer can fit into. But if it is covered in dust at the back of a shelf or in a box and you can't see it, is it really needed? What purpose is it serving, you have those memories anyway. Do we really need all this stuff?

A keep sake box is a wonderful thing to riffle through as the years go by, but notice I said BOX not ROOM or HOUSE. If you keep everything that has a good memory attached to it, you'll have no room to live and therefore you'll be living in the past with no room to make new memories!

I have a box with things in my keepsake box from my young school days, and things from the kids I wanted to save as they grow up, like the set of knitted hat and booties I made my daughter, my great grandmother's wedding ring, etc. Through the years as I add more to the box, I go back through it and see what brings back any good memories, or stuff that just gets pushed aside. The stuff that gets pushed aside, gets removed so I can make more room for the good stuff.

"But how do I know when to keep something and let it go?” you want to know.

Here are some tips to help you work through your clutter and establish what is trash, treasure or donation. Remember don't keep the C.R.A.P. (can’t really achieve peace) , it will just make it harder for you to relax and clutter your life.

NOTE: If even the mere thought of throwing away stuff causes you to have a serious panic attacks or to verbally rip the head of the person who suggested it, please read the information about hoarding at the bottom of the page.

Some tips to help your inner pack rat achieve peace

You know those milk crates of old records you've been hanging onto for the last 30 years? When is the next time you’re going to listen to them? No really, when? Do you even own a record player? If not, why not write down the albums you like a lot, invest in the CD versions of them and sell the records to a record shop for the real record lovers who will actually use them! If your not going to display them and use them, it's time to let them go.

How much stuff do you have hanging around your house waiting to be fixed, or to fit back into? It is time tell your inner pack rat to straighten up!

It seems hard to let things go , but as you have more room, and less C.R.A.P. in your home, you'll have more inner peace and less stress.

1. Think about why you're a Pack Rat. Are you a sentimental person? Can you still have these memories without needing the items you’re hanging onto? Pick the most favourite ones and keep them and display them well, and give away the rest, perhaps to other family members who could enjoy the memories as well.

2. Don't be weighted down by your stuff. When your stuff begins taking over your life and you spend all your time climbing over things, looking for missing items, and fretting over where you'll put your next treasure, you are wasting precious time that you can never get back.

3.Help your kids. If your children pick up on your Pack Rat style, they will have the same problem when they're out on their own. If you begin to get organized now, your children will see how important it is and follow your lead. Don't expect them to want to declutter right away, give them time to see the change in you and adjust to the idea.

4.Recognize C.R.A.P. If you don't use it or enjoy it, then it's nothing more than C.R.A.P. If you don't know what it is, it's C.R.A.P. If it's too nice to use, ( like the bath soaps you collect every holiday season from gift givers and display on the vanity or back of the toilet) it's C.R.A.P. Toss it, finally use it or give it to someone who will and appreciate it. Let go of the C.R.A.P. and gain peace.

5.Saving clothes you no longer wear ( too big or too small) is just silly. If it's too big, get rid of it so you won't grow back into it, and if it is too small, chances are by the time you will ever fit into them again they will be out of style anyway. If it is a special item like a heirloom christening gown or wedding gown, then have it professionally boxed and store it well so it is good for the next generation. If it is a special outfit your child loved, then consider placing it in a shadow box and hanging it on the wall to display it. or taking a few key pieces and having them made into a quilt for your child.

I displayed a beautiful outfit my brother in law bought my daughter in Hong Kong when he was there for a visit. In the frame I folded it in a nice way to display it, along with a picture of my daughter and her uncle. I also have some infant fleece outfits that my son wore from a special friend when he was first born that I am making into a fleece quilt for his crib and toddler bed. As he grows I'll add some more blocks to cover his bed.

Save a few memory pieces and display them nicely, and get rid of the rest. Let someone else get a use out of the clothes. As a parent of growing children with experience of how little a low income can provide, I can tell you I am very thankful and grateful when I get a bagful of someone's second hand clothes for my children. Don't let them get mouldy and eaten by moths of mice in a cardboard box in the basement! They will just become more garbage for you to get rid of later.

6.Make a someday box. If you save things you feel you may use someday, create a handy box and place those things inside and when the box is full, discard something before you put anything else in.

7. Use a rotation system. If you have limited room for how much stuff you do like and want to keep, use a rotation system and switch things out, so you are enjoying everything. Keep the rest boxed up in storage and every few months, put a few things back in your box and take a few other things back out for display.

8.Fix it or trash it. Have you ever put aside broken items with the expectation that you'll get them fixed one day? Chances are, these items are still where you left them and they're still broken. Am I right?

Immediately schedule a date on your calendar and repair them when the date rolls around or get rid of the items right now. Your spouse might get upset, but give them the opportunity to fix the item on the chosen date they pick and if it is not fixed by a 7 day grace period after the chosen date, throw it out. It will lessen their stress level, and yours.

9. Take photos as your keepsakes to remember special times Instead of buying memorabilia. Also, consider taking photographs of possessions you don't want to forget, but don't have the space for. Save the photos in a scrapbook or photo album to keep the memory, rather than allowing the memory to take up extra space and become C.R.A.P.

Treat your memories as special things, not as junk in a box getting broken, or collecting dust in the basement or attic. Scrap books are easy to store and fun to do and look through later with family. It doesn't even have to be fancy and expensive, just grab some paper and colour pencils and pictures and start putting them in a photo album, use paper to write a small note about the memory and add little drawings or scribbles to add a personal touch. Stick love letters in a photo album to save them from yellowing or getting ripped or used as a mouse's house filling.

When your Pack Rat ways become a problem

I don't claim to be a professional here, but I have seen my share of pack rats out of control. If you are or love a pack rat that is out of control, you need to seek professional help. There is nothing to be ashamed of, sometimes it is just the way the brain is wired that causes these kind of issues. Seeking help through counselling and possibly medication can be a wonderful change in your life, and help lessen the stress and severe anxiety that usually accompanies serious pack rat/hoarding issues.

Hoarders cannot get rid of hardly anything, and often collect things that make no sense to others. They may collect large quantities of old newspapers and magazines, greeting cards, bottles, junk mail, plastic containers, broken appliances, old clothes, shoes, furniture, etc.

They not only save broken and useless things, they also tend to save quantities of stuff that can greatly go beyond what a person could possibly ever need. This could include buying things such as soap or paper goods several cases at a time, or dozens of an item that might be on sale, but which most people would only own one of.

Some people have such a strong sense of fear of getting rid of things, that being surrounded by large amounts of stuff, it gives them a sense of security. One of the main reasons for hoarding is a fear of things being thrown away, someday being needed, but are be gone for good.

Many people who have experienced poverty and low incomes sometimes cannot get past the need to save things to use them for other purposes. Of course recycling and reusing when you can is a good thing for our environment, and I do it all the time with my milk bags. I clean them and save them to wrap hard cheeses or sandwiches in, but I don't keep them to a point of storing them is a hindrance or negative effect to me or my family.

If saving things because they might be useful interferes with your ability to get in and out of your home safety ( blocked doors and windows), or if there are rooms in your home that are just purely a storage area for the things being saved, psychiatrist call that a neurosis..

Proper treatment for compulsive hoarding relies heavily on behavioural techniques done with a therapist. Hoarders need to be encouraged to gradually discard items that they find harder and harder to part with. A therapist may have to accomplish several goals: first, visit the home in order to survey the dimensions of the problem; second, determine the order in which things need to be tackled; and third, assist in the throwing-out process if the person can't seem to get started or is too great a procrastinator.

Just throwing things out on hoarders can cause them to become violent with others due to such a huge feeling of fear, or become depressed and possibly harm themselves in very serious cases.

Hoarders need to be given guidelines for what is to be saved or discarded, now and in the future. Often therapists will use a "two-year rule." This states that if you haven't used it, worn it, or read it in the last two years, you don't need it. This obviously doesn't include valuables, heirlooms, or tools used only for special purposes. Some hoarders may need even more specific rules. Most are discouraged from keeping more than the current week's newspapers or the latest issues of magazines, and articles are saved rather than entire issues. Mail must be sorted the day it arrives. Many also need help in organizing important personal papers and bills, and the purchase of filing cabinets is encouraged.

Once a hoarder fills their filing cabinet for the need to save magazine articles etc, then they need to purge what they have to make room for the stuff they feel is more important. Guiding them and being positive while doing so can help much more then just throwing things out on them.

In very serious cases, medication may help a sufferer approach the therapy process with less anxiety and fewer obsession worries. It can also relieve serious depression that robs someone of the energy needed to clean house. The usual antidepressant drugs shown to help obsessive compulsive disorders are most often used with serious hoarding behaviour. It is important to find a psychiatrist who is sympathetic and experienced in the treatment of OCD, which can take a certain amount of expertise to do properly.

Signs of Compulsive Hoarding

* An excessive amount of clutter that limits living space and jeapordizes safety.
* Difficulty categorizing and organizing items.
* Holding onto possessions that seem of little or no value to many others.
* Severe anxiety when trying to throw out an object even as minimal as the weeks newspaper.
* Trouble making decisions about possessions and anxiety or panic feelings inside.
* Feeling anxious, embarrassed or depressed because of clutter, and not letting anyone in your home at all.
* Fears about needing items that could be thrown away.

It may seem scary to ask for help and easier to live with the hoarding, but please seek some professional help if you ever feel that these habits are causing you sadness, fear, anxiety and/or anger, and compromising your safety in the home, and relationships with others.

You deserve to be at peace.

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