Pack Rat?

jxbrownOctober 22, 2006

This seems like kind of a minor problem compared to some of the worries on this forum, but does anyone have advice for dealing with a pack rat? I'm to the point where I'm considering renting a storage unit. We moved from a house with an oversized garage and an attic to a larger mid-century modern house with characteristically limited storage. Now admittedly part of the problem is my own sloppiness, but my DH will not part with anything.

We have 25 year old books from his undergrad degree -- a field in which he has never worked, bits and pieces of cheap furniture, ratty old appliances and all of it is far too precious to discard. For instance there is a bread machine in the garage sucking up a chunk of precious storage real-estate. He has never once used it during the entire time we've been married. He never cooks. Ever. But we've got to store the damn thing, just in case. He about popped a gasket when I gave away his cheapo bachelor microwave and absolutely refused to let me give away the set of dishes that we no longer use. He's not cheap and we could easily afford to buy a new microwave or a bread machine or what have you, but he insists that we store all of this dusty, rusting crap just in case we need it some day. We can barely get to our cars in the garage and all of the closets are stuffed to bulging. When I buy something new, my worry is not whether I can afford it, but whether I can store it. Help!!

I might add that to date my solution has been to store his precious stuff and when he isn't looking trot selected items off to Goodwill. Mostly he doesn't notice, but when he does it's a crisis. I've never discarded anything that wasn't mass produced or that has sentimental value or that is in any way irreplaceable. His concern is that someday we might need it.

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Take every speck of it you've just described and concentrate it at a nearby self-storage facility. That way it'll be out of your life but still saved in case "someday we might need it." After a year show him the invoice for storage and remind him that's another full year you didn't miss a bit of it. If he wants to continue keeping everything, fine. Just keep it there instead of underfoot in your home.

You MUST get control of this or you'll end up living in a midden. I've known several guys like this. It always gets worse as they grow older. Strongly advise NOT allowing it to progress beyond the point you've already described.

If it progresses to include old cars and rusted appliances in the yard be prepared to put your foot down hard.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 9:25AM
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Check out this post on the Organizing The Home forum.

Here is a link that might be useful: This is discussed here

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 10:59AM
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Asolo's advice sounds great to me. That takes the problem and neatly contains it off-site, out of mind, with the only cost being money. Not that it would be so easy to part with that kind of money -- but to relieve that kind of stress, I'd think it would be money well spent. It also has the effect of making the problem very tangible.

It couldn't hurt to calculate the storage costs, and then plug that into the following scenarios:
- "For $___, we could BUY a new whatever in the event we ever do need it, and still have money left over."
- "For $___ , would you actually buy this collection of used stuff?"
- "Would you trade this stuff for a vacation in Tahiti? Because if we had a garage sale, then added in the money we save by not storing it for 5 years, we'd have enough to take that vacation."

Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 12:53PM
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Thanks to both of you. I'm feeling better. At least after reading the squalor site, I feel like I'm lucky to be dealing with a milder version of the problem. I'm a slob and he's a hoarder and it's starting to weigh down on me, but at least the newspaper goes into the recycling bin on a weekly basis! I've found a self storage site that advertises "curbside" self storage. They come out and pick it up so that I don't have to rent a truck. My beloved left on a business trip this morning and won't be back until next Sunday night which gives me a week to get this under control.

asolo, you're right about the cars. He doesn't have any interest at all in cars, but he would like to replace his aging, greige Accord. His plan is to buy a new car and park the Accord, which of course he doesn't want to sell, in the street. I'm absolutely opposed to two childless, inner suburb dwelling people owning three small, bland cars. I'm only willing to buy a new car if he's willing to get rid of one of the two we have. We've been married for five years and have managed to fill a four bedroom house. I can't bear the idea of accumulating a bunch of beat up old cars, too.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 1:08PM
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Please no old cars at the curb. You don't need your neighbors chiming in. Every good wish to you.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 3:17PM
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Good morning. I see you're already on the way to solving your problem, so you probably don't need another opinion. But I saw something in your original post that struck a chord with me.

"I might add that to date my solution has been to store his precious stuff and when he isn't looking trot selected items off to Goodwill. "

You specifically said "HIS" stuff. And you mentioned that you've only been married 5 years - that's not that long. When my DH and I got married, we had both survived other relationships and had maintained households on our own, so naturally we had to combine "assets". We had at least two of everything, and sometimes more. When deciding what to keep and what to part with, all of a sudden hs things became "collector's items", while mine was just stuff. It didn't seem like a big deal at the time (although it has become quite funny when we talk about it now), but each time "his" stayed and "mine" went, I felt a little bit of me going bye-bye too. I waxed nostalgic. Could it be that he is feeling that you think that his stuff (translate that to HE) isn't good enough? Even if only subconsciously, he just might need to hang on to some things. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 9:00AM
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i`am the opposite, if i havent used it in 6 months, its gone!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 10:00PM
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I have helped two family members when they moved who had this problem. By the end of the move, I actually was so disgusted with them, and thought they were pathetically selfish. Escpecially one. By the end of the move, all I could envision was this grown person, unwilling to share any of their enormous excess, with people in need who would actually use the items, instead of hording them. It was like a child with this enormous pile of toys, unwilling to share any of them. Placing huge importance over the most ridiculous stuff, and absolutely must keep every bit of the nonsence. And believe me, absolutely no one in the family wanted anything...but there are many people out there in the community who could use it, I am sure. She would try and place some of her stuff at homes of family members just to make space in her stuffed place, and she could still retrieve it whenever she wants...and the person can NEVER get rid of it, because it is not really theirs, it is simply stored at your house.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2006 at 6:30AM
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My mother was TERRIBLE about being a pack rat. 99 percent of it was junk. It was an awful job to clean up her place after she passed away. It is not a job I would ever enjoy. That being said, she was a pack rat, I think, out of a feeling of insecurity. She grew up with nothing and had nothing most of her adult life. Her sister-in -law was the same way. Truckloads of stuff in a smallish house. They both had a fear of doing without things.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 11:39AM
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I feel your pain. My DH is such a pack rat it isn't funny. Don't tell anyone, but every once in a while I conveniently dispose of stuff when he isn't around. So far he has never missed a thing. He was born during the depression and his mom was a PR, too. Think it might be hereditary? I like the idea of putting it in storage. My DH would get rid of it in a hurry if it was going to cost him. But small stuff, just put it in the trash (hide it underneath other things). Believe me, he'll never miss it. I also understand having to clear out after a parent dies. We did it after his mom died and, unfortunately, a lot of it came home with us, including a broom which was nothing but nubs for bristles. Sigh!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2006 at 9:39PM
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my husband is a pack rat, too!
I gave up "talking" to him about it. he doesn't remember the things he has anywhere. so, that's a good thing! :) hehe
every week I check all th house, and I donate things I know we really don't need. there are some thing that are in so bad conditions that I feel embarrassed to donate them, so one friend pick them up once is a white and through them in the damters for me. because my husband checks our trash every week(outside) right before it's picked up, to make sure there is not something usable.
other example: if the cheese is cheap today in the store, he'll stuff the refrigerator with it. Of course it bad old and bad!! because we don't eat to much chesses. after the cheese is all green! he cut the green parts and he will eat the rest. if it doesn't take right, HE WILL CUT IT TO make sure the bacterias are kill before he eats it!!! ... well.. I have millions of examples.
aaaaah, I have to tell you one more,, it's funny. hehe
we got our fist furniture in a place where people donate their things. the were free and very ugly. I didn't like it, but we didn't really have too much money at that time, so I said it was ok. he also said that we'll get new ones in few months. I believed him!!
5 years after, I got tired of that horrible furniture. I was always asking nice about changing it, he never do anything, then I was fighting a lot about it. I tried to donate it, but when salvation arm came to pick it up, they did take it because it was broken, it has some holes in the back and the legs were broken in the sofa.
I even put it on ebay, star price 99cs :) .... 2 people bit and I sold it for $5. I thought m husband was going to be happy like I was because I helped him to get rid of it. but not,,, he was offended! because I sold the ugly sofa for so low. then he call the people and told them that if was his sofa and I sold it without his perdition.
are you wondering how I got rid of the sofa? hehehe
I found a local wed side that is was made for recycling, so people post things the need or things the want to get rid of. so, I post the sofa, and one person pick it up when m husband wasn't here.
of course m husband got very upset about what I did.
And guess what? some body he told what I did(well, his version, not saying where we got the sofa from or how ugly it was) the offed him some sofa and furniture the wanted to donate. can you guess who end up with this things? US.
I'm %100 sure he has a mental illness, he doesn't believe me, if you meet him he looks normal. but this problem can drive crazy an body. I have even thought about getting a divorce just because of all this craziness he want me to live with and accept it.
I tell you about this things because it songs funny. but the are not funny at all when it just happened.
I don't think this condition can improve if we don't take them to a doctor phill or some doctor!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2006 at 3:15PM
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Wow - I too am married to a pack rat, but at least he's a neat pack rat.
My mil died two years ago (she had grown up during the depression) and it took a long time to clear out the house she had lived in for 40 years. She rarely got rid of anything "in case I need it later"..... That experience made a strong impression on my dh and now, when he purchases something to replace something he already has, I start out with "what will you do with the old one?" I don't accept "keep it in case". I offer to list it on craigs list for sale, or on freecycle, or I offer it to the (grown) kids.
The stuff he has now - at least he keeps it neat. I could not cope with the extreme that Suzy is coping with - that does sound like a form of mental illness.
my best to you

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 11:53AM
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In fairness, lots of people keep old stuff. Do-it-yourselfers are most famous for it. The difference is whether or not your everyday living-space is compromised by it.

If there's a shed-full of stuff out back, who cares? If your closets, under-bed, and every nook and cranny of your house is full of it, that would be no-go issue for me.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 1:43PM
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