Follow up: My Packrat Parents Are Moved!

janetwilsonOctober 18, 2005

I posted back in July that my parents decided to move out of the 4000 sq ft house they had lived in for 30 years. I am happy to report that they sold the house, moved out and are now settled (somewhat) into the new home. It was an extremely difficult move due to (1) the amount of stuff they had accumulated; (2) the amount of stuff they were unwilling to let go of; and (3) complications due to Hurricane Rita  thereÂs nothing like packing up a house when there is no electricity and temps are at 100+.

Lessons I learned from all of this:

1. Keep your home decluttered. I believe this should be a continual, daily work in progress.

2. DonÂt keep stuff around just because someone gave it to you  if you donÂt love it or itÂs not useful, get rid of it. Your memory of a loved one or your friendship with someone is not dependent on some object.

3. Have a garage sale BEFORE you list your home for sale. We were not able to do this due to timing of the sale and the Houston heat, but we are planning a heckuva garage sale for next month.

4. My parents will probably always be packrats. I spent many long hours alone in the car with my grandmother during Hurricane Rita and I realize that almost anyone that went through the Great Depression or grew up extremely poor, will place a lot of value on the stuff they have surrounding them. ItÂs a comfort to them and itÂs difficult to let go. I have a friend that adopted a 12 year old boy that had been in the foster care system most of his life. Because he never had anything of his own, this child cannot let go of "things" that belong to him  even if itÂs something he has outgrown or is broken  itÂs psychological. I now realize that no matter how hard I try, IÂm not going to be able to change my parentÂs behavior.

Thanks for your advice on dealing with the move, I am so glad this process is over!!

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CONGRATULATIONS on surviving the move! My inlaws were depression era hoarders and I know what kind of challenge you faced.

I agree with you that they will always be packrats. I'm surprised they agreed to get rid of ANYTHING since they "might need it some day". My husband was raised in an environment like this, and he still panics when he sees me de-junking the house. Our refrigerator is on its last leg and I'm prepared to stay firm on "NO!" when he suggests that we keep it store stuff in (that's what his parents did).

    Bookmark   October 18, 2005 at 5:44PM
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Congrats! And I bet you're glad it's over.

Some lessons out of it, as well? That's an extra bonus.

It's hard to realize, sometimes, that we can't change people; I bet it'll help you a lot in the future to realize how they are.

You'll be like my folks--you'll vow never to do that to your kids. My folks each moved a parent out of a long-lived in home (one w/ a basement!) and into a much smaller living arrangement. They were astounded at what was there, and vowed never to do it to us.

Well, they made great progress. However, we'll have a hard time w/ their house when they pass on, even so. I'm hoping they'll decide to lighten up again in another year or so.

(Julie, invent some "good for the environment" reason why you have to send the old fridge to have its freon reclaimed or something--if it stand around for years, the freon will leak out and pollute the ground water or something awful--which I just made up, btw)

    Bookmark   October 18, 2005 at 8:07PM
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Wow, I know about hoarding old appliances. My mom (an 82-year-old widow)has four refrigerators. One in the house, three in the garage. One is totally broken, the other two plugged in and running. The story of the broken one is amusing: she had these three refigerators plugged in in the garage and running. She used them for her "extra" stuff. Sh'ed buy stuff on sale and keep it either in the fridge or freezer compartments. She even bought extra Valentine chocolates. Anyway, one month her electric bill was over $700. Wow! My brother came over, did some scouting around and found one of the garage fridges (with a huge freezer) was running constantly. The thermostat had broken and it just never shut off. He unplugged it and emptied it, found all kinds of old stuff, even an eight- year- old frozen chicken! Yuck! But my mom didn't want him to throw out the darned refrigerator because the town had to be called and she'd have to pay to get the thing hauled away. And so it sits in her garage, just a pile of broken metal. She also had an ugly old hutch in the kitchen. I mean, she bought it for cheap about thirty years ago. It was all ugly and the fake-wood veneer was severly chipped off from various dings and general use. She had my brother put it in the living room,tipped on it's side. Now it's just a plain eyesore. I dread the day she passes away, we'll have to deal with her fourty years of accumulations. But that will be another post/ rant...

    Bookmark   November 2, 2005 at 8:55AM
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My DH put an old fridge down in the basement many years agoÂwhat a mistake! The Harvest Gold monstrosity is completely unusable, and the last time I looked it was growing a great deal of mold on the interior.

My DH was raised in real affluence, but he still had strong pack-rat tendencies. Who knows where these behaviors come from sometimes...


    Bookmark   November 2, 2005 at 9:14AM
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I had worked for an international adoption agency. The children we found homes for were from orphanages. It is so true that those who have nothing will hold onto anything since these children would take great pride in their very few possessions. There were stories of these children, once adopted, being afraid that their belongings would be taken from them. It would take a lot of reassuring from their parents that this would not happen.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2005 at 11:47AM
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Any realtor would probably tell you that getting rid of stuff before you put your house on the market will help sell your home, unless you're in a REALLY hot market. So that's definitely a great idea.

My parents are thinking about downsizing, and they want to start getting rid of things now. I may help with this project at Christmas, though I'd like them to come to me this year.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2005 at 12:41PM
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I had a friend whose parents both died and she was an only child. She had to empty their apartment shortly after their deaths and told me what a difficult thing that was for her. I decided I will NEVER do that to my own children. I think congratulations are due anyone who voluntarily downsizes and doesn't leave their mess for the next generation.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 12:02PM
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