Thursday, June 4, 2015

Less is More

Source: Staffan Vilcans

I come from a family of packrats.

You won’t find them on an episode of Hoarders. You won’t find mummified cats buried under mountains of garbage. But you will find the clutter unbearable to be around.

Growing up, I didn’t notice the clutter. I had always been able see past all the boxes and totes around the house. It was like having an extremely lame version of x-ray vision. I was far too acclimated to this lifestyle, and I never thought twice about it.

My family had moved from a two-story house to a one-story house 15 years ago. You would think this meant we had to minimize our belongings, but we accumulating things instead. Compound that habit with our tendency to hold onto things, and we have a problem.

My dad sees value in everything. He would repurpose anything he could—especially boxes and containers. He does not believe in throwing away food and he always made sure to pour our milk to the very last drop. Thanks in part to his habit to never waste, I’ve never gone hungry and I learned how to stretch a dollar down to the last penny.

My mom is very sentimental about her belongings. Family is the most important thing in her life, and her habits reflect that value. She loves to keep things that remind her of her baby boys, including baby clothes and toys. Unless I have a baby anytime soon, these items will remain in boxes indefinitely. I just have to convince her that I’m way cooler than a baby version of me.

I appreciate everything my parents have done for me. I’ve always had food on my plate and a roof over my head, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. But their “save everything” lifestyle has led to a cluttered house that seems to be getting more full every time I visit.

Since I moved out of my parents’ house, I chose to live a more minimal lifestyle. I knew I had the same packrat tendencies as my parents, and I did not want it to take over my life.

I tidy up when I notice clutter. I’m quick to get rid of things before I think they could “come in handy.” At least twice a year, I purge my belongings to be sure I only have things that I need and use often.

I even began noticing psychological benefits from my lifestyle adjustment. Whenever I tidy up or reduce my belongings, I get an endorphin rush. I can feel the weight come off my shoulders with every item I throw away. As silly as it sounds, I’m defeating my personal demons every time I tidy up.

None of these changes came about on my own. I coped with my packrat tendencies with the support of my significant other and through research. I found online resources about hoarding and forums dedicated to those affected by hoarding. It’s encouraging to read about how others have overcome similar problems.

I recently visited my parents to help reduce the clutter. I always felt like I had unfinished business in that home, and this was the only way to deal with it.

As I sorted through boxes, I came across an old trapper keeper I used in 8th grade. This very item is an artifact of my own hoarding tendencies. I was face-to-face with one of my demons. Why did I keep this thing? I took a look inside and the memories came flooding back. I vividly recalled bits and pieces of my 8th grade year. I was having a nostalgia attack.

But the memories weren’t special; they were just mundane events that happened ten years ago. Neither the memories nor the trapper were worth keeping.

So I threw it away.

I can see why my parents keep things, but I think they should be more picky about things and memories that are worth keeping. It’s like an unedited video; all the great moments are captured, but it gets lost in rest of the footage. And nobody wants to watch that video.

Their house is slightly less cluttered today, and I’m not sure if it will ever be truly tidy. But at least this packrat has turned into a modest mouse.

What, was that too cheesy? Sorry not sorry.