I’m Not a Hoarder, I’m a High-Functioning Pack Rat!

Moving forces one to re-evaluate one’s personal belongings, aka “baggage”. The act of pruning forces one to face up to the past, but it also brings up atavistic hang-ups that are really expressions of survival instincts. Sometimes the hang-ups still serve a purpose, albeit an obsolete one. For example, the idea that much of my stuff has been in boxes for the past 10 years, all carefully labeled, and much of it still in use.

Benefits of Hoarding

There’s nothing cooler than having a variety of objects and being able to lay hands on any tool, any bit, any book – within a few minutes. “Oh, a reverse threaded German 5xG 25 tap screw? Why, that’s right over here in Drawer 543!” So that’s one justification for hanging on to something that’s hardly ever used.

Another is simply having everything already packed and ready to go if the Secret Police show up at your door in the middle of the night to cart you off to the gulags, or to Auschwitz, or to whatever hell-on-earth incarceration your immediate ancestors were most likely to have experienced. Living out of a suitcase is something that keeps you mobile, one step ahead, travelling light.

Stop Hoarding: Relax and Let Go

The opposite of this mentality might be inner permission to enjoy gracious living for at least a little while. Paradoxically, hoarding slows you down, keeps you immobilized.

The Fetish of Memory

On the other hand, keepsakes become your memory, a tangible record of where you’ve been and what you’ve done. As time passes, having a few mementoes does become increasingly important, but they can be small and more condensed that formerly. In former times it’s possible that people invested a lot more energy in their keepsakes, which could be both empowering and traumatic, especially if the “power object” is lost or destroyed.

“But That’s A Good Box”!”

And then there’s the frugality excuse, which as a compulsive shopper I have no right to use anyhow. One thing I’ve learned is that the standard size fold-up filing boxes from Office Depot are good for most things because I can organize books and still end up with something small enough that I can move it myself.

The cheap type cost something like $15 for a 10-pack. They’re single-walled and collapse if you pile them too high. The expensive type are triple walled and cost $10 for a 2-pack. I tend to use those for paper files that I feel the need to keep despite the fact that there is no reason to hang on to every bank statement I’ve ever owned since college.

Base Camp

The ultimate goal is to end up with a manageable collection of tools, accessories, and tangible wealth so that no matter where you are, you’re instantly at home. You have your “base camp” and simply by arranging your stuff you’ve set up visual anchors or reminders of who you are and what you’re doing.

All of this sounds crazy unless you travel a lot for business. When you’re always in a different hotel every night, having even a few of the same things sitting out can be a helpful orientation, a grounding if you will.

But now I’m getting a new couch delivered at noon and I have to clear out some space!

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