What is optimal packrattiness?
How much should we keep ‘just in case,’ like farmers and ranchers do, old rolls of barbed wire and bits of cloth and car parts and bread twisty-ties that might indeed come in handy some day? And how much is just junk, unnecessarily sucking up our life-energy with the need to dust and organize and find again in the piles? Then if we can manage to get it out of our immediate space, what to do with it – get rid of it altogether (thus virtually ensuring the need for it the very next day) or store it interminably? I’m haunted by the words of simplification guru Brooks Palmer, who calls storage rentals “clutter alimony.”
Well, I want to report that I feel inordinately pleased with my level of packrattiness this week. And it’s led to a tip that might come in handy for you too.
I’ve been cleaning house. My downfall is books. I took out 10 full boxes from my 470-sq-ft cottage; can you believe it?! I look at the shelves and the weird thing is, they are still full. So where had those 10 boxes full been???
Some things are hard to let go of. For example, the hat that I wore while traveling in Bali and then hand-carried on the planes and buses and shuttles and by foot all the way home. It’s very cool – triangular in shape, cleverly made of several layers of perfectly cut palm thatch, edged with spiral wire, and lavishly painted with Balinese deities. And I’ve had it for ten years, rarely wearing it because let’s face it, how often does one work in rice paddies in northern California? But it is too beat up to donate, and how can one throw such a thing away?
Well, I was about to. This week. In fact, I even got it into the outside garbage can.
Then inspiration struck. I hauled it back out again: I knew what to use it for.
My intention was for the hat to protect the birdseed from getting wet and soggy when it rains, as the existing feeder’s roof is woefully inadequate for that task. The Balinese topper also seems to have the nice unintended side effect of preventing easy squirrel access.
It was hard to let the hat go. I found it far more satisfying to find a new use for it, even one that involved taking a knife to it and further, virtually ensures its gradual decay. But that’s better than unceremoniously dumping it into the trash. It seemed insulting to throw it out. Now it will have a noble death in the service of its intended purpose, albeit for birds instead of people. I doubt the fronds will care which species it serves.
So this is my new packrattitude: either (1) give the stuff you’re not using to someone who will, or (2) keep it till you can think of some weird new use for it, then let it go to that.