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Packrat spouse

Posted by on Jun. 9, 2014 at 10:43 AM
  • 16 Replies

Help! To begin with, I am married to the absolutely worst packrat in the world. It has always been like pulling teeth to get him to throw or give things away, and he gets upset if I throw them away without asking him. We live in a tiny house with two children, and there is simply not enough space to keep everything. There have been times when I have wondered if he is slightly mentally ill, although he does not have the classic signs (keeping things like newspapers and so on). Without me, he would live in a place that was knee-deep in stuff; and though he has learned from me, it is still a constant struggle keeping space for all of us to move and live.

I have managed to live with this aspect of him for 13 years, and we have worked out a kind of balance, though there is still way too much stuff in our lives. However, recently I've noticed that our three and a half year old daughter has the same problem.

She will not get rid of anything, even if she's grown out of it, and never wears or uses it. When I suggest that she get rid of things that she never wears or plays with, she cries and promises she will wear/play with them ''tomorrow'', or ''sometime''.

Up until now I have sneaked things away when she is out of the house, and she never notices (after all, these are things that she never looks at, right?). But recently I am worried that she is going to be like my husband, and this sneaking thing will only work for so long. And I absolutely cannot live with two of them, I would really lose my mind.

My question is, are there any parents out there who have successfully trained their children to happily get rid ot things? Especially if they were originally packrats? I feel very strongly that your things should be used or at least noticed and loved, or you shouldn't have them. Are there any tips or tricks to teaching your children this, and helping them to learn to let things go without it being traumatic? I should note that I am certainly not a spartan myself, but I do like to keep my things circulating, and often give things I love to others who would use them more or love them more. Curiously, having children has helped my husband, as well. Thanks for any help you can give!


by on Jun. 9, 2014 at 10:43 AM
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by on Jun. 9, 2014 at 10:45 AM

Sorry I am of no whelp we don't have anyone in the family like this 

by on Jun. 9, 2014 at 10:48 AM

 I hope someone can help you.

by on Jun. 9, 2014 at 10:50 AM

 I use the FlyLady method with three bins, Keep, Throw Away, and Give Away.  At first they were really reluctant, but when they started to see how they could help with the Give Away, they started actually putting together outfits of hand me downs to give to their younger friends or the younger friends' siblings!

by on Jun. 9, 2014 at 10:11 PM
I sympathize. My husband doesn't get rid of things either. He always says things like "Can't we use that?" Or "But we paid $X for this". He makes excuses about donating things like "I don't want to give it to that organization, they profit from it." He once pulled a broken magnet outof tbe trash and said "Can't we fix it?" So, yeah I understand. No advice unfortunately. I'm thinking of just sneaking things to the thrift store while he's at work.
by on Jun. 9, 2014 at 10:18 PM

My daughter was the same way.  Would not part with broken toys or happy meal toys or even floral paper napkins she thought was pretty.  I had to clean her room and her toy box when she was in school.  I think it is pretty common with kids not to want to get rid of their stuff.

by on Jun. 11, 2014 at 1:45 AM

Sorry you have to deal with that.  I wish I could help.  We both have memory boxes but they haven't grown much.  We used to tend to purge things more often when he was active military.  We've been in this house for 10yrs so I see how people can hang onto stuff more so.  My kids got used to getting rid of stuff through those years that we moved.  
Good luck and I wish I had advice.

by Ruby Member on Jun. 11, 2014 at 6:07 AM


Quoting Stevensmomma:

Sorry I am of no whelp we don't have anyone in the family like this 


by on Jun. 11, 2014 at 6:23 AM
You're not describing a packrat, you're describing hoarding. It is indeed a mental illness and it does need treatment.

My grandfather was a hoarder to the point where I stopped speaking to him over it. Then I realized I had hoarding tendencies, likely from the deprived, neglectful and abusive childhood I experienced. With my severe ptsd and multiple traumatic brain injuries my memory is shot, except when associated with an object, or scent.

Part of my personal issue is I forget everything. What I have in my fridge or pantry, how many socks I have, or that I already bought that video game. So ill end up with two or three and despite my best intentions I forget to sell it, donate it etc and then somehow the object becomes attached to an event or experience in my mind that automatically triggers emotions and thus I keep the item.

Its a struggle and it would be a lie to say my house is spotless or minimalist. It's not. I have a pair of heels ill never get to wear again because of my accident and surgery, yet I can't bring myself to part with them because I finally found cute heels in my size and had great fun in them.

I too used to freak out when my mother so much as cleaned my room because I couldn't find objects. I recall she once threw out one of my crayons as punishment for something stupid (going back to that abuse, neglect, etc) and I went ballistic. Over a pink crayon.

Twenty plus years later I remember one pink crayon. Each item has some significance to them and the best way to learn to cope with detaching from that is therapy.

Good luck and sorry for the book.
by CeeCee on Jun. 11, 2014 at 8:12 AM
Thankfully, I have never had to deal with this. It would drive me crazy.
by on Jun. 12, 2014 at 2:34 AM

I would say to her what you say.  Maybe she could find some stuff that she can donate to someone in need.  I know its going to be hard.  My DD loves to hold on to everything too.  She's 4.  Here is what I do.  If she leaves things on the floor and I tell her its clean up time and she doesn't pick it up.  I give her one more warning.  If she doesn't do it.  I take it and put it in my closet.  If she doesn't ask about it, I go through it once a month and donate a bag of toys.  I also have her pick 3 things she can give to a child who does not have as much.  It has to be working and in decent condition.  She will find small things but at least she parts with it. 

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