Monday, April 13, 2009

Packratosis misdiagnosis

I am a pack rat!

You know what they say about people with an addiction? The first step towards healing is admitting you have a problem. Well, there you go, I admitted it!

Maybe I should join a support group. I can just picture me, as I rise from my metal folding chair at a meeting of PRA (Pack Rats Anonymous). I look around the room at fellow rats and say to them, “Hi, my name is Dennis, and I am a pack rat.” The group responds somberly in unison, “Hiiiiii Dennis.”

It is hereditary, you know. My mother kept lots of things she acquired, most certainly if it had anything to do with family. Over the last several years of her life she handed down many of those items, including my first tooth lost, first pair of shoes, a lock of hair from my first haircut, artwork and report cards. She kept other nostalgic items as well: travel brochures from a 1934 trip out west; newspaper clippings, some dating back to the 1940’s; a menu from a railroad dining car; and possibly every greeting card she was ever given. No wonder I can’t help myself!

I am afraid, however, that I have taken Packratosis to a new level. I hang on to stuff, whether it has family connection or not. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a hoarder; our house is not overflowing with junk. And I do recycle. It’s just that, in addition to the sentimental stuff, I keep anything that I foresee a possible use for, and I cannot tolerate wastefulness. If an appliance stops working but it has a good cord and the screws aren’t rusty, I keep those. If the motor works, I keep it. If I replace an old tool with a new upgrade, do you think I throw the old one away? No, of course not, I might need it some day! I have nuts and bolts, and switches and resistors, and wire and brackets, and…oh my…that’s just the stuff I’ve got in my workshop! When the kids finished high school or college and dumped their used notebooks, I dug them out of our recycling bin to see if there were usable pages. Indeed, there were. I must have 20 spiral notebooks with at least 30 clean pages each; they work great for my business or shop notes.

It was just a couple months ago, when I spent hours cleaning my studio, that I was able to admit to myself that I may have a problem. There’s nothing wrong with keeping family items like pictures the kids drew when they were young. It’s fun to view old photos, look at the plaster hand casts our children made in elementary school, and even reminisce over my old Cub Scout patches. But should I still have 32 baby food jars, collected when our babies were eating from them? My intent was to use them for mixing paint, but for Pete’s sake, the kids are in their twenties now and I still haven’t used the jars!

On the good side, my Packratosis is often legitimized when there’s a need to repair an appliance or “jerry-rig” something to extend its life. It is quite satisfying when I am able to scavenge through my stuff and come up with just the right doodad to do the job. I will then approach my wife with a smug look on my face and show her how I was able to find a use for that funny-looking clip or caster that came off the clothes dryer we discarded in 1989.

These days, in terms of our environment, we’re hearing a lot about “being green,” “carbon footprint,” and “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” Reduce, reuse, recycle? I’ve been doing that my whole life! Now that I think about it, I’m not going to refer to myself as a pack rat any longer. Instead, I’ll henceforth be known as a Forward Thinking Individual. Who knew?


Tonia said...

I have your answer:

mamamouseiam said...

Your penchant for keeping and "creatively recycling" doodads and thingamabobs has gotten me out of a jam more than once! Thank you!