If my experiences growing up with two packrats have been useful in any way, it’s that I have learned, internalized, and then unlearned a whole bunch of excuses for holding onto crap.
If you’ve ever thought, “Hrmm, I appear to be living in squalor“. . . some of these excuse-busters may be useful.
1. But it’s an Heirloom!
No, sweetie. An “heirloom” is something that is kept by several generations and cherished. You’ll know it’s an heirloom because you love it, you use it, and you want to show it off.
That horrible, heavy old piece of furniture? The one with the smell? The one that’s stuck in the basement because you don’t want it around? That’s called a “burden.”
Keep the heirlooms. Lose the burdens.
2. Aunt Gladys gave this ugly thing to me, and now she’s dead! So I have to keep it forever!
No. No, you don’t.
Aunt Gladys probably gave you many things throughout your life. Really nice things like that sweet 16 necklace, and really forgettable things, like weird fruitcake tins. And then she died and you thought, “I can never get rid of these fruitcake tins because AUNT GLADYS DIED and if I get rid of them it’s like I’m Killing her Again! AAAUGGGHHH!!!”…then you hide the tins in a drawer and feel weird about them.
Did your Aunt love you? Do you think her last wish for you was, “I hope she keeps those fruitcake tins….Forever! May They Haunt Her Dreams! Bwah haha hah aha ha!”
The trick is: “Keep the memories, Lose the stuff.” If you find it hard, you can take a picture to remember it by. You’ll never look at that picture again, of course, because you don’t want to.
3. But Invisible People Will Judge Me!
For years, I carted around loads of books I didn’t like and hadn’t read, because I was afraid some mysterious judge would pop out of the woodwork at any moment:
“You only kept the copies of that series that you like? How dare you break up the set!”
“You got rid of your Algebra II textbook?! But what if there’s an emergency, and you have to factor a polynomial?!?”**
“How can you possibly think of getting rid of your copy of Godel, Escher, Bach? Even though no one you know has ever made it through the whole thing, you just won’t be intellectual without a copy silently glaring at you from the bookcase!”
In short, I feared some friend, acquiantance, or family member would come and insult my book collection if I pared it down only to the books I truly loved and used. But after I pared it down, no one came over to my place to get on my case about getting rid of Coriolanus.***
Oh, and libraries have been invented. So that helps.
** We all felt foolish during The Great Polynomial Apocalypse.
*** Or Titus Andronicus. That is one weird-ass play.