I Smell a Rat! Tips on coping with a packrat

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I'm Buried In a Mountain of Stuff That Isn't Mine!!!
Tips on coping with a packrat

Does it sometimes feel that there isn't a single square foot in your home that's uncluttered? Have you forgotten whether your floor is carpet or wood? Do you have problems finding your stuff because it's buried under so much other stuff? If you answered yes to any of these questions you might just be living with a packrat.

A packrat can make a difficult housemate. Their "collections" tend to migrate into your space and make everything look cluttered, chaotic and cramped.

However, not all packrats are created equal. There is a difference between a packrat and compulsive hoarder. The latter is a fairly serious physiological condition where the afflicted individual is unable to throw away almost anything. If you think this is you or someone you know, we recommend you seek professional help as this condition often progresses with age.

For the sake of this piece we're going to be referring to the typical, everyday packrat. You know the type: the person who has many collections, or who likes to hang onto things for reasons others don't quite understand (sentimental value, perceived monetary value, etc.) Everyone knows one. These are the people who hang onto that piece of clothing they hasn't fit in five years because they might just wear it again "someday."

Getting into the mind of a packrat and vice versa can be quite difficult. For the packrat sometimes it's about being thrifty. Most packrats don't see any sense in throwing or giving something away when it is still "perfectly useful." Even when they have two or more of the same thing!

So, if you are living with a packrat (or are one) we are going to provide a few guidelines for preserving your sanity, your friendship or your relationship, no matter where the clutter falls.

But the clutter can sometimes become almost unbearable the packrat can be a bit more difficult to live with. So, if being a packrat describes your life or someone you know, we are going to give you a few tips for preserving your sanity, your friendship or your relationship, no matter which side you may be on.

  1. Don't Lose Your Cool
    After the fifth straight morning of losing your keys in a heap of stuff, you may have a strong inkling to get out the trash bags and call Goodwill. It's important that you resist the urge to purge however. Remember, this stuff is not yours! There may be a fond memory attached to the pile of shopping bags in the corner of the kitchen. Okay, probably not. But just because you don't see the logic in keeping that stuff doesn't give you the right to throw it out.

    In this situation it's best to talk to the packrat about how they feel about certain items. Learn if he or she is collecting for a purpose or merely forgetting (or not wanting) to throw away. You may be able to get away with throwing stuff out without getting into trouble. We know it's not fun to clean up after your roommate but if it means the difference between a place for the dishes and tossing 13 half-eaten boxes of cereal, we know which way we'd go!

    If you are on the other side of this coin and your stuff keeps disappearing, try to be very clear about what it is you really need and what it is you really want. Do you need to keep six bags of rubber bands? Though it may be difficult at first, try to be as objective as possible when sorting through your stuff. Even getting rid of a few things could significantly help the way the nest looks and feels.
  2. Encourage Organization
    Many packrats are serial collectors. You know that guy who has every DVD ever issued or a shrine to Elvis? Well, someone may have to live with that guy!

    If you are this unlucky person, encourage your significant other to organize his or her collection. This is a great way for the person to assess what he or she needs and what they don't. (It's likely that they won't find anything they want to throw away, but the task is well worth the effort, anyhow.) Also encourage your favorite pack rat to organize their closet space.

    Today there are entire stores dedicated solely to home organization, so check them out. More than likely there are storage solutions you haven't even heard of, so get out and get inspired! Employing a little organization will maintain the collection as well as your sanity.
  3. Draw Borders
    When worse comes to worse, you may have to start drawing lines in the sand. If the mess cannot be contained, diminished or organized, you may need to delegate a packrat room or space. Allow the packrat to keep said possessions in this one place. You may not be crazy about the idea of enabling packrat tendencies but this may be the only way to keep your home from becoming overwrought with stuff.

    And if you are the packrat, try to keep your stuff in this place! You'll be doing your home and your mate's sanity a favor.
  4. Packrats and purgers often clash when they cohabitate and if you are living in such a situation it's important to try and see the other side. Again, if the need to collect and store is truly taking over your home and your life it may be a sign of a more serious problem. However, most of us either have a purge or packrat side that can be difficult for our roommates to cope with. It can be extremely difficult to understand the other person's point of view when it comes to what is "useful" and what is not. Remember to keep a healthy attitude and an open mind when communicating with your partner. Solutions and compromises can be met with a little innovation, effort and always, communication.

    See Also:
    Is Your Bedroom in the Mood for Love?
    What to do When You and Your Mate Can't Agree
    What Guys Hate About Your Bedroom

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