The Pack Rat Gene

A few days ago, I came across Tim Kane’s post ‘Writer or Hoarder‘. It got me thinking whether there was a great deal of difference between a hoarder and a pack rat. He suggested that you’re a hoarder if the junk you collect interferes with your life, so I guess I’m not quite at that point yet. I’m still a pack rat. While I have no biological proof that the compulsion to ‘save things for posterity’ is an actual allele on a DNA strand passed down from one generation to the next, I’m afraid I do have physical proof – LOTS of it!

On my side of the family, I no longer have grandparents or parents, but I am constantly reminded of them everywhere I look in my house. Here in the living room as I write this, I see the mantle clock that was always over the fireplace at our cottage. There is a Wood Shops project that my grandfather did as a boy – an old-fashioned sleigh with horse harness and green padded seats. There’s also the balance scale he made.

Our dining room is filled with the dining set that my grandparents received as a wedding present back in 1922 -a beautiful oak table with six chairs, all with the original leather seats in perfect condition. The table now seats 12 after Grandpa added two additional leaves for it. Along with that is the matching buffet and china cabinet.

On the buffet cabinet sits an old oil lamp, an antique carriage lamp, my Grandmother’s old green teapot and cozy she crocheted, while above it is the mirror my parents got as a wedding present.

On and in the china cabinet are green-glass dessert dishes, Hummel figurines, and vases of my grandmother, rescued from the cottage before it sold.

Up in my kitchen cupboards are other dishes and paraphernalia that belonged to her. While these things are antique treasures, these things are not what makes me think I am a pack rat.

When we were cleaning out my parents’ house after they passed away, we found boxes of papers from my Dad’s parents, as well as all the financial records of my Mom’s mother. Since my Mom did her mom’s taxes, this made sense . . . except my grandmother died 8 years before that! As for my other grandparents’ paper things, there were financial records of my grandfather’s dating back to 1910! It was very interesting to see what he spent his money on back then – and he was very thorough, even including how much he spent for ice cream – but did Mom & Dad really need to keep all that? Dad’s parents had been dead for decades by the time we came across them!

I must admit that it was fascinating when we came across memorabilia from when they took their European Cruise. The letters from my great-great grandfather are priceless and I really want to transcribe them for posterity. There were even speeches that my grandfather wrote for the Outlook Club (like Toastmasters), which talked about issues that concerned him growing up, as well as historical stuff that went on when he was young – all things I want to re-write as a family history or biography of my grandfather. However, there’s only so many boxes of paper that we can store in our small house!

I’ve been intending to clean out our storage room and get rid of all the old notes that I’ve kept from high school and university. After all, I’m close to retirement and really don’t need to keep all that information. It’s too outdated for my children to use, so why keep it?

Just as I am contemplating this huge project, my brother drops by with another box of papers he’d gone through from my Dad’s house. He thought I’d be interested in reading them. So, what was in the box, you might ask? Dad’s old notebooks from as far back as Elementary school! (sigh!)

I went through them this morning and, (dare I say it?) I was fascinated to see the keepsake of the Royal Visit  in 1939, complete with newspaper clippings detailing all their stops across Canada. Okay, that is quite interesting, especially since I’m a history buff. Next, were a couple of notebooks that he used when he was a Cadet, including pictures of airplanes and their names, articles about the war, etc. (I should point out at this time that my Dad turned 18 just as WWII ended, so he never actually had to go overseas to fight in that, thank Heavens!) Among the papers Dear Brother brought me were university essays from his Commerce course. While some of it does have some small historical value, I’m afraid I will be getting rid of the lot . . . some day when I get the gumption to go through everything! 🙂

So, as you can see, I come by my pack rat tendencies honestly. Do any of YOU have the pack rat gene? If so, how do you deal with it? I really need to know! 🙂